My Kitchen Woes

Growing up my mom would make my brothers and I popcorn balls every Fall. It was always something that I looked forward to. Now that I am a mother I would love to keep the same tradition for my family. However, I have one problem. I can not make popcorn balls to save my life. I tried once last year and I guess I took the caramel off the stove to soon and it would not even hold the popcorn together so this year I vowed I would get it right and not make that same mistake. So last night I went at it again. I had everything ready and was stirring my caramel. Oh yea this was defiantly better then last year. At one point I thought it was done but I had read online that you should drop some in cold water. If it formed a ball instead of strings it was not done. It kept forming balls so I kept in cooking. Finally I smelt this burning smell and my house filled with black smoke. Okay at this point I knew I had went way past the point I wanted. Like an idiot I sticky my index finger into this hot mixture to taste without thinking. Oh the pain! I burnt my entire thumbprint off and now I have a second degree burn. I had to keep my finger on something frozen for over two hours or I would have this horrid pain. I even had to take two Advil. Today I have this huge blister the size of a quarter and its a good half an inch off the finger. So I guess I should just throw the towel in on making my mommas popcorn balls. You would think a Southern girl could make some good Southern food and something as traditional as popcorn balls but its just about the opposite for me folks. Growing up my momma always wanted to teach me how to cook saying a girl should know her way around a kitchen. I could not believe the nerve she had saying that to me. I was like seriously do you think I will ever stay at home cooking for a man like some 1940's housewife. All through university I ate out for every meal. I do not even remember having food in my fridge ever. Then reality hits and you get married and soon find yourself having to cook for your family. And you all know how it is when you first get married. You want to do everything to spoil and please your husband. So I was on a mission to teach myself how to cook but not only that but to cook his favorite meals. I have some crazy stories and my poor husband went through a lot of bad food to get where we are today. He has ate raw chicken, helped me clean food that exploded and went behind the stove and lets just say this I could go on for awhile from the first few months of marriage. Now almost five years later I can keep up with the best of them. That's really what made me want to start this blog. To help all the people out there with easy to follow recipes that I once longed for but could never find. I absolutely adore cooking now and find it a brilliant way to connect with my family and friends. Now my husband thinks I am the best of cooks and that really makes it all worth while, right? So you see that's why I can not cook Southern food hardly. Because I never did what so ever. I have tried A LOT to make it and for some reason or another its always an absolute disaster. I have about gave up. I am from a very, very small town in east Tennessee and its unheard of for a woman not to know how to cook cornbread. I remember my mammaw and the people at the local hardware store were laughing because I could not even cook a pan of cornbread (yea, that's a small town for you lol). But hey I have to say that I can make a pan of cornbread now after years of practice and the best sweet tea you will ever taste. So as I sit here typing with my unusable finger all I can think about is that I sure can not wait to get back home and have some of my families good Southern cooking and someone to teach me how to make popcorn balls.

Szechwan Shrimp

This is a delectable Chinese seafood dish. Not only can you do this with shrimp but try chicken as well. Be careful not to overcook your shrimp. Shrimp that is cooked over a few minutes tends to get a rubbery texture. Serve this dish with your favorite Asian rice. 15 ounces shrimp, shelled and de-veined 4 tablespoons water 2 tablespoons ketchup 1 tablespoon soy sauce 2 teaspoons cornstarch 1 teaspoon honey 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper 144 teaspoon ground ginger 2 tablespoons sunflower oil 1/4 cup scallions, sliced + more for garnish 4 garlic cloves, minced 1. In a small bowl add water, ketchup, soy sauce, cornstarch, honey, red pepper and ginger, mix well and sit aside. 2. In a Saute pan on medium heat add oil Add scallions and garlic, cook for 2 minutes. Add shrimps and cook until white about 1-2 minutes on each side. Reduce heat to low and pour sauce on top of shrimp. Combine well and allow sauce to thicken. Yields: 3 servings Adapter from Allrecipes


I have never tried or made snickerdoodles until today. They have been one of those recipes that I have wanted to make for awhile now. And today I happened to be in one of those rare cooking moods so I went with it and made this little babies. I was quite surprised on how easy they were to prepare. After I baked them I popped one in my mouth and WOW I was in love. These are my new favorite cookie and have to be one of the best recipes of all time. I have really been missing out. I tried to trace the orgin of these delicious cookies and found that many people suggest many things but all were European countries so we will just say this is an European cookie. 1/2 cup butter, softened 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided 1 egg 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1. In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Place dough in the refrigerator and allow to chill for 1 hour. 2.In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar. Place two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats into the fridge to chill. 2. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Shape dough into 1 inch balls; roll in cinnamon-sugar. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool Yields: 2-1/2 dozen

