Thursday, January 28, 2010

Arabian Recipes

This one is for you Carrie, who asked long ago for recipes, and for all others out there interested in what's for dinner on the other side of the world. You will have to forgive the spelling of the meals because they are Arabic names that I just transliterated. Also, Arabic cooking, or my version there of, does not have exact measurements.

Layer 1:
Peal eggplant and cut into 1/2 inch thick coins
Fry the eggplant in vegetable oil
Place in bottom of 9x13 Pyrex

Layer 2:
Fry 1 small diced onion with 1 diced green pepper and 1 pound ground beef, salt and pepper to taste.
In separate pan fry handful of pine nuts or slivered almonds in olive/vegetable oil
Mix together and layer on top of eggplants

Layer 3:
Dice 10 small on-the-vine tomatoes
Place tomatoes evenly over eggplants and ground beef.

Preheat oven 350F and place in oven until tomatoes are cooked (about 1 hour). There should be some water produced by the tomatoes on the bottom of the pan, if not you can add a little water 1/2 way thru cooking for moisture. Serve with Pita Bread.

Boil chicken (breast, leg, whatever with bone) in lightly salted water until done
Cut either cauliflower into large florets or eggplant (as described in Mnazeleh above), pat dry and fry to golden brown in vegetable oil

Slice 1 tomato very thin and place on bottom of very large pan
Add fried cauliflower or eggplant to large pan (on top of tomatoes)
Then add chicken to large pan followed by 2 cups of golden rice (NOT instant rice) and 4 cups of water from boiled chicken.
Add salt, pepper and allspice to taste.

Cook on stove top, medium heat, until rice is finished.

This meal is called Maglooba in Arabic and "Upside Down" in English because you flip the meal onto a large serving dish (served upside down).

Fry raisins lightly and pine nuts or almonds in olive oil over medium heat.
Sprinkle raisins and nuts over Maglooba

Serve with plain yogurt, yogurt salad or vegetable salad

In frying pan, fry diced 1 Anaheim peppers in olive oil
When peppers are cooked thru, add 1/2 Tbsp cumin and 3 finely cut garlic cloves
Set aside in small bowl

Dice 10 tomatoes
Add tomatoes, 1/2 can tomato sauce and 1/4 cup olive oil to same frying pan (to save on cleanup later)
Cook tomatoes until they are a sauce
Add pepper and seasons above, add additional salt and pepper to taste

Do this as you are making sauce:
Boil 1 cup Brown Lentils until done in salted water
Cook 1 cup pasta according to directions on box (I use elbow macaroni)
Heat 1 can Garbanzo/Chick Pea
Cook 1 cup rice with salted water

Do this just as everything else is finished:
Cut about 6 medium onions (cut onion in half, sliver the onion and then cut in half again)
Fry in vegetable oil until crispy, dark brown...FYI-open your windows for ventilation!
Pat off excess oil when finished to keep them crispy

Serve: I place the lentils, rice, beans, pasta, sauce and onions in separate bowls. This way they can put together what they like. Dish up lentils, rice, beans, pasta in equal parts, add sauce to desired amount then add fried onions.

Yogurt Salad
1/2 container plain yogurt
Dice 3/4 cup Italian or Mexican cucumber into 1 cm, leave skin on or off (if using American cucumber, be sure to seal the skin off the cucumber and gut out the seeds and then dice).
Smash 2 medium garlic cloves
Mix together, add salt to taste (about 1 tsp), Optional to add mint or parsley to taste.
Served with Maglooba, Kabobs with rice, and other chicken with rice meals

Vegetable Salad
Dice Tomatoes, cucumbers (as describes in Yogurt Salad), onion (white or green), and any other lettuce/veggies in your fridge. Dice them to your desired size and stir together in bowl.
Dressing: in small bowl whisk together: approx. 1 Tbsp olive oil, approx. 1/2 Tbsp white vinegar, 1 squeezed lemon and salt, pepper to taste.
Pour and stir dressing over veggies.
Served with almost every meal in different variations

Lentil Soup
Dice and fry 1 medium onion in olive oil until translucent
Soak and clean 3 cups of Red Lentils with tap water for about 5 minutes
Add lentils to fried onions.
Add 6 cups water and let cook over medium-high heat
Add cumin (1-2 Tbsp), salt and pepper to taste.

