Things I am discovering

– Red, yellow, & green peppers aren’t quite as bad as I thought. For as long as I can remember I have picked them out of dishes and avoided them. The other night I made chicken fajitas for a party and realized that I actually DO like them.

Labneh is my new addiction…since I can’t eat pita bread, I usually eat it with corn chips. YUM.

– I know how to make Maki-zushi now. Funny that I had to come to Israel to finally learn. I miss Cafe J.K. Sweet (the rather odd restaurant we used to frequent back home), but now that I can make my own california rolls I’ll just be sure to stock my fridge with ice cream for that wonderful J.K. Sweet experience.

-Speaking of ice cream, unless you manage to get ahold of some Ben & Jerry’s or gelato, the major brand here just isn’t very satisfying…it melts rather quickly and has an odd consistency. Ah well.

– I love my flatmates.

In conclusion, I realize that this entry is mostly about food (during the Fast!). I am ok with that.

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I know, I’m crazy.

One thing they don’t tell you about Haifa is its lack of good Mexican food. You can find decent Thai food, which is a relief.

But after having lived near Pilsen and the amazing little taquerias that are scattered around Chicago, it is nearly heartbreaking to realize that you can barely find a restaurant that serves such delicious menu items that cause you to sweat grease for days. mmm.

My friends back home in the States (yeah, I call it “the States”. I also call my apartment “my flat” and am switching over to “flatmates” from “roomies”) think I’m crazy to be missing Taco Bell, but really I miss everything on the range from that to Nuevo Leon.

I actually don’t eat out much here. It is relaxing to cook at home, and I have so much more control over what I eat that way.

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So I picked out my next book to read: Muhammad and the Course of Islam by Hasan Balyuzi.

Also, I still can’t believe this is where I work every day:

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How to make kabob…for real.

I am in Los Angeles right now (so warm!!!) but I’m posting some pictures from Minnesota last weekend. We grilled outside in 34 degree F weather. Now in LA it is going to be in the 70s.

The assembly line to make the kabob. We formed the ground beef onto flat skewers, propped it on the boards while we waited for the braziers to heat.

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Gastronomical delights…

First of all, let me point out that Culver’s Chocolate Raspberry custard is all kinds of delicious. Real raspberries. Oh my.

Again, thanks to the intrepid Adam L, we have…(drumroll please)

MEATCAKE!!

Yes, cake make out of meat, mashed potatoes, and ketchup. I am strongly tempted to make it, just to say I have.

Speaking of trying new things, I got a chance to sample some beef tongue at Nuevo Leon the other night after Feast (a group of us went out). It just tasted like overly tender beef, except that Myk kept saying things like, “You know the tastebuds are still on that.” and “I don’t eat anything that can taste me back.”

I go through snack addictions…make up something quick, live on it for a few weeks. My current obsession is:

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sour cream
a few spoonfuls of salsa
black olives, sliced

Eaten with corn chips, of course. The sour cream is the base of the mix. mmm.

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Default snack

Gluten-free bread + Kraft singles + sliced onion + toasting = DELICIOUS

My current food obsession. Grilled cheese onion sandwiches, open face. Can you tell I’ve been lazy recently? 🙂 My sandwiches, however, don’t have any images burned onto them.

(For those of you who would like suggestions for gluten-free bread, I suggest the Rice Almond bread, and the Brown Rice one after that. Look under the “Gluten free” section of this website.)

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OVERHEARD IN MY OFFICE:

Office drone #1: Can I help you?
Office drone #2: I’m looking for the matrix.

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Amaranth & Quinoa

I found this article on CNN about the growing demand for amaranth and quinoa, as well as other alternatives to wheat.

“One reason for the fledgling demand is a growing awareness of celiac disease, which is triggered by gluten, the protein found in wheat.”

