Mjeddrah: One Pot Lentil and Rice Supper

Mjeddrah

Lately, I seem to have lost my cooking mojo again. The peanut gallery is wearing me down. They want a rotation of about four meals (that we all agree on) and when I repeat one of those, there is complaining. We have instituted a new no complaints policy, but still, I’m at a loss as to what to cook. I’d rather not have to coax them to eat each bite. Not to mention that I’m sick of those four meals. Sometimes I just stare at the refrigerator as if inspiration will strike. Ever have those days?

Usually I think of my kids as being fairly adventurous, and maybe they are, on the whole. Maybe they’ve taken a break.

At any rate, the other night, I decided to take a break from worrying about what they wanted. I found this recipe in Crescent Dragonwagon’s Bean by Bean (yes, that’s her real name—look it up). I decided I’d make it for the hubs and me, and the kids could make themselves some eggs or PB&J.

Mjeddrah is a Middle Eastern rice and lentil dish with spices, carrots, and onions. It sounded so lovely and comfort-foody but also interesting and nutritious. It’s a definite repeat, though I have to say, I would  double the recipe for us. Ms. Dragonwagon recommends it will feed 4-6, but I could’ve eaten the whole pot myself, seeing as how we had no side dishes. Unless, maybe we had spinach salad. I may have cooked my spinach into the mjeddrah. Not sure. There were no leftovers, and only two of us ate it.

Anyhoo, what are your tricks for feeding the whole family peaceably (besides takeout, of course)? I’m looking into some various meal prep menus or services to get us out of our rut.

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Pickled Jalapenos

Pickled Jalapenos

Attention, spice lovers! It has come to my attention (via a New Orleans bookwoman friend) that there is a better, cheaper way to supply yourself with unlimited pickled jalapenos.

Simply buy fresh jalapenos, slice, and jar in white vinegar. Store in fridge. Tada! That’s it. Hubs was afraid that leaving the seeds in was going to result in scorched tongues, but turns out the vinegar must dampen the burn factor, because they’re really not that hot—I would put them in the same category as your average “medium” salsa.

The best part about making these is that they retain an excellent crunch factor.

Here they are on my lunch from yesterday, also featuring roasted chickpeas using Penzey’s taco seasoning mix. Yum!

Roasted chickpea tacos

In other news, I’ve discovered some new-to-me podcasts lately: Mystery Show and Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids, both wicked excellent. Also re-read Edward Eager’s classic Half Magic –so fun! And currently re-reading Pat Hutchins’ The Mona Lisa Mystery. It’s out of print but I found a library discard available online.

Hope you’re having a great summer. As usual, mine is a little busier than I’d anticipated, but it’s going well. Hope to see you here again before long.

Flourless Oatmeal and Dried Cherry Bars

Gluten Free Oatmeal Bar

So these came from Budget Bytes. They are the “Apricot-Walnut Bars,” but I used pecans and dried cherries since that was what I had on hand. They’re super easy, there’s very little added sugar, and I was able to use gluten-free oats—-triple win! My seven-year-old (who has gluten troubles) loves them, which is no small compliment. Recipe here.

You use mashed banana for sweetness and stick-together-ness, which means the bars taste a little like banana bread–yum! We eat them for snacks and sometimes for breakfast.

American friends, how was Thanksgiving? We enjoyed time with extended family down at the beach. Beforehand, the hubs and I got to spend a few days in Mexico (thanks, mom and dad for kid-watching!). The trip was great, but we got stuck an extra day, which was not the most fun. Fortunately we had lots of folks covering for us back home with the kiddos—-I’m eternally grateful.

Christmas is now descending upon me, and I feel only half-ready and half-remembering what it was I meant to do to prepare. I’m going to try to post some round-ups of favorite gifts to give. recipes, and simple crafts, so stay tuned. As usual, I’m spending most of my kids-in-school time working on my novel. Is it getting anywhere? I sincerely hope so!

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Spicy Black Bean Burgers

Black Bean Burger

I’d been wanting to try these for a long time but never got around to it until last week. There were a few mishaps, but all in all, I was psyched about how they turned out, despite their less-than-photogenic looks. They even got the hubs stamp of approval—-as in, he not only ate them without complaint (he pretty much always does that) but says he’d like me to make them again. He even chose them leftover the next day instead of grilled chicken.

The recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Here’s the original recipe. I’ve cooked a lot, lot, lot from this book. Check out my archives if you want to see more posts about food and cooking.

1 can black beans, drained

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (I used gluten-free)

1 TB chili powder

1 garlic clove

a generous squirt of Sriracha sauce

a nice blob o’ ketchup

3 pickled jalapeno slices

Pulse everything just a little, not a lot, in the food processor. I accidentally left out the egg, but it didn’t seem to matter much, so I doubt I’d add it back in. I also goofed and blended the ingredients too long.

After processing, let it all rest a few minutes.

Form into patties and chill in the fridge for a little while.

Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium, add oil, then brown the patties on one side, then the other.

The next bit was tricky for me. The burgers actually had to be cooked a long, long time to get the right texture. You want the texture to be kind of burger-like. The right kind of chew, not mushy and damp.Maybe I had trouble because I added too much moisture and pulsed the ingredients too long. I don’t know. I may try browning and then baking next time.