Hareesa (dessert)
3 cups smeed aka farina in English, Cream of Wheat in lay-mans terms :-)
1/2 cup white sugar
3 Tbsp coconut
1/2 vegetable oil with 1 tsp Ghee added (Ghee is a special Arabic ingredient for many desserts, skip it if you don't have it, but it's better if you do)
3 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 cup plain yogurt

Mix solids together
add oil and mix with hands, rubbing hands together like a bar of soap
add yogurt until mixtures starts sticking to your hands.

Press into two 9x9 pans
350F for about 1/2 hour or until light brown

When cool, add this sugary liquid
3 cups white sugar
4 cups water
2 teaspoons rose water (again, skip if you don't have but better if you do)
spot of lemon juice
Bring to boil, should thicken slightly
Pour over Haressa when Haressa is cool...or add to hot Haressa when sugar is cool (important that one is cool and the other hot).

Cut into small 2x2 inch pieces for serving.

Arabic cooking uses nearly all fresh ingredients. It makes the food taste delicious, but it is tedious in the kitchen. FYI-Arabic food isn't necessarily the most beautiful to the eye, but the flavors are wonderful! I cook many, many Arabic meals, salads, soups and desserts. If you are interested in something in particular...let me know! Otherwise, here's just an example of what's cooking tonight somewhere in the desert!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Seriously, Did I Just Say That?!

Okay, I know, I complained about it for a long time. Complained about the fact that Amman has no Target, Wal-mart, Costco, what have you, to fill the needs of one stop shopping. I also complained about the fact that we don't have many large supermarkets. We do have "Super-Markets" as they are called here. We have them on every street corner....but they are just small Mom and Pop stores that I have laughed at for months...not because they are bad stores but because they called themselves a Super-Market...some of them are the size of my kitchen! Someday I will post a picture for you so you can really get an idea of what I was laughing at. So anyway, Yanal always prefers to shop at these small Mom and Pop stores and I always want to go to the one-stop shopping at Carrefour (Amman's version of Pick-n-Save, Rainbow Foods downstairs and its version of Target upstairs). He always says the prices are better at the smaller stores and I thought the larger stores have everything and are therefore convenient.......

Change of Heart my friends....I decided today that I prefer the small Mom and Pop stores, even if they call themselves a Super-Market! Honestly, we went shopping today at the big Carrefour and it was so unnecessarily big. It took us over an hour to shop....'Normal', you say. I know what you are thinking, I know, I've been there....When I lived in the states, an hour at the grocery store was a fast time for me! However, I realized today that if we had gone to the smaller store on the corner, it would have only taken us 20 minutes at most! 20 minutes! With two little kids with limited attention spans and limited time to spend together as a family at the end of the night...20 minutes vs. over an hour is a big difference!

Again, I know what you are thinking....and nope, they have nearly everything you would want in the small stores too. They pack those stores all the way to the top! Now if you are looking for something 'foreign' like taco shells or skin-less, boneless chicken, then you have to go to the bigger stores. This way of shopping we also have to stop at the bakery and the vegetable Mom and Pop stores too, but they are located next door or a short walking distance. The bread is fresh and the prices on fruit and veggies are

Lastly, Seriously, I'm not lazy...I have two small kids that keep me moving all day. But after shopping at Carrefour...I was exhausted! It was the end of our day, the kids were getting bored and antsy, carrying the baby on one hip and pushing the awful carts they have here (will not drive straight if your life depends on it), the place was packed with people and kids running everywhere, it was noisy from all that and then the loudspeaker....grrr.