My frustration with trying to find alternatives to bread substances is that it can get very expensive. The American market is not yet at the point where obtaining gluten-free meals is inexpensive. If I want to eat a quick meal, I am often reduced to salad (and I’m am completely sick of salad).

I don’t mind when people forget I can’t eat bread/pasta/pizza/etc, but it is frustrating when I try to take responsibility for my food and it STILL has allergens in it. Although the recent requirements to list common allergens helps, I am still very limited in my food options at times.

Sometimes I slip up and eat a cookie, or a piece of cake. I don’t have an life-threatening allergic reaction, so it can be difficult to resist when a piece of pie is calling my name.

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Whoosh!

Whipped up rice pasta and green beans in a homemade garlic butter cream sauce for dinner. Made up the recipe as I went.

whoosh!

Made gluten-free brownies from scratch.

whoosh!

Cleaned out the fridge & microwave.

whoosh!

Ran to the grocery store for a friend.

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Even though I still have a pile of clean clothes to put away and I haven’t everything on my to-do list done…I still feel productive and happy. I spent the evening by myself, and away from my computer (except for the few minutes I am taking to write this).

I’ll explain the “whoosh” thing now. Every family has their own made-up words and funny stories…well, for us it means to clean in a frenetic and somewhat haphazard way. Used in a sentence:

“I whooshed the house so that when people came over it was pretty clean. I only had 15 minutes to do it!”

Does your family have made-up words or phrases that only make sense to you? Share!

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Crazy food!

My food habits are getting stranger. Part of it is influenced by work, of course.

Example of Monday’s “meals”:

1. Corn on the cob/beef/chicken/baked beans/can of Coke
2. Bag of chips
3. Veggies w/dip
4. Candy bar
5. Another can of Coke
6. Bowl of cereal with strawberries in it
7. Hot dog (no bun) with all of the toppings, and fries
8. Fresh strawberries dipped in yogurt

The caterers are wearing hard hats. I think maybe it is supposed to be cute/themed. Right…

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The Dilemma of Lunch

I contemplate my upcoming hour of lunch with trepidation. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my freedom and food. But it seems like it takes more planning than I really want to deal with these days.

Have I become more picky? Sure, I can’t eat the usual fare of burgers/pizza/sandwiches, and so I must find alternatives. The cafeteria at work, bless them, has good breakfasts but often has below-par lunches.



(my ideal lunch)

I used to be more critical of those who eat out on a regular basis. But my exhaustion and hunger when I get home from 9 hours at the office often prevents me from making a full meal from scratch. I have to scramble (haha, get it?) to even get a lunch together for the next day…and forget breakfast at home! Sleep is much more important.

I have sampled most of the restaurants in the 10 minute driving radius around my office. Thai, Mexican, Chinese buffet, the hot dog stand down the street from my house, Japanese, and Greek. I’ve also lived in the same 2 sq mile area for the last 5 years. The lady at the Thai restaurant asks about my family every time I go there, and the guys at the hot dog stand know that I like curly fries with cheese on top…and that I rarely order anything else.

I am organizing my recipes now, though, and am trying to jump back into cooking. I need a personal robot cook. And while I’m at it, can I have a pony and a castle?

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Shrimp & Pasta (Gluten-Free!)

Cheddar Cheese Sauce
INGREDIENTS:
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon potato starch flour
1 tablespoon rice flour
1 tablespoon tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black or white pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese

PREPARATION:
Melt butter; remove from heat. Stir in flours and seasonings. Gradually add milk, stirring until well mixed. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Cook for 5 minutes longer; add cheese. Stir until smooth and well blended.
Makes 2 cups.

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Shrimp fried in butter!

INGREDIENTS:
4 tablespoons butter (oil if you’re trying to be healthy, but it isn’t the same!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon yellow curry
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon tumeric
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
dash of ground ginger
chopped garlic (2 pieces)
chopped green onion

In a small bowl, combine the spices. Stir well. Melt butter, add garlic and onion. Fry for 30 seconds, then add shrimp (fresh or frozen). Add bowl of spices. Cook on low, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to over-cook the shrimp. A maximum of 10 minutes is really all that is necessary.