Olive Garden Salad Dressing

Oh boy do I ever love that salad dressing they serve at The Olive Garden. I could eat that salad with those bread sticks forever I tell you. I sure wish we had one here in Saudi. I found this recipe about six years ago and have been making it ever since. This taste identical to the restaurants version. I try to keep some in a jar in my fridge at all times because honestly no other salad dressing will ever top it. 1/2 cup mayonnaise 1-1/2 tablespoons white vinegar 1 teaspoon sunflower oil 2 tablespoons corn syrup 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese 2 garlic cloves 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1. In a small food processor or blender add mayonnaise, vinegar, oil, corn syrup, cheese, garlic, seasoning and lemon juice. Mix until well blended. Store in a jar and refrigerate. Yields: 3/4 cup

Chipotle Rice

I found this recipe on one of those restaurant copy cat sites. Maybe you know of the Mexican grill Chipotle. This is one of the famous dishes they serve. This rice is seasoned perfectly with the cilantro and lime juice. This makes an excellent side dish on its down. 1 teaspoon sunflower oil 2 teaspoons fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped 2/3 cup white basmati rice 1 cup water 1/2 teaspoon salt juice of 1 lime 1. In a 2-quart heavy saucepan on high heat, add oil, rice and lime juice, stir for 1 minute. Add water and salt, bring to a full rolling boil. 2. At boiling, cover, turn down to simmer over low heat until rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork. Before serving stir in cilantro. Yields: 4 servings

Simple Salsa

I love homemade salsa and nothing quite taste like a Mexican salsa with fresh ingredients along side some crispy chips. This salsa is pretty basic but filled with flavor despite the fact. A traditional Mexican salsa is filled with Mexican peppers but unfortunately those are not available here in Saudi. However, I promise this one will not let anyone down and it even reminds me of the salsa that Chili's serve. I also wanted to let you all know about my other blog "So Sweet Designs." Some of you may know that I am also a graphic/blog designer as well. I designed this blog and many, many other so stop by and take a look. And when your done go make this salsa, lol. 2 large tomatoes, finely diced 1 small white onion, finely diced 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro 2 garlic gloves, smashed 1/2 jalapeno, finely diced salt to taste dash of cumin 1/2 tablespoon lime juice 1. In a medium sized bowl add tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, salt and lime juice, mix well until combined.

Banadoura Mahshi

Mahshi means stuffed vegetables so you can have many types of mahshi. This is a very popular style of serving food all over the world. Every country has a special way of serving stuffed vegetables and I have loved them all might I say. This recipe of stuffed tomatoes is pretty easy for any level of cook. You can use ground beef if you do not have ground lamb. Use the leftover meat mixture to mix with white rice. 1 pound ground lamb 10 medium tomatoes 1/2 tablespoon Arabic Baharat spice 1 tablespoon tomato paste 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce 1 cup water 1/4 cup pine nuts 1 small onion, diced salt and pepper to taste 1. In a 9-inch skillet on medium heat add lamb and onions. Cook until no longer pink, drain fat. Add meat back into pan with baharat, tomato paste, salt and pepper and pine nuts. Mix well and cook until pine nuts are golden. Wash and carefully core out inside of tomatoes. 2. Pre-heat oven to 400F. With a small spoon carefully fill the tomatoes with the meat mixture. In a 8x8inch baking pan pour tomato sauce then carefully place tomatoes into the pan and cover with foil. Cook for 45 minutes. Yields: 4 servings

Sugar Cookies

My son and I love to make these cute old fashioned sugar cookies. We make the dough and stick it in the fridge and then later we cut, bake and decorate. He loves making dinosaurs and trucks as you see. Let your kids choose their favorite cookie cutters and decorate them as they like. Making the frosting is just as easy as the cookies. 1 cup butter, softened 3/4 cup sugar 1 egg 2 tablespoons milk 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 3 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt FROSTING: 1 cup confectioners' sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 to 2 tablespoons milk Food coloring, optional 1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, milk and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until easy to handle. 2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-in. thickness. Cut with cookie cutters of your choice. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 5-8 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. 3. In a small bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar, extract, salt and enough milk to achieve spreading consistency. Add food coloring if desired. Frost cookies; decorate as desired. Yields: 3 dozen