I got in the car and told my husband that next time we will go to the 'Super-Market' down the road! Seriously, did I just say that?!
Don't get me wrong, Carrefour is a great store and they have the best prices compared to other large stores; however, I prefer to simplify my life.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Momma, I'm a Princess!"

This Saturday, we went to Ajlun (Ajloun) Castle in northern Jordan. It was the first time either Yanal or I had visited one of the nine castles in Jordan. To be honest, I never thought it sounded appealing to see the castles. I guess it sounded kind of boring to me, as I was comparing it to Petra, Wadi Rum, Aquaba, Jerash and all the other highlights Jordan has to offer. However, Yanal and I found it very interesting!
The castle (or fortress) was on top of the largest hill around.
At the edge of the castle grounds, it felt as though the earth dropped off.
A steep ditch surrounded the fortress for additional protection. The entrance is now a simple bridge over the ditch; however, there use to be a drawbridge to enter the building.
If entered into the fortress, the invaders would have to make it up many steps, as seen behind the kids and me.
Once in the fortress/castle, there were many small slits all along the solid rock walls. These slits were angled inside the building to give the necessary angle to the soldiers who stood to protect the grounds. They were long in shape for the bows and arrows that were used as protection from these sites. From the outside of the building these small slits were barely noticeable, which protected the soldier from harms way.
These are actual rock balls that were used in the catapult and slung at the invaders. They explained that later in time the cannon balls and other fire balls would replace these rock balls. Below is an example picture I found on the web of a catapult.

I wish that I had my video camera with us that day for two reasons 1-my regular camera wasn't working very well and 2-Aisha ran through the castle telling us and anyone that would listen that she was the Princess! She would then further explained that Omar was the Prince, Daddy was the King, and Mommy was the Queen. She was so adorable.

Views from inside Ajloun Castle....

Northern Jordan is beautiful. The land is filled with lush, green mountains and valleys of trees and olive groves. This was taken below the castle on a small, winding, dirt road.
If you want to learn about Ajloun Castle and its history, please go to:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's Your Turn!

I want to hear from you!! I haven't asked you recently what you like/dislike about my blog. Please send me a comment at the bottom of this posting and let me know your thoughts.

Please tell me what you would like to learn about, read less of, read more of, see pictures of, etc! I want to keep you involved in my blog! Yes-I am doing this as a journal for myself and our family, but I am also doing this for you!

How to post a comment below this post:
Simply click on "# Comments" below this post
Type your comment(s) under "Leave Your Comment"
Type in the "Word Verification"
Choose an "Identity"
Hit "Publish Your Comment"

Remember: I'm nosey and like to know who's leaving a comment, so if you're comfortable leaving your name...please do so at the end of your comment! :-)

Hope to hear from ya!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Dead Sea/Pictures...another LONG post.

This weekend, we took the kids for their first trip down to the Dead Sea. Yanal and I had been there a couple of times years ago. It's always a beautiful drive down and through the mountains. It's one of those destinations, which are a truly unique experience.

I have to mention, Jordan is so interesting. It is only a 40 minute drive from our home in Amman. You can drive out of this mostly modern, hugely populated city (2.5 million people) and travel about 20 minutes where there are only small villages scattered miles from each other. Continue driving a few minutes later and for as far as you can see there are these huge barren mountains with Bedouins living in their tents and shepherding their lamb and goats across the brown, dry hills.

Then you reach the bottom of the Jordan Valley and their is life again. Down here the weather is perfect year round for farming. They farm any and everything: bananas, mangoes, fava beans, corn, tomatoes, oranges, apples, green onions, literally anything you would find in the produce section at your local grocery store can and is grown down in the valley.

As you pass by the farms, farmers are selling their produce on the side of the road - this is also common all over Jordan. You see small towns, mud homes, and homes made from cloth. Sheep, lamb and goats graze the land as their owner rides a donkey behind them to steer them in the right direction.