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Get brown rice pasta from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Meijer’s

Serve cheese sauce over pasta, and you can either mix the shrimp in, or make it a completely different dish. I got rave reviews today from the family.

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mmm Pasta…

A recipe! Feel free to adjust as you wish. I made it up while contemplating the contents of my refrigerator, realizing that I was limited in my choices.

Ingredients:
1 clove fresh garlic
4 chopped green onions
1 small bunch of fresh cilantro
1 large tomato
salt
pepper
dash of tumeric
olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Cook pasta until done, drain and set aside (I use brown rice spaghetti, which works very well if you’re on a gluten-free diet).

Put garlic, cilantro, and onions in a small food processor. If you don’t have a small processor, chop all ingredients very fine. Set aside. Dice tomato by hand.

Put some olive oil in a non-stick pan, warm up. Put green mixture in, fry 1 minute on medium. Put in salt, pepper, and tumeric. Add balsamic vinegar. Fry for 30 more seconds, then add tomato pieces. Fry just until tomato gets slightly cooked, then put on top of pasta!

Makes 2 servings.

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A tasty combination

Zucchini, broccoli, carrots, and onions, fried in some canola oil with salt, pepper, garlic. Simple, fast, healthy, yum. Serve over rice or as a side dish.

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The weather was so beyootiful today!! I was ecstatic, and celebrated by purchasing some summer clothing. Summer makes me very happy. I feel rejuvenated.

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Frozen dinners

Today I resorted to eating a frozen dinner. There were several reasons for this:
a) laziness
b) busy working on things and studying
c) laziness

Anyways, it was a Michelina’s Pepper Steak & Rice entree (although it really is more of a snack). I decided to check out the ingredient listing (which I really should have done before I purchased it, but oh well).

Over 35 ingredients. In that tiny little package.

Now, if you know me, you know that I love to cook, and I do it nearly every day. I have never, EVER needed more than 20 ingredients for a dish. Often I need only 10. It kind of blew my mind.

Also, even though it was a rice dish, it had wheat products in it (allergy, remember?), so that is no good. So much for quick and easy food! It looks like I’m going to spend a majority of my lifetime cooking.

Time for a poll: What is a dish that you love to eat but simply do not have the time, facilities, or skills to make?

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Cheese sauce

There are ways to make the food you love to eat, even if you have a gluten allergy. It isn’t very severe for me, as I can eat bread once in a while without problems. But I love being able to share the knowledge I’ve acquired with people who might need it.

I’ve modified my mother’s cheese sauce. It is really good, by the way. 🙂 You can usually buy the special flours at large grocery stores like Jewel.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon tapioca flour
1/2 tablespoon potato starch flour
4 oz shredded cheese (Any kind, depending on what flavor you want. I use cheddar.)
1 cup milk

Melt the butter in a deep non-stick saucepan, stir in the flours as it melts. Stir constantly until mixed, then pour milk in. Continue stirring, then when milk is hot, slowly add cheese. As you stir, the sauce will thicken. When the cheese is completely melted into the sauce, it should be ready. Remove from heat.

Tastes great over broccoli (or most steamed vegetables), or over rice.

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Emus and food

“And a third emu is currently on the loose.”NBC 10 pm news.

We’ve got some cooks in our neighborhood. Everyone contributed to make a wonderful meal the other night. (click to make it bigger)

Chicken w/garlic, lime, and something else, brown rice, beets, pasta with cream sauce, yellow acorn squash with brown sugar & butter, & zucchini & asparagus with ginger, garlic, and some other things I couldn’t identify. YUM.

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Coconut Chicken

Another creation!

