That Indian place

A few days ago I decided to order some Indian food from this place we know, it had been a good month or maybe even more since we ate from there.

I splurged, got three things instead of two for us to split, extra garlic naan bread…. I was VERY excited to eat it.

I waited patiently for the husband to come home, didn’t even unpack the bag. As I waited I thought of the delicious cream sauces, yummy warm bread and chunks of paneer cheese. This place….. when the food is good, it’s very, VERY good.

But when it’s bad……

So I unpack as soon as I hear the garage door start to open. Set the table, open everything, I’m ready!  Find a stray cashew in the rice, I remove it and ignore it. The husband has this belief (possibly not unfounded) that the food we order has been scraped off other peoples plates and into our containers. Maybe because it always looks different, they use different vegetables almost every time,  but the sauce is always the same so who cares!

We start to eat. And that’s when it all just goes to shit.

Someone forgot how to cook, or someone there hates me. One of our dishes had a heap of soggy vegetables and no cream sauce to speak of, rather it sat in a warm bath of its own broth and some odd spices. I tasted, praying for it to be better than it looked. Nope.

My staple dish, the one thing that ALWAYS looks the same, and tastes the same, SUCKED. The only thing correct was the peas and cubes of cheese. A horrible fake.

We cried a little, ate what we could. Cried some more. NOT satisfied.

Now, any other place pulls this crap, and I would not hesitate to call and complain. It was THAT bad. But that’s the problem with this place. I HAVE called them before, because of another issue we had with the food once being so spicy that it burned our lips off even when I had asked for it to be “very mild”. It was so hot, that eating was purely pain, we could taste nothing but our melting tongues.

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The guy on the phone was nice,  I recognized his voice. He was so sorry, offered to buy us a dinner to make it up to us, told me to order again and it would be much better. So I did, I went again a few days later to pick up my “free dinner”, after calling and talking to another guy reminding them that I was collecting on his promise.

I got there, and was assured it was going to be great…and told I had to pay. It was funny actually, I tried to tell the guy that it was supposed to be free because we couldn’t eat it last time. He smiled very indulgently, and basically said “no, it’s gonna be great so go ahead and pay”.

So I paid.

And that’s the problem. Because sometimes that  food is amazing. Sinfully good. So good that right now, as I type, I can TASTE it….. but you never know when it’s going to be that good again.

You want to walk away when it sucks, as it will about every 4th time…. but they know. They KNOW you will come back. Makes them cocky. They can literally give me rice off someone’s plate. I will eat that rice if their vegetable korma is amazing. I will eat it with ANYTHING. And they know that.

I’m not proud of the fact that I fully intend to order again in the next week or so.

By my calculations, it’s gonna be great  next time. I hope.

 

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Apples, Hay, and Tacos

My plans for a playdate are not usually very exciting, so I have my friend to thank for the idea of taking the kids somewhere new today.

I may have been apple picking as a child…. I have vague memories of paper bags and apples on the ground…but no sense of whether I enjoyed it or not. Today I got to try it with the kids at Hillcrest Orchards.

It was a perfect day, sunny and in the low 70’s, and the place was big enough to accommodate everyone without seeming crowded.

Of course there is the requisite hay maze……

As well as the farm-themed cut out boards for the kids to pose as animals, farmers, or pumpkins…..

We finally headed off to the orchard to put the kids to work, getting there on a rickety tractor pulled wagon of course.

We picked honey crisp today, and at first I thought the rows of trees were just baby saplings. I was shocked to see them bearing fruit, an amazing amount compared to their tiny size. Super sweet, we were allowed to eat them right off the trees. Bonus that the kids found that irresistible. Jenna was shocked to find seeds in the middle of her apple….because she has only ever eaten her apples sliced on a plate before. Eating food from it’s original source, off the tree in this case, instead of from the fruit bowl seemed to stimulate their appetites. I wonder what she would do if I pointed at a chicken and told her that’s where her chicken tenders come from??

There were more things for the kids to do, like a track for go cart type bikes. I can’t show you a picture because I spent my time there pushing Sammy on his, or riding Jenna on the back of mine. GREAT workout, but not fond of the unattractive panting after I was finished.

 

More acceptable ride that doesn’t require mom to exert herself…

 

Didn’t mean for this to be freaky…but reminds me of “The Ring” and if she had started crawling on the ceiling I would have left her there…

 

And the day would not be complete without dried corn stuck in everyone’s pants

 

And finally. The best part. The grand finale of my trip. The reason I will definitely more than consider going back……..

Before we left we wanted snacks. There was a little eatery inside with cider, water, apple cinnamon donuts and cookies.  There was a food truck outside, with a menu posted on it’s side.