As you start coming closer to the Dead Sea. Billboards start appearing (obviously for the tourists) advertising The Gap, Tony Roma's, The Pizza Company, which all back in Amman. Billboards are also advertising the large hotels and spas that are built along the Dead Sea shoreline. What I find interesting about the hotel and spa billboards is the pictures are of men getting out of the water and occasionally you will see a silhouette of possibly a woman getting out of the water...this is to keep things culturally appropriate as all people pass by these advertisements.

Finally, you know you are close to the sea when you start seeing traditionally dressed camels and horses on the sides of the road. Their owners are never far away, usually sitting in whatever shade they can find drinking tea and waiting for someone (like us) to drive by and want a ride on their camel.

As we had the kids with us, they must ride a camel, so we stopped. We stopped in a parking lot, with the sea as a backdrop on one side and the mountains in the distance on the other side of the road. The parking lot was filled with decorative camels and horses along with men selling coffee, tea and hookas (you know, the tobacco bong). Omar was the first on the camel as Aisha was frighten by either the camel or the hundreds of flies flying around the camel. Omar on the other little man...not afraid....totally loved it! He had a blast sitting on the camel as I tried getting the other camel and horse jockeys away from me so I can take a few pictures of him. After sometime of warming up to the camel, Aisha too loved the camel and she went for a ride with me.

Being that the sea was near us, Aisha saw the water and wanted to go swimming, so we went to the local beach to ask about entrance fees for the beach and the pools for our next visit. Kids should not 'swim' in the Dead Sea because the salt concentration is so high (30%). If the water gets into their eyes...ouch...and if they drink (accidentally of course) a small amount of the salt water it is deadly.

On our way back we took a scenic route through the farms and up the mountains from another direction. There was a small river/large stream that followed the road we traveled, so we saw 'lots' of vegetation and birds. We also saw many locals who were out picnicking, grilling and playing in the water with their families and children.

Here are some fun facts about the Dead Sea and websites to learn more:
- Lowest point on the earth
- 422 meters, 1385 feet below sea level
- 375 meters, 1240 feet deep
- 42 miles long and 11 miles wide
- One of the world's saltiest bodies of water
- 33.7% salinity
- 8.6 times saltier than the ocean
- Because of the salt, everyone floats in the water. (It almost feels like you are swimming in oil)
- Nothing lives in the Dead Sea (except very few bacteria)
- Weak UV rays due to sea level
- Highest oxygen content in the world due to high barometric pressure
- Minerals found in the water
- Chloride, Bromide, Sulfate, Bicarbonate, Calcium, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium
- Salts in the water
-Calcium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium chloride, sodium chloride
- The rocks on the shoreline look like they are covered with 2 inches of ice, but it is actually the minerals and salts that have built up on the rock. Boats that have dared to ride on the sea also have to literally chip off the salt and mineral deposits from the motors and sides of the boat.
- Health Benefits
-Because of the mineral concentrations, the low UV rays, high O2 concentration, low pollens and allergens, and warm weather year long people suffering from psoriasis, eczema, cystic fibrosis, asthma, osteoarthritis, tendinitis, just to list a few.
- Dead Sea mud is spread on the body, massaged in, or used as a face mask.

Friday, January 8, 2010

"Mommy Doesn't Cry Anymore"

Well, we have been here for almost 6 months now. Wow, 6 months! That just seems unbelievable to me. Time doesn't stop for anyone does it?! We have been thru so much in the last 6 months to get to where we are today. I am so thankful to be where we are today....well maybe minus the fact that we are in Amman, away from all my family and friends...LOL; however, I am so incredibly thankful that I am where I am today instead of where I was 2-4 months ago.

My daughter looked up at her Dad a few days ago and told him, "Mommy doesn't cry anymore" and Dad says, "Wow, you're right!" How a 2.5 year old pays attention to the details that surround them is unbelievable to me.

I was talking to my sister the other day about our recent life changing events and she mentioned to me how she has jumped over the hump recently. I thought that was a great way of explaining it. I, too, have recently jumped over the hump. And that hump is what my daughter and husband were referring to also.

