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Monday, December 28, 2015

Cooking and Eating My Way Through 2015

I did a lot of experimenting, cooking, and going to restaurants this year. I want to share my year in creations with my readers. I thought the easiest way to do that would be by posting pictures and linking to either my blog post or the recipe in general. :) Enjoy and I can't wait to cook more in 2016! I also want to share my food adventures with you as well - which I can't wait to continue on in 2016!

Nan's Spaghetti

3 1/2 cups of flour
4 eggs
1 tablespoon of water
1 teaspoon of olive oil

Start mixing with a regular mixer, then switch to a bread hook. You will need to kneed the dough. Add the spaghetti attachments or get a spaghetti machine (nan used the machine). It makes a lot of spaghetti.

Chicken A La King

1 (4.5 ounce) can mushrooms, drained, liquid reserved
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup butter
 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/4 cups hot water
4 cooked, boneless chicken breast halves
chopped 4 ounces chopped pimento

Cook and stir drained mushrooms and green pepper in butter or margarine over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Blend in flour, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in instant bouillon, milk, water, and reserved mushroom liquid. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Stir in chicken and pimiento. Heat through.

Mafalda Lasagna Casserole

3 cups spaghetti sauce
1 package (12 oz.) San Giorgio Mafalda
3 ¾ cups (2 lbs.) ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 Tbsp. oregano flakes
¼ tsp. Italian seasoning
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Cook pasta according to package directions. In a large bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, egg, oregano, Italian seasoning, pepper, and salt. In a 13x9x2 inch baking dish, spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce; evenly layer one-half pasta over sauce. Spread ricotta mixture over pasta; sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers of sauce and pasta. Spread remaining sauce over pasta, covering pasta completely; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese.  Cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil; bake for 4-6 minutes or until hot and bubbly. We cook this with the homemade meatballs. It gives it more flavor. Makes 8-10 servings.

Sicilian Chicken

This year was my first time using the crock pot. I really like it and will use it again. I made Sicilian Chicken last night for dinner. McCormick Spices has a skillet sauces and some sauces can be used in the crock pot. This was one of the sauces. Let me share this recipe with you:

1 1/2 boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts
1 onion
1/2 tsp. chalet
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 bell pepper

Place 1 1/2 lbs of boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, 1 bell pepper cut into strips, chalets diced, sliced mushrooms, and 1 onion cut into wedges, into a 4 quart slow cooker. Pour sauce and olive oil over top. Cover. Cook for 8 hours on LOW or 4 hours on HIGH. Enjoy!

Sloppy Joes

 Potatoes Au Gratin and Turkey Bacon Green Beans

Potatoes au Gratin

4 russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces
3/4 white onions, sliced into rings
1/4 red onions, sliced into rings
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons of butter
3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups of milk
1 cup, 3 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the over to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter a casserole dish.
Layer half of the potatoes into bottom of the prepared casserole dish. Top with half of the onion slices.  Add the rest of the potatoes, then add the rest of the onions. I added a slice of cheddar to the top - I broke it into small pieces. Salt and pepper to taste.
In medium sized saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Mix in the flour, salt, pepper, and stir constantly with a whisk for one minute. Stir in milk. Cook until mixture has thickened. Stir in cheese all at once, and continue stirring until melted; about 30 to 60 seconds.  Pour cheese mixture over the potatoes, and cover the dish with tin foil.
Bake 1 1/2 hours in the oven.

Texas Roadhouse Styled Green Beans

2 slices of turkey bacon
1/2 lbs fresh green beans
2 tablespoons red onions, chopped
2 tablespoons white onions, chopped
1/2 clove of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground salt

Place turkey bacon into a saucepan.
Cook for about ten minutes.
Take it out of the saucepan to drain.
Keep the bacon grease in the saucepan, add the butter.
When the butter melts down a bit, add the onions and garlic.
Cook until the onions are translucent.
Add the chicken broth, the crumbled bacon, salt, pepper, and green beans.
Cover and simmer for about 25 minutes.