I was amazed at the selection of food…. and please, please forgive me for not having a picture of the actual menu. I can recite a couple things by heart…. such as the all beef hot dog in toasted pretzel bun, complimented by apple chutney and cheddar cheese….. or how about the rosemary parmesan fries, complete with garlic aioli dipping sauce? Or my personal favorite….. drum roll please….. butternut squash and black bean tacos. Oh my god. I’m so glad I ordered them, because they were amazing. Not what I expected from a food truck at this farm out in the boonies.

I did not take photos of my food because 1. I didn’t want to look weird and 2. I ate it way too fast. But I checked Pinterest and found something close to just give you a tiny idea….

fries

Trust me when I say the tacos and fries I ate today were so much better looking and tasting than these examples, but you’ll have to trust me unless you check out Hillcrest Orchards yourself.

 

 

 

Farming in the burbs

Last year I had grand intentions of growing stuff, gardening, feeding my family the vegetables I lovingly tended…. but it just didn’t happen. Thank god for Trader Joe’s, picking up the slack for me in the whole fresh organic produce department…

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humble beginnings

 

This year, I found the ready to plant seed pods I had in the garage, leftover from last years pipe dream…. and for some reason found myself with a smidge more motivation. Well, I told the kids about planting a garden, and then was forced into action by their very effective nagging to get started on it.

I got these big container things as we zoomed through home depot, knowing we don’t have a good area for planting in the yard right now. Wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but we really had nothing to lose. The kids loved filling everything up with dirt, choosing which pods to plant, and watering. Of course we didn’t end up marking what we were planting….but all the more fun when we find out what’s growing.

See it!!! They actually started to grow!!  And Sammy has watered them daily, he takes his job very seriously.

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It’s alive!

first casualty….

It’s a daily event, Sammy waters “his” plants. We try to figure out what each one is, and wonder when we will notice actual food growing. IF actual food will truly grow.

Guess what I saw today?

hello zucchini!!

I told the kids we at least know one of our plants is “working” and we will be eating our very own zucchini soon!  They didn’t seem very excited. “But we don’t like zucchini!”

I don’t think it was wrong of me to suggest that home grown veggies taste a lot better than the stuff we buy at the store.

And it’s magical, and might make you fly.

Dying for a fish fillet

The cravings are killing me lately. Fasting is easiest for me in the beginning…. and then as the days go by without snacking…..I start to feel a little unstable.

Last night I made sure the husband had “normal” food for dinner, but I had compiled an assortment of things I felt I needed. Lentil soup. Kale Salad. Strawberry-Mango flatbread.  Sushi. Doritos. The night ended with a headless chocolate bunny left in the fridge….. only because I couldn’t scarf down his body quietly enough to avoid detection. That will be tonight…….

I stopped to talk to someone today, she had just eaten a hot dog, and that little end of the bun was left on her plate, sitting there all alone. Probably with a tiny end of hot dog nestled inside. and ketchup. maybe cheese.

I wanted it.

Has it come to this? Coveting discarded hot dog pieces?

And now, I can’t stop thinking about McDonald’s fish fillet. Something my grandma was very fond of as well. I stay away….mostly….from them. Sometimes though…. it’s really all you need for happiness. A perfect blend of soft, warm bun, tartar sauce, cheese, and questionable fish. Mmmmmmmmm.

youtube.com, @hodgetwins

Hangry Fatteh

Hey, it’s Ramadan!

For the next month our lives revolve around sunset, when we can eat again. I’ll admit I sometimes cheat, but I do my best to share the experience with the husband. I think he appreciates having someone to starve fast with.

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The usual dinner fare doesn’t quite cut it, I agree with him on this. During Ramadan we eat more of the traditional Syrian food my husband grew up with.

One dish we eat during Ramadan is Fatteh. It’s a layered dish, and generally consists of some sort of shredded or toasted bread pieces, layered with some broth or stock, and a mixture of yogurt and tahini. I depend on the husband to do all the calculating and mixing, but I’ve noticed we each like it a little different.

Here is a very loose interpretation of a recipe….should you choose to experience it for yourself.

1-2 large pieces of pita bread-toasted

1 lemon..or more

1 container plain yogurt. We get the home made kind at the Arabic store

Tahini paste

chickpeas/garbanzo beans… a big can. Or a small can. Whatever you like.

Crushed garlic….again, as much as you like.

Salt and pepper… however you like it.

slivered almonds and/or pine nuts

Butter

chopped fresh parsley

pomegranate seeds

How to Toast Pine Nuts in the Oven:

My method:

Assemble ingredients about an hour before sunset, ignoring the burning as your stomach tries to digest itself.

Empty can of large chickpeas into strainer, rinse, and place into saucepan. Cover with water and set to simmer

Look at the clock. Sigh.

