Saturday, January 12, 2013


I've decided to move my blog.  I think the new host will offer more creativity.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

This is what I'm hoping for

While we were cleaning the kitchen, I assigned my 11 year old to water the herb garden.

She started inquiring about which plant was which and I suggested she just take a nibble of one.... I gave her a bit of chive and told her to tell me what it tasted like. "Oniony" was her response. She continued sampling each one and when she came to the cilantro, she couldn't get enough! She mentioned how much it reminded her of Tex-Mex back home and I told her how easy it was to make it. Before I knew it, we were looking up recipes at and we made pico de gallo.

This is what I'm really pushing for here. To have my kids appreciate this fresh food and make it themselves. We had a great time!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Where's the Beef?

I seem to be tap dancing around this elusive beef roast.  Well, it's actually still marinating.  It all goes back to that planning thing...

When I announced that the beef was going to be on the table the day after I tried to copy KFC, I had forgotten to take into consideration that we had friends coming into town and that we would be driving to Dubai over the dinner hour and dinner had to be eaten out early.  So, the roast out to be good since it will ultimately be marinating for 3 days by the time we eat it.

Meanwhile, friends are in town and we have been out enjoying Abu Dhabi like we're all seeing it for the first time again.  Today, we toured the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi and then came back to our house and had Turkey soup - something my husband cooked up with Christmas dinner leftovers and it had no recipe - Turkey, rice, corn and some appropriate spices.  That's how he rolls.  But we also had a salad - lettuce, cucumber and yellow onion and I made a dressing for it.

It's called Szechwan Dressing...
1/4 c. rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
salt to taste

It came out of the Whole Foods cookbook I have.  I skipped the crushed red pepper flakes because when I sampled the new red pepper flakes that I had bought left my tongue numb from the heat.

It was yummy.  Perfect for our lunch. :)

Fast forward to dinner, we went out. :)

Lebanese Flower
Our favorite restaurant!

Now, Lebanese is not truly an Arabic cuisine.  But it's found its way into the hearts of the people here and this is one of the best, if not THE best restaurant for Lebanese in Abu Dhabi.

Falafel, Shwarma, Kofta, Arayes.  It's always reasonably priced and always delicious!!

Here's the Shwarma grill.  The chicken cooks all day on this stack and then when it is served, it's shaved off in thing slices.

There was even a Christmas Tree!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Wasn't feeling brave today

My day started having an enjoyable coffee with a friend as part of a larger group and felt an encouragement regarding my blog from yesterday.  After coffee, I went grocery shopping.  I nipped into Tim Horton's for a bagel and a chance to think about what I needed at the store.  I was shopping blind - no list - another thing I want to improve about my cooking is my planning menus ahead and shopping with a list, which can also be a juggle because you could put some planning together and then get to the market and discover that item you needed is out of stock and it may be months before you see it again.  Apparently, years ago when there was a problem with an author in Denmark who said something negative about Islam and so all of the UAE stopped importing butter and other products from Denmark until there was some sort of resolution and somebody got over there issues... or maybe they just wanted their favorite butter back.  Anyway, I digress... I just need to improve my planning.

I was not terribly excited to get groceries.  After yesterday's disaster, I was not feeling very encouraged by the selection of meat entrees.  Even my husband made comments about eating more vegetarian-based meals.  But I needed other essentials - laundry soap and such - so I could not avoid it.  I went and grabbed all the non-food based essentials and started moving towards the foods section.  I thought about the space I currently have in my fridge, which was not much.  The holidays and my other recent attempts at some unique and inspired dishes have left me with quite a few odds and ends that I should try to use up in the next few days.  That led me to thinking about my freezer and the conversation David and I had about getting a deep freeze - an uncommon appliance here.  But I went over to the appliance department of the supermarket (kinda like a Super Target/Walmart) and Voila, I bought a freezer and it will be delivered on Saturday.  I finished up the grocery shopping.  I didn't buy anything too terribly excited.  I did buy a roast so that we might have a second chance.

But I came home and was fighting a headache and truly was dreading making dinner.  I was not feeling at all motivated to make anything for dinner worthy of my blog.  It was going to be a very busy evening with church youth and my son had company over - big boys who really like to eat good food.  So, I opted for an old standby - fried chicken.  Not exactly the healthy endeavor I wanted to move toward when I started this blog, but this is not going to happen overnight, is it?

When I was thinking about the space in my fridge and odds and ends, I thought about my earlier attempt weeks ago to try and copy the KFC "Secret Herbs and Spices" and I had some of that sample leftover - enough for dinner.  There are copycat recipes for just about everything.  While I did not think that this chicken tastes like KFC, my family thinks this is better.

From 11 Secret Herbs and Spices( Kfc Copycat)
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon onion salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon basil leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon marjoram leaves, crushed finely
Combine all ingredients as listed in a small jar with a tight fitting lid (baby food jars work good). Shake mixture to combine. Stores for months. Keep out of direct sunlight, heat and humidity.

