Month: October 2013

Couscous

I’m often trying to find fun things to do with friends here. Don’t get me wrong, I love drinking tea and eating cookies ( and trying to keep my kids from having a sugar overdose and jumping on their froshes with their shoes on). But when a friend of mine offered to come over and help me learn how to cook local food, I jumped at the opportunity! All of my favorite things at one time : cooking and being with people, especially local friends.

So we set out to make couscous. This is THE MEAL of this country. It is what it is known for. Families come together every Friday to eat it. It is a big deal. Hence the reason I have been hesitant to even attempt it. But my friend said it was easy, so off we went.

(I’m going to include the ingredients and directions just incase anyone wants to try it. Do it!! And let me know how it goes!!)

What you need:

1/2 kilo couscous ( about 1 lbs)
1 onion, sliced
1 lbs of meat of your choice (I did beef, but you can do whatever you want)
2 carrots
2 zucchini squash
1 potato
2 turnips
1 tomato, grated
(I also used a half kilo of pumpkin as we eat that in savory dishes as. Vegetable here.)
Salt
Pepper
1 tsp turmeric
A bunch of cilantro tied together
1 beef or chicken bouillon cube
1 tablespoon tomato paste.

Ok, first slice the onions thinly and place in a pot with a little bit of olive oil, the meat, and about a half cup of water.

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Allow this to cook for a little bit while you chop the veggies. Add the carrots and turnips to the pot along with the spices

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Also, grate a tomato and add the tomato paste to the pot. Now just let this all cook until tender. Probably at least a half hr.

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Now. Let this cook and work on the couscous.

* if you live in A place where you can only get couscous in a box, ignore these steps. They are irrelevant. Just cook the couscous according to the box, call it a day, and breathe a sigh of relief that you can ignore these steps.

So basically, we are going to cook the couscous 3 x. First we clean it and get any rocks, or bugs out.

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Rinse it and mix with a little bit of olive oil and water, and set in the pot to cook.

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While this is cooking, take some of the cooking liquid and put it in a pot with the pumpkin, squash, and potatoes to cook separately. Let this cook until tender and then turn it off.

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It is time for the first couscous fluff (that’s not a technical word, but it best describes the process) :).
Sprinkle about a half cup of water over the couscous a little bit at a time, while you fluff.
Let it sit for a couple minutes and then put it back in the pot for cook #2.

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After the second cook, take it out and repeat the process.

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Put it back into the pot for another 10 minutes or so and then remove from the heat, fluff a little more and let it sit.

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When you are ready to serve, heat the couscous again the the pot. When it is heated place in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Place the meat in the center in the well, and place the vegetables around the meat. Use a ladle to pour the sauce overtop, just make sure it doesn’t end up like soup! 🙂 you can always leave extra sauce for everyone to put on themselves.

Sorry I don’t actually have a picture of the final product!! Maybe just google couscous and you can check out what it should look like! 🙂

My friend and I are thinking of making this a weekly thing and sharing our results with you all! What do you all think? A weekly blog post of what we make, with instructions so maybe you can try and make something a little out of the box. Give me your thoughts!!

Happy Couscous Making!

Eid Al Kabir

Today we celebrated the biggest holiday of the year here. It’s amazing how, even if we are not necessarily “celebrating” the holiday for the meaning of it, we can still appreciate the “feeling” and the excitement in the air around the time of celebration! And we are happy to celebrate with our friends who are celebrating. (Here is a link if you want to find out more about the Eid, go here )

The preparations started last week when we started seeing guys selling charcoal, grills and hay on each street corner. The charcoal and grill are for grilling the head of the sheep right after it is killed, and the hay is to feed them while they live in the houses before the day of the Eid.

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Next we start seeing sheep riding around in people’s cars, in the back of trucks and men even carry them on the motorcycles. This last week, every time we were in the car, the kids wanted to play, “spot the sheep in the craziest place”!

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And lastly, we always go to the grocery store parking lot so the kids can check out the sheep.

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Then the big Day arrives!!! This year, a friend of mine invited us to spend the Eid with them. The people here are so gracious and loving and hospitable. I am always humbled when we are invited to spend a special holiday with friends. (Especially since this holiday is like Christmas to them!) As soon as she heard we weren’t doing anything, she told us we had to come to her house. Her daughter and Lydia are friends from school, so the kids were excited as well.
They had already killed the sheep by the time we got there, but the kids really wanted to see (and play with) the head. (There are some
things that are crazy to me about my life and one of them is that my kids think its perfectly normal for a sheep’s head to be laying around and something to be poked and prodded.)

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The first meal that is eaten right after the sheep is killed is cubes of liver, wrapped in fat and put on kabobs and grilled. I have eaten this a couple of times, and have to admit, that I’m not a huge fan (but I have never liked organ meat. Thankfully my friend was a gracious host!) My friend said that they always always always eat this meal first. Every family. Every year. That is one thing I love about this culture. Their culture is so rich and beautiful and old. They have been doing the same things, the same ways for hundreds of years.

One last picture of the day. Lydia and her friend Nour.

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Green Grass

I read this blog post today and it so rings true for my life. People often say to me, “I could never live there/learn a different language/put my kids in local school/whatever it is that seems totally crazy to them”. And I usually say, “of course you could. It may be challenging ( as it has been for me), but you could!” And I think this quote has a lot to do with it.

The grass is greenest where you water it.”

This quote adequately sums up why there is a contentment in my heart about this season of our lives and not just a contentment, but a joy! It is why I wanted to learn a hard language, and shop at the local places. It is why our kids go to the local school and I will spend hours trying to have a conversation where I am only going to understand maybe half of what is said. But I realize that if I don’t embrace life fully here, I will always want to be where the grass is “greener”. And I will miss out on the FULL life that is right in front of me if I am just willing to “water it”. For me, this “watering” has usually meant choosing the thing that is most outside of my comfort zone, and trusting my Father and just jumping in with both feet. It has meant that on those days I REALLY don’t want to leave my house, I need to put my shoes on, walk through my gate and fully embrace what is waiting for me on the other side. And I can promise you, it has been worth it, Every. Single. Time.

I am not saying that everyday is a joy ride full of life, laughter, and happiness. (Trust me, as of today I am going on day 2 of 5 home alone with the kids who are on vacation and I am definitely not having the victory.) But, life here is FULL and GREEN, and not because it is familiar and normal, but because it is hard and yet we choose to water it.

October Meals

I know, I know. It’s almost halfway through October and I have yet to share my meal plan for the month. I forgot how busy life can get at the drop of a hat! I feel like I spent the first couple of weeks easing back into life here, and then all of the sudden….LIFE was back to it’s normal pace.

So anyway. Meal planning. Doing a month at a time may seem a little extreme, but it has become a sanity saver for me. About 3 and a half years ago when we moved here, I needed something to control. I couldn’t speak the language, I didn’t know the culture. I couldn’t figure out when stores were going to open or closed. I was a mess. Thus began the only thing I could do to keep myself together. Meal Planning. If I could do NOTHING else, at least I could feed my family and not lose my mind in the process.

So at the beginning of each month I sit down with my cookbook, Pinterest and my newest favorite Foodily ( it’s an app and it’s amazing. I highly recommend it!) and while jay watches football, I meal plan.

Here is what October looks like.

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Let me know if you can read my handwriting. I think I may need to get some new markers to make it clearer. But Hopefully you can get a couple of ideas. And just so you know, these meal plans are always in flux. I don’t think I have ever followed a monthly plan exactly. If we have leftovers, then maybe we will replace that nights meal, or if I’m just being lazy, there is a good chance we are having pancakes for dinner. 🙂

Happy Eating!