Squeeze your lemon into a small container, set aside. grab a bowl to mix the tahini and yogurt together.

Chop the parsley, and peel the pomegranate if you didn’t buy the ready to eat seeds from trader joe’s.

Break the pita bread into small pieces into a glass dish, somewhat bigger than 8×8, and smaller than 9×13.

Look at everything. Look at the clock. Walk away for 20 minutes. (keep coming back to stir the chickpeas and add more water if it cooks off too fast)

Mix the yogurt and tahini…. a LOT more yogurt than tahini…. like maybe 16 oz yogurt to 3 oz tahini…. but honestly it’s not exact, just do what feels right.

Add crushed garlic. somewhere between 1-3 cloves…. or what you want.

Add lemon juice. Add salt and pepper.

Try to smell how it tastes because you can’t taste it yet. stir up really well, test consistency. should be thicker than gravy, thinner than mud. Set aside.

Melt butter in saucepan, 1-2T….or whatever you like. Add nuts. about 1/2 cup total….maybe more.  The goal is to brown the nuts and melt the butter without  burning anything, so try to time it perfectly as you finish putting the rest together……

Remove chickpeas from the stove… should be just enough water left so they aren’t fully covered. Pour over toasted pita bread, move bread around to get it all covered.

Then pour yogurt concoction on top. don’t mix fully…but move a spoon around so it can also get through the layers but stays mostly on top.

Pour the hot butter and nuts on top…. the husband likes to spread it all around so every bit is covered.

garnish with little mounds of parsley and pomegranate seeds.

This is what you might end up with

By the time we are putting together the fatteh, I am officially hangry. I have no patience for anything. I have no sense of humor. I don’t care what channel the Cavs game is on…. I just want to put this together and EAT IT.

After being exposed to my short temper, and absent sense of humor…. the husband suggested that maybe I shouldn’t fast……..

 

The taste of failure

Still on my cooking kick, trying out new recipes, usually healthy-ish….

Today, to prepare for Ramadan, I tried to make something Arabic to impress the husband. It’s actually one of MY favorite things, not so much his…..but I’m pretty sure he likes it.

Maklube, or Maklouba, according to this recipe I found on Pinterest. There are a LOT of ways to make this dish. some with meat, some without. My favorite is with eggplant… It’s a layered dish, with your rice dividing layers of meat/veggies, whatever you put in it.

There is a degree of technical difficulty, as you have to flip the whole thing over onto a plate and end up with a beautiful stack of yummy layers.Garnish with nuts/parsley and I like to eat it with yogurt as well.

That’s pretty much all the information you can trust me for on this one, as I failed in this endeavor on many levels.

But, in the effort  be transparent, lest anyone think I really am as perfect as I seem……

I give you……my failure

eeewwww, oily eggplant

 

Things started out well enough, until I used about 6 cups of oil to fry up one eggplant because the oil just kept disappearing with each eggplant slice I added to the pan. I did salt the slices like instructed, and also rinsed off the salt (which I guess I shouldn’t have) . I patted dry, but didn’t squeeze it dry….apparently this matters.

I didn’t have cardamom, a key ingredient in the “spice mixture” used for the rice. I chose to plow ahead without.

I realized the recipe I used was complete, but probably I needed many more instructions….it was most likely geared to someone who had a clue about Arabic cooking and didn’t need hand holding.

At some point, I decided it must be done cooking…. so I turned off the burner and let it set about 15 minutes. Then I flipped it over onto a serving platter ever so carefully.

Major clue of failure: There is not supposed to be a big puddle of broth appearing around the base of my food tower

Clearly, it was not done….but it was too late to put it back in the pan. I chose to continue on my path of dinner destruction.

First, I drained the broth. Then I added fresh parsley and almonds with pine nuts to  mask the flavor garnish.

It doesn’t actually look too bad…..

How did it taste? Perhaps I needed to remember salt…. and less oil. Hmmm, did I burn the eggplant? Maybe a slice, or two…..

It wasn’t terrible…but it wasn’t great. Or even really good to be honest. The older kids got their dad to take them to dinner, and the poor little ones were stuck eating this with me. They made a valiant effort.

I did save some for the husband, the majority went into the garbage as there was no way anyone is going to be looking for leftovers of this stuff.

Here is what it looks like when made by someone with a clue:

chefosama.com

This is the actual photo from the recipe I used, from Chef Osama. He seems to know what he’s doing.

I’ll try it again, because I love it (when other people make it). I think next time I’ll just ask one of our relatives who not only cooks it well, but is aware of my deficiencies in the kitchen….. so they can give me all the little secret steps that might have saved me from feeding my family a brick of greasy eggplant tonight.