Ingredients:
Chicken breast (cut into pieces)
onion (diced)
tomato (diced)
zucchini (sliced)
1/2 can coconut milk
salt
pepper

Fry chicken in a large wok or non-stick pan with onions, salt, and pepper. When chicken is fully cooked, add zucchini and tomato. Fry for a few minutes. Drain oil, then pour in coconut milk. Cook for a few more minutes. Eat over rice.

yum.

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Assorted nonsense

The prairie is now a nice light brown, dried up, fall color. And home is always changing…the construction out there has nearly reached a feverish pitch.

“Why I love the suburbs”
Reason #1: Wide open spaces & plenty of parking.
Reason #2: To go shopping, one does not have to drive all over the city to go to 3 stores. They’re all on one long street with 500 stores.
Reason #3: People are much better drivers, although there is an overabundance of SUVs and minivans (hey, I drive a van, and its great. I’m just saying…)

I made stir fry chicken in one pot, and tumeric/lemon/garlic chicken in another. Simmer on the stove for 1 1/2 hours each. yum.

One of my roommates asked me why I didn’t go to culinary school instead of business school. My first response: “I really don’t know.” But then I thought about it…and honestly, I cook for fun, and I cook for people I love. I have trouble learning a “certain way” of cooking…I just get frustrated. Also, with a business degree, I can open my own restaurant if I want.

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Partially Eaten Food

Goya Flan is the best stuff in the world. You can buy it at the local grocery store for about a dollar, boil 4 cups of milk, and voila! You’ve got flan. I’m such a flan…I mean, fan….obviously.

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(I ate that in about…5 minutes flat.)

I walked into the kitchen tonight and a large chicken said, “what up” from the counter. He was chillin by the stove. He said it was ok for me to take a picture, as long as he got 50% of the profits. He drives a hard bargain. The flan merely sniffed and rolled its eyes.

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Aww

Chewy the caterpillar died. He had formed a chrysalis, but then…death. We’re sad.

Luckily, our fish are still alive. Hmm…perhaps we need more pets?
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Neda and I were eating tacos for lunch at my house today, and she made a fun creation (with my help) that I thought I’d share.

Ingredients:
Ground beef with taco seasoning
shredded cheddar cheese
diced tomatoes
shredded lettuce
sour cream

Fry beef with taco seasoning. Sprinkle cheese over hot beef, then put tomatoes, lettuce, and sour cream on top after the cheese has melted a bit.

yum…and so easy. Yeah, its basically nachos, but we mixed it all together and didn’t use chips. 🙂

Anyone out there have a favorite, easy recipe that doesn’t have bread, pasta, or flour in it that they would like to share? Please leave it in a comment, or email it to me. I am always looking for fun things to experiment with!

Also, my dinner two nights ago was heavenly: 2 eggs with cheddar melted on top, 3 slices of bacon, and tater tots. I was very full and happy after that meal!

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Orange Roughy

I have discovered that I really like Orange Roughy, a white fish. This discovery comes about as I am trying to clean out the fridge by eating everything (which makes for some very random meals), since I move out on Friday. I discovered some frozen food I didn’t even know I had.

To cook a frozen fillet, I did the following:

1) Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
2) Place fillet in a small baking pan or casserole dish
3) Squeeze lemon juice over it.
4) Sprinkle some paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic powder (a very tiny bit of that!)
5) Put in oven for about 10 minutes, turning it over halfway through to cook a bit more.

Ta da! I enjoy eating it with broccoli and mashed potatoes, but side dishes are negotiable. 🙂

I am finding that this blog is turning into a place to put recipes that I discover. I’m cool with that. This is not its only function, but I’m enjoying sharing the things I make up.

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experiment with food

I looked into my (now empty) fridge, and realized that I had to cook this chicken breast. I decided to make something up. It turned out pretty well, I think!

Soy Sauce & Peanut Butter
Garlic, chopped finely
salt
pepper
1 tablespoon butter
a pinch of basil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 cup soy sauce
4 tablespoons peanut butter (the smooth kind)
Sugar snap pea pods or something similar (1 small pkg)

make some rice to put it over.