I had all of this mixed together but did not follow the recipe from the website simply because I had forgotten about the rest of it.  I took 3 Tbsp of this mixture and put it in with a heaping cup of flour.  I put 4 eggs into a dipping bowl and a splash of milk and commenced my assembly line of frying chicken.

I am always pleasantly surprised when something I cook actually comes out of the pan looking like the original cook's photo.

The rest of the meal was the resurrected potatoes and snow peas from yesterday's disaster.  The snow peas were simple.  I don't think I mentioned them yesterday, but I can tell you what I did.  I took a bowl full of snow peas - about two cups worth - and put about enough olive oil to coat them and a Tablespoon or so of a salt-free mixture of herbs.  If I had been in the states, I would probably just use something like Mrs. Dash.  But I can't get that here and so I just used a generic blend of herbs good on veggies and just a pinch of salt.  I mixed that altogether by hand and it was ready to go in the oven last night for about 15 minutes.  But since THAT didn't happen, we had to bring it back to life with a splash more oil and David just stir-fried it for me in a pan.  Not as good as it would have been yesterday, but not gone to waste either.

The other side item was the English Potatoes that were also salvaged from last nights meal.  They tasted just perfect.  

Well, not the healthy meal I wish I had put some forethought into... but healthier than the bucket of KFC I might have ordered in a different time.  Baby Steps.

Tomorrow, we go for a do-over on the roast.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Day One, a super-mega-FAIL

I started my morning announcing my new blogging endeavor and was determined to put a great deal of effort into the blog and into my effort to really cook well for my family.  It is my husband's birthday and the plan was to make him a nice dinner and a cake.  My daughter Natalie wanted to learn how to make a pot roast and my husband David's only request for the dinner was English roasted potatoes and a red velvet cake.  Sounds easy, doesn't it?
The roast we were going to cook was something that David picked out with Natalie at a grocery story called "LuLu".  We get most of our meat from LuLu but it can be a bit of a gamble as to the quality of any cut of meat.  The meat is labeled with the name of the country that the beef was raised in - New Zealand, Pakistan, Ireland, Brazil, etc.  This particular roast came from New Zealand.  But even if the beef was raised there, the quality is still not something you can depend on and I would not be surprised at all if some beef cuts were mislabeled.
I instructed Natalie when she got out of bed this morning to go and quickly take the beef roast out of the refrigerator because I was concerned that it may be still partially frozen from having just been pulled from the freezer the day before.  When I went down to investigate for myself, I saw that it was indeed still frozen and my husband was also concerned that it was not going to be fatty enough to be on the rotisserie.  I recommended to Natalie that we put the meat in a marinade to improve the flavor and speed up the thawing process.  We found a marinade we could agree on - a basic red wine marinade.  Natalie astutely pointed out that since the marinade would not be on very long that perhaps we should make it an injectable marinade - no problem - we just used garlic powder and fine herbs and put it in the blender.  Not a big deal
I instructed Natalie to put the roast into a Ziploc bag and then we poured the marinade over it, reserving some for the injection we would do in a few hours.  Natalie sealed the Ziploc and went to flip and it spilled all over the floor AND ME!!  Truthfully, there was plenty of marinade was left in the bag and the meat was still marinating but oh, the MESS!!!  We busted out laughing!!
Would now be a bad time to mention I have a maid?  Living here in Abu Dhabi, we decided to have a live-in housekeeper because life here can be very time-consuming and difficult.  Our housekeeper came to us out of a difficult situation and we feel blessed to be in a position to not only help her and give her a job, but to have a maid is a *huge* blessing.
But, guess what?  She left for her annual vacation yesterday and so I was left to my own devices to clean it up but the odd part was that I wasn't 100% sure where all of the cleaning supplies were!!
Anyway, it took a while to get the floor cleaned up.  I've always thought it very strange that there are drains in every floor of this house, but today I particularly appreciated it.
I had to go and take my clothes (fortunately I was still wearing my pajamas) straight to the washer and get a shower and wash off the marinade that had now dried to my toes.  By the time I was done getting cleaned up, it was time to think about the red velvet cake.  Fortunately, the kitchen floor dried quickly.  >Sigh.<
I found a fantastic recipe for the red velvet cake.  We have had some disastrous experiments with red velvet cake in the past and did not want another experience like that again.  But, I found a great red velvet cake recipe online and Natalie and I worked on mixing it up.  Mixing it up went incredibly smoothly and we really had fun and worked well together.  My other daughter Morgan even joined in and helped grease the baking pans while the oven was pre-heating.  The pans are a special cake pan with a pop-out bottom.  The bottoms are weighted to keep the batter from leaking.
So, the cake batter was put together but as I poured it into the pans I noted that the batter was much thinner than a typical cake batter and I was a bit concerned about baking them in these pans but once the batter was poured in, there was no leakage on the counter.  I continued to put them in the oven.
No sooner did I have the batter in the oven, that I could smell burning cake batter.  I checked and sure enough, the batter was leaking but it was truly too late to swap the batter to a different pan.  We put a layer of tin foil in quickly to try and catch the dripping cake as the kitchen started filling with the smoke of burning cake batter.  Eventually, the cake did seal off and stop leaking and once it was finished, it was the best tasting red velvet cake I have ever had.  I had been able to remove the tin foil when it had stopped leaking and the rest of the burnt cake was easy to scrape out of the oven drip pan.
Once the cake was out, we could put in the roast in.  The injection method did not work like we wanted to - our marinade was still a bit to thick for the injection needle - so we just poked holes with the injection needle.  So, the roast was in the oven and I had a while before I would need to start on the potatoes.  Despite the issues we had had earlier, everything was coming along and the only reminder of the earlier disasters was the spot of marinade I'd missed on the floor and the smell of burnt cake lingering in my clothes.
So, I started the potatoes and had Morgan help me a bit with those.  They had to be peeled and then cut up into pieces.  But I went to check on the roast and discovered it was on the brink of being overcooked.  I took it out and then sort of pressed dinner into high gear because the roast had cooked so quickly.  I realized much later that I had forgotten to boil the potatoes, but by then David was home and resting after working on his birthday.  I was worried that I had over cooked the roast and so I cut off a piece and found it perfectly moist..... but it tasted terrible.  There was no marinade that could make that piece of meat better.  It was bad.  I called David downstairs and directed him to taste the beef and he agreed with me.  It was bad.  What a disappointment.  I don't think I could have tried any harder to get a good dinner on the table.
I was just about at the end of my patience and I realized I also had not bought cat food and took the opportunity for David and I to have a quick run to the pet store to buy it and in the meantime, Natalie had the cake frosted.
David came to the rescue by recommending that we just go out to eat.  We went to the Brauhaus and just took the cake with us and served it there.  We even got the whole pub to sing Happy Birthday to David.
A heck of a Day to start a blog on gourmet cooking at home.