Myer Lemon Cheesecakes

1 block (8 oz.) of cream cheese
1/2 tsp of vanilla
1/4 cup of sugar
1 egg
6 graham cracker mini crusts

Mix well. Scoop cheesecake mixture into graham cracker crusts. Cook for 25 minutes. As you cook, brown 2 Tbsp. of coconut flakes. Let cool for a few hours. Once the cheesecakes are cooled, build a nest of coconut and add chocolate eggs. Enjoy!

Pineapple Stuffing

1/2 cup margarine
1 cup white sugar
4 eggs
1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
5 slices white bread, cubed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9 inch baking pan.
In a mixing bowl, cream margarine and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the pineapple and bread cubes. Bake in a 350 degree oven for one hour. Let sit a few minutes to firm up before serving.

Imam Fainted and Iranian Saffron Chicken

Thanks to Joy for translating the recipe for Imam Fainted for me.

Now I know why the Imam fainted! As Joy explained to me, the story behind the name of the dish was after the Imam found out how much olive oil his wife used, he fainted because olive oil is expensive. I used a lot of olive oil, especially in frying the egg plant. Mom exclaimed, "at least olive oil is healthy!"

This is a totally vegetarian side dish, eaten cold. You could keep it in the fridge. Joy's advice: Eggplants come much smaller in Turkey. If you use one of the large ones in the markets here, just think that an average sized eggplant here is about two and half eggplants in Turkey. If I make any one of their eggplant dishes, I cut an eggplant lengthwise into two and go from there.

4-5 eggplants,the smaller the better
1 cup of oil


4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 tomato, diced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp sugar
Salt to taste

Peel the skin of each eggplant in alternating stripes. Sprinkle salt on top and put aside for 20 minutes or put them in salt water. Squeeze, wash, and dry them with a towel.

Heat the oil medium-high and fry all sides of the eggplants until you get a nice colour. Cut a slit in each eggplant and scoop out most of the seeds, making sure they don't fall apart. Place them in a clean pan.

Meanwhile, cook all of the filling ingredients in a small pot on medium heat for a very short time. All the water should evaporate. Stir non-stop.

Fill the eggplants with the filling using a small spoon. Pour in 1/2 cup of water in the pan from the side carefully so you don't move about the fillings. Cover the lid. Cook on medium heat until the water evaporates. Add about two tablespoons of warm water and keep covered until it cools.

Put on a serving plate.

Saffron & Rosemary Chicken Filet

2 good pinches of saffron powder
2 good pinches of saffron threads
1 1/3 lbs chicken tenders
2 Tbsp. garlic oil
1 1/2 oz rosemary
2 heaped tsp. of crushed sea salt flakes
Freshly ground pepper

Grind the saffron threads with mortar and pestle (I used a spoon), then put with the other powder. Pour over the boiling water and leave to infuse for at least 20 minutes or until the water has cooled and turned a deep red colour.

Place the chicken strips in a bowl and add the garlic oil, rosemary, sea salt, a generous seasoning of black pepper, and then saffron water. Mix well so that the chicken is evenly coated with the marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for an hour to marinate.

Preheat a large frying pan over medium-high heat, drizzle a little oil into the pan, and without overcrowding the pan, fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes on each side until a nice golden brown crust forms and they are cooked through. Serve hot alongside a salad such as Fattoush, or Quinoa Salad with Toasted Pistachios, Preserved Lemon and Zucchini. It went perfectly with the Imam Fainted too!

Whole Fried Fish

I looked through the recipe books we have in the library I work for. I settled on a Middle Eastern cookbook called Olives, Lemons, and Za'atar by Rawia Bishara. Bishara owns Tanoreen, which is located in Brooklyn.

The only recipe in this cook book that is great for a single person is a recipe called Whole Fried Fish, or Samak Maqleh (in Roman letters - from my Arabic studies... its written as مك مقلح which translates into "fried fish"). It serves four and takes four fish, so it was easy to calculate what I would need for one person. One fish, then divide everything else by 4.