What I ended up doing was just turning the heat down to low and cooking them forever very slowly so as not to burn them. I was afraid the whole experiment would be a wash, but lo and behold, they turned out very well in the end.

I didn’t think they were more than mildly spicy, but my daughter (who likes to remind me that children have more taste buds) said the spice factor was too much for her. I hadn’t expected the kids to flock toward bean burgers anyway and had made them turkey burgers instead.

You could totally crank the spice factor up or down. These are definitely going into the rotation.

If you want more detail about all kinds of tips and variations, do check out the original recipe.

I’ve been reading Jennifer Worth’s memoir, Call the Midwife, since I love the show so much. I was surprised that the show actually follows the memoir fairly closely. I’ve been watching old episodes of Foyle’s War, a British WWII detective show. Also tried Outlander (no, I’ve never read the books) and The Knick. I’m definitely on a mostly British historical kick. Not sure what I think of those shows yet. You?

Also doing some patchwork, some of which I hope to show you soon.

Falafel from Scratch

Falafel mixture

When we were living in Hannover, I became a falafel addict. Might not sound typically German, but there’s a large Turkish population in Germany, and you can buy inexpensive, fresh, delicious falafel (as well as other yummy treats) at almost any corner. The guys at my imbiss (fast food joint) knew my falafel order by heart.

You can get excellent falafel in Charlotte (try Zeitouni), but I miss being able to walk across the street and get it, so I often make it at home. Box mixes are actually pretty good (Far East has a good one) but I’d always wanted to try making them from scratch.

So what’s in there? Dried, soaked (uncooked) chickpeas, onion, parsley, spices.

How hard was it? Well, if you’ve made from-the-box falafel before, it’s really not that hard, but it does require more planning and more cleanup. Big bonus if you have trouble with gluten is that making them from scratch requires no flour, which most mixes have. I find the difficult part is that I want to make all the fixin’s, too, which also take time—yogurt sauce, tahini sauce, chopped veggies.

Since I spent most of my energies on the falafel, I put my daughter to work on the yogurt sauce (she loves this) and dressed the veggies with just a little lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

This time I think my husband was right: I really DID use every dish in the house.

Results: delicious. Was it worth making from scratch? I have to say that, while I loved them would make them again, the box-mix kind are a close second.

Bittman’s recipe here.

Homemade Falafel

Next on my list: making harissa from scratch, and Egyptian falafel. They’re green!

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Super Quick Italian Bean Salad

Italian Bean Salad

This is my weeknightified version of a Foster’s Market recipe. It’s super simple and really hits the spot when I want a tasty deli-style salad with next to no work. You could dress it up as much as you like with fresh veggie add-ins. The original recipe is lovely, though not super fast (you cook the beans yourself and make their delicious dressing from scratch, among other things). Again, this is more a list of ideas than a real recipe, but it’s not hard to eye the proportions.

Ingredients:

Rinsed and drained canned white beans (I like navy beans)

Italian dressing—-I like the Penzey’s mix

Capers

Sundried tomatoes

Chopped fresh parsley

Mix beans with enough dressing to coat and enough capers and tomatoes to give it a little color. Let marinate a few hours if you have time. Add parsley. Enjoy!

Got some more feedback on my nonfiction manuscript this week. Things are finally moving forward. So excited.

And in other news this week, I’ve been talking to 4th and 5th graders about writing an early reader (i.e. Slowpoke). Fun times! Love getting their questions.

For more food-related posts, click here. Have a great rest of your week.

 

Chickpea-Battered Fried Leeks

Fried Leeks

I made this as a quickie-quick appetizer on Christmas Eve. No, the kids didn’t eat them, but the hubs and I thoroughly enjoyed them. A repeat performance definitely has to happen.

I’d been thinking about this onion fritter recipe, found on Pinterest, for a long time. I ended up using a simpler recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, but I love the ideas in the first, too. I was just short on time.

The brilliance of this concoction is that the ingredients are so few, the flavor is more than the sum of its parts, and it’s painlessly gluten-free—–without even trying. Given my well-documented obsession with chickpeas (here, here, and here—oh, and here and here) it really hit all the points on my checklist.

So, here’s the skinny:

1 part chickpea flour, 4 parts water, salt. A sprinkle or two of cumin and cayenne. I used 1/4 cup chickpea flour and 1 cup water for 1 sliced leek. Drag leek rounds (or onion rounds) in extra chickpea flour, then dunk in batter. Fry in a generous (but not huge) amount of oil. Drain and enjoy.

Mr. Bittman says battering veggies with chickpea flour and frying is a traditional Indian preparation and can be served with chutney (oooh!). Sadly, I didn’t have any chutney on hand and didn’t feel like making any, but maybe some other time. I poured out the last bit of batter and made a lacey pancake with the last scraps of leek. Yum! I may have to try this with other veggies.

Poking through the blog I found thru Pinterest (a bit of this and a bit of that) I see lots of exciting Indian recipes. I’ll have to browse some more…

In other news, I’m still working on my nonfiction picture book, and things are starting to gel. So exciting. And the other night I got to attend the Women’s National Book Association book swap. Check out my instagram feed (it’s in the right hand column of the blog) to see my haul.

And for more of my cooking and eating adventures, click here.

Frying leeks