If you're curious about the recipes -
Traditional English Roast Potatoes
Red Velvet Cake

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

3 years later, a new resolution

There has been a title change on this blog.  It used to be a blog about CrockPot cooking entitled "Meals for Moms on the Move".  But my resolution for 2013 is to be a better cook.  It's not that I overly depended on my CrockPot - using a CrockPot for cooking is still a valuable tool - but I did not necessarily want to start a 2nd cooking blog... I just wanted to share my journey from a mom using a CrockPot to someone who just wants to be a better cook.

Since starting this blog (the CrockPot Blog), I have moved to Abu Dhabi.  In our first year here, my husband had an accident and life became very hectic and crazy busy.  He had ruptured his Achilles tendon and for a first year of experiencing a new lifestyle, an injured husband and a completely new culture, we found ourselves eating out... and eating out A LOT.  Did you know that Abu Dhabi is the most expensive city for restaurant eating in the world?  We learned it the hard way and in the past several months, I have been trying to cook more at home.  What our eating out DID teach me is to enjoy really, really, really well cooked and well spiced food.  We've had Arabic food, Indian, Asian, Arabian versions of American food! LOL!!!  We can tour the world of cuisine and never leave the island of Abu Dhabi.

So, my blog is about trying to bring that really good cuisine home - try to make it palatable for a family of a few robust eaters and some picky eaters - and I count myself as one of those picky eaters.

When I decided to look into this concept and this New Year's resolution, I googled "Be a better cook" and I must laugh at what first came up in the search.  One of the first results was 9 Simple Ways to Be a Better Cook.  It recommends good tools, good pre-preparation, etc.  If this idea of being a better cook really grabs your attention, that website has some good rabbit trails you might want to follow and gives me some good ideas for me to cover as I go through this journey. Anyway... back to my train of thought... another link in the first page of Google results was Train Yourself to be a Better Cook.  I must laugh at the disparity between the first result I mentioned at this one.  I think they are *worlds* away from each other and for some people, it's a very long journey - years - between the need for good tools and the "need" for having 4 different types of salt in your pantry.

I confess that I think that I am on the side of this journey where I am going to be looking at the 4 different types of salt rather than the purchase of a good set of knives.  That's where I am at.  But it's taken me a long time to get there.

Let's see where this journey goes, shall we?  I think we'll start tonight... but I'm not going to make a rack of lamb with desert truffles... but it's my husband's birthday and my daughter wants to make him a very nice meal.  She's 13 and my pickiest eater.  But she wants to make him a very nice roast.  She likes it and he likes it.  I'll share with you how it turns out.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sweet and Tangy Pot Roast

From my old CrockPot Blog-
I picked up another Taste of Home crock pot cookbook magazines at the check out. This recipe was in it. This would be perfect for a less-than-perfect cut of roast beef. I didn't get it in the crock pot in time for the recommended 9-10 hours. If you make it, it definetely cook it for the recommended time.

1 boneless beef chuck roast

1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup water
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup red wine or beef broth
1 envelope brown gravy mix
2 tsps Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp garlic powder
3 TBSP cornstarch
1/4 c cold water

Cut meat in half and place in 5 qt slow cooker. Sprinkl ewith salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine the water, ketchup, wine or broth, gravy mix, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder, pour over meat. Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours or until meat is tender.

Combine cornstarch and cold water until smooth. Stir into slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes or until gravy is thickened. Remove meat from slow cooker. Slice and serve with gravy.