For those of you that don't know me or don't know me that well: I don't really ever cry. I hate crying and I only do it when I really have to. In an average year, I probably cry a handful of days. On contrast, since I found out we were moving and more so once we moved here, I was not able to stop crying.

Not only did I cry a lot (like every few days a lot) I also had terrible mood swings, which made me feel terrible and cry even more. Again for those of you who don't know me or haven't known me since high school....I felt like I was in high school again. I felt like I was losing my damn mind, my sanity, my steadiness. I hated it. I hated yelling at my daughter, yelling at my 6 month old baby...who does that, yell at a baby?...certainly, not me on a normal day.

I hated feeling out of control. Feeling like I was going to go postal on someone. I hated all of it. I hated feeling like an out of control teenager with raging took me years to put that Beth away and become the even steady, calm Beth that I liked so much better. I guess my Mother said it best when I was talking to her about it. She said, "Even if you learned how to suppress your temper, doesn't mean it's gone"...boy was she right....temper was back and it wouldn't go away.

Why? Why was I feeling this way? Well, that's what I kept asking myself. I was trying to do the nursing thing and diagnose myself...well, whatever, I thought I had post-partum depression, hypothyroid, along with a few other things, or maybe it was old fashion stress. I went to the MD here and she told me everything that I am experiencing is normal. "Normal", the same thing my sisters, my parents, my closest friend and husband told me. But for some reason, hearing it from her was very helpful.

Realization: Of course I was going crazy. I had two small children who needed me for everything. My daughter was going through her own changes and clinged to me like nothing I've seen before. My husband and I just did a complete role reversal. He had always been home to help with the kids and the house. I was now a full-time stay at home Mom with no car and a husband who worked all day, every day. I moved far away from my family, who I was missing terribly. I was still strongly grieving the loss of my Grandma. I quit my job and left my friends. I lost everyday contact with everything I knew.

The list continues: Not to mention I don't know Arabic that well, so even going to the full-service gas station by myself made me nervous. Oh and let's not forget that EVERYTHING in Jordan is difficult. The USA is designed to make life easy, everything is readily at your hands. You walk into Super Target and you can buy everything in just one stop. You call for an electrician and set up and appointment....he shows up, on time, and can actually fix your problem, and he has a fixed price that he will charge you (not all the bargaining/trying to rip you off b.s.)!

And lastly, my hormones were probably a total mess...I had just stopped breastfeeding my son and prior to that I was pregnant with him, prior to that I was breastfeeding my daughter, prior to that I was pregnant with my daughter, and prior to that I was pregnant and basically, my hormones have been totally out of whack for about 3.5 years and they were now trying to normalize...yikes!

Breath of Fresh Air: So now you know why and how I was a complete crazy woman....Okay, now....take a breath of fresh air.....I have hit the hump and hurdled over it!! This Mommy no longer cries!

I am feeling back to my normal self, with the occasional (normal) ups and downs! I haven't cried or had a meltdown in at least a month and I don't think that I am going to have one any time soon. I can again, play with my kids and laugh. I laugh so much with them I almost cry...a wonderful, I am so blessed cry!! It is so refreshing! I feel like me again! Alhumdillah (Thank God).

My husband is wonderful and amazing. I have two beautiful and healthy babies. I have my health. I have a wonderful family back home in the USA!

I am meeting new people, Americans and other expats that have moved to Jordan, who can relate to me. I am looking for work and hope to find a part-time nursing job. However, nothing is easy in Jordan and if I don't find 'right' job then I know it's just meant for me to stay at home a little longer with my kids. To laugh with them. To teach them. To play with them. To love them. I am also comfortable with putting them in daycare, if I find that 'right' job, because I know they will grow from the experience. I am learning to give up control, to an extent :-)

I guess I am writing this to you (those of you who's shoulders I have learned on) so that you know that I'm going to be okay! We are going to be okay!! I knew it before, you knew it before, but now we both really know it to be true!! I appreciate your help, understanding and advice. Thank you! I love you!