In a small saucepan, melt butter. Saute garlic, then pour in soy sauce and peanut butter (you can heat the peanut butter a bit before in the microwave to make it easier to mix). Mix until blended on low, then pour in lemon juice. Stir, take off the heat immediately.

In a small pot, boil water, put pea pods in. Cook for 5 minutes, no more. Make sure they don’t get overcooked and soggy. Drain.

In a large pan, pour some vegetable oil, heat on medium. Put chicken slices in, cook for a few minutes. Pour sauce in, mix. Add 1 cup water, stir. Put top on, checking every few minutes and stir to mix everything together. Be careful that the peanut butter doesn’t burn. When the chicken is nearly done, put the pea pods in and cook on low for 10 minutes.

Eat over rice!

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Not having to cook

Just to illustrate exactly how much I don’t have to cook this week, I took a picture of my fridge. I love it when my mom cooks for me. She is the best cook EVER.

(click on it to make it bigger!)

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fixed and Kabob

Ta Da! I have internet access on my computer after 1 month without it. I was going crazy.

If you click on the link below, you will be able to see the recipe for Kabob and Persian rice that I adapted from the Food of Life cookbook. Enjoy!

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easy chicken

I had some chicken breast I had to cook, so I made up a recipe.

Ingredients:
1/4 lb. Chicken breast
tumeric
salt
pepper
2 limes or lemons
1 tomato, diced
1/2 onion, diced

Slice up the chicken breast, fry with onions in a pan with some vegetable oil. Add tumeric and some salt, simmer for 10 minutes on medium, stirring occasionally. Then squeeze 2 limes (or lemons) into it, with 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add tomato after the previous ingredients have simmered for a while, simmer for 5 more minutes on low. Eat over rice.

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lasagna

I made lasagna from scratch tonight. It was really very good…even confirmed by an outside source (one of my friends from the dorm, who is a college student so maybe he isn’t too discerning…)

It doesn’t look so appetizing in 2D. 😛 But I ate 2 servings so it turned out ok!

Shoe shopping was fun today! The Chernin’s Shoes on Dearborn and Monroe is having a huge sale on women’s shoes ($10 for nearly everything). I got an adorable pair of black shoes that I don’t even know how to describe. The company filed for bankruptcy and is going out of business, so I guess they’re trying to sell their inventory. Payless also had some fun stuff…got a pair of shoes for $8!

As if you couldn’t tell…I enjoy shoes. 🙂

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cookbooks

I’ve been looking to expand my cookbook collection. The only one I have is the old Food of Life cookbook that my mother has used for years, and passed on to me this year when I finally got a kitchen…it is the BEST Persian food cookbook in existence. However, I am trying to diversify now…different kinds of food, cultures, etc. I’m desperately in need of a good general American cookbook as well, to make simple dishes or to play around with recipes. The only one I’ve ever used is this beaten up, out of print Betty Crocker cookbook that my mother got when she was first married, and I hate every other American cookbook I see because I love that one…*sigh*

Suggestions or Amazon links would really help.

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cooking creations: 1

I looked at my limited food supplies and decided to make a new recipe. Throwing things in a pot randomly is so much fun. I’m going to write it down for anyone to use, and also for my own reference.

Sholeh’s Soup Creation
2 small red potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 onion diced
small can of corn
small can of peas
2 1/2 cups mixed beans (kidney, white, and black)
salt, pepper
chicken buillion cube
1/4 lb chicken (any kind you want)
rice

Cook beans & potatoes separately, set aside. Fry chicken in a deep pot with onions, salt, pepper, and olive oil. When chicken is nearly done, pour a little water, and the rest of the ingredients in to cook. Cook on medium/low for 1 hour. Eat as a soup or mix it over/with rice.

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