I had an interview at Wegmans yesterday and after the interview I went shopping. Bishara recommends using either red snapper, striped bass, branzino, porgies, or red mullet. I never really had these fish before, so I asked the fish monger at Wegmans what he would recommend. By law in Pennsylvania, he can't sell striped bass because it's a game fish, he didn't have red mullet and had different snappers. The way he described the snappers, branzino, and porgies, I thought the branzino sounded the best and I bought one branzino. I thanked him for his help and having the patience to help me.

Then I went shopping for the other ingredients. As I was looking, I was talking to the produce stocker and was telling him about this recipe, it would be my first time making it, and I was being venturesome. He thought it sounded neat and said, "Good luck! I want to hear all about it when you make it!" I smiled and said, "I'll be taking pictures because I blog about my cooking adventures, so I can show you pictures as well!" He liked that; I will probably just give the recipe too.

I won't post the full recipe in this book because if you're interested in spicing your dish up, you can check out the book. I will write about my changes. For the Tatbileh to stuff the fish with, the author suggested a bit of a spice with Jalapeno. I don't like spicy and opted to use green bell peppers and an apple slice instead with cumin, paprika, and black pepper.

Whole Fried Fish (سمك مقلح)
(1 serving)

1 whole fish (1 to 1 1/2 pounds), cleaned
Kosher salt for sprinkling
1/4 cup Tatbileh (I'll post recipe below - for one)
1/4 cup all-purpose white flour
1 cup of canola oil
1 lemon, halved


2 cloves of garlic, chopped into a coarse paste
1 tablespoon of chalet
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2  teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Rub the fish all over with salt under cold running water. Pat dry.
Make the Tatbileh: mix all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse into a coarse mixture.

Using a sharp kitchen knife, make three 1/8-inch deep crosswise slits along the length of the fish. Rub the Tatbileh into the slits and cavity of the fish. Set aside.
Put the flour in a large shallow-rimmed plate. Dredge the fish in the flour, using a bit of flour to seal the cavity shut. Shake off any extra flour. Heat the oil in a large pot over high until hot. Fry the fish until it is golden on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Do not touch the fish until the underside is golden brown or the skin will stick to the bottom of the pan. Using a slotted spatula, transfer to a platter with the lemon halves, parsley, the left over tatbileh and lentils.

I made lentils to go with the side. I made the lentils like how Nan used to make them - with garlic and some potatoes. So good and reminded me of just how Nan used to make them.

Lavender Cookies


Lotus Inn for the Chinese New Year


Japanese Restaurant at the Exton Mall

Continental Diner on 2nd and Market Streets

Balade, NYC

A bird hanging out in Capricio's in Philadelphia.

Cedar's, 2nd and South Streets, Philadelphia

Turkey bacon, coffee, and bagel. Red Owl Tavern, 5th and Market Streets, Philadelphia

City Tavern, 2nd and Market Streets, Philadelphia

Alyan's, 4th and South Streets, Philadelphia, PA

Sweetgreen, Rittenhouse Square (Philadelphia)


  1. Oh my gosh, homemade pasta and cheesecake. Can't beat it.

    1. They're both so easy to make as well! :)

  2. Hi, dear Jessica Marie!

    I was on board with you when you partook of some of these luscious meals. I favor healthy foods and I would love to try the Imam Fainted and Iranian Saffron Chicken meal. The recipe for whole friend fish also caught my eye and I will show it to Mrs. Shady. I could eat seafood every night of the week.

    Thanks for showing us the highlights of your 2015 dining adventures, dear friend Jessica. Happy New Year to you!

    1. Hi Dear Friend Shady,

      All of these recipes were surprisingly simple, though time consuming. I loved the experiments I made this year and I hope you do try them. :)

      Spaghetti is always a given, and I'm very excited to make Imam Fainted, Iranian Saffron Chicken, and the whole fried fish again in 2016! Tonight after the concert, I'm going to look at more recipes.:)

      Happy cooking, dear friend, and happy new year's eve!