Wednesday, September 11, 2013

This morning I baked bread. From scratch. Two loafs. Its 4 pm. One left.

It is very awesomely good. And just to know that I can bake my own bread is pretty satisfying.
Yep, thats basically as exciting as it gets around here these days :)

Recipe was found here :

Monday, August 12, 2013

Unaabi Grill, Cary NC - Yummy Middle Eastern goodness

So hubby and I celebrated our 7th anniversary. We planned on a family outing, but wonderful friends at church offered to watch our kiddos for the evening. Yay! No kids = more adventurous food :) They usually eat what we eat, but they make a lot of noise out in public, so the meal process becomes fast and furious and once in the car, hubby and I usually look at each other and say, "What did we just eat?"

We opted for an Afghani restaurant. The reviews were  mixed, everything we read about the food was a positive, but almost everyone said it was going to be an empty parking lot and an empty place inside. We decided to go anyway. And BINGO! Unaabi Grill was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.
Preface: we usually dont care about the way place looks, smells, or serves its food as long as the food is fresh and tasty. And it was just that. In addition to Afghani food, they serve some Mediterranean basics like hummus, baba ghanoj, kebabs, tabouli, etc. We opted for all things Afghani. The owner personally took our order; I asked about their specialty and he explained how to eat it and with what. We were one of the two couples there at 7 pm on a Sunday night. More people came in later on.

For an appetizer we got these tender fried dumplings Bolanee Gandana, Bolanee Sambosa, and Bolanee Sabzi. They were served with mild yogurt minted sauce. Devoured in 3 minutes. Holla!
We ordered per owner's suggestions. Hubby got Kabuli Palau with Lamb - with spices brown basmati rice with these sweet yummy tender carrots, raisins and almonds. And I got Naringe Palau with Lamb - brown basmati rice seasons with orange rinds, pistachios and pine nuts. Oh. My. Food. Heaven.
We waited for our main course for almost an hour! Yes, it may turn many people away, but it did not bother us one bit. We were not in a hurry to get out of the place like we would from a fast food joint, b/c this is not fast food and the results proved it - everything was made from scratch, fresh meat grilled to perfection, rice seasoned so well we kept stuffing our faces until we thought we couldn't move, we enjoyed "us" time, AND we got humus, salad AND baklava (sweet dessert made with phillo dough, nuts and honey) on the house courtesy of the lovely owner. He apologized for food taking so long; he wanted our first Afghani food experience to be perfect. It was so worth the wait!

I realized I better take some pictures of what was under the rice - deliciously seasoned lamb.

To top the perfect dining experience we ordered baklava, which was very small but we appreciated it so much. It was just enough to satisfy that sweet tooth of mine :) Plus, as it turned out, it was free! Turkish coffee was also a yummy finish. Sorry, no pictures of coffee and baklava; though we were busting at seams, coffee and baklava were devoured in no time.

Hubby enojoying his leftovers for lunch and so will I, as soon as I can put my kiddos for a nap so I dont have to share :) Oh. Bad. Mama.

Ok. So I don't have other places to compare with, but this Pizza Hut turned Afghani cuisine was so tasty and fresh. We will be back someday. But for now we will be looking forward to another big occasion to go out and excite our taste buds with new flavors.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Blue Mango, Raleigh NC

I promised I would review chow places once in a while. So here comes my once because, first, we haven't had many chances to go out and actually enjoy new places - those who have little kids can relate - and secondly, the times we did go to a new spot, I did not have a camera. I kicked myself for it. 
And here we had an occasion: my birthday, 
opportunity: no kids around, and
time: thanks to 5 hour date night drop in daycare special! And I brought a camera. 

Husband decided to surprise me by bringing me to Raleigh to the Blue Mango. At first I wasn't sure if I should cry or laugh. It was an Indian cuisine place, and last time we had Indian food was not a fun experience. But looking back, it was not the food or the place's fault, we had two tired, cranky, loud children spilling lassi all over white table cloths, running around, talking loud, and overall wanting junk at McDonalds. Plus we were the only "white" looking couple in the whole place with two wild children. Phew. Speaking of feeling looked at funny :) Yep. We were "those" people. 

So Blue Mango.

Pretty great, I say. Polite staff. Nice romantic atmosphere. Smooth music. Plenty of room. We had a table for two, and from my seat I could see everything that was happening in the kitchen, including my food being prepared, bread baked, lamb kebab-ed and grilled, etc. 
Food was amazing. For an appetizer we had paneer bhurji with pooris - yummo! Light and full of flavor. 
For main dinner I ordered Chicken Tikka Masala. It was so flavorful. I could not stop eating, but the portion was enormous, so I forced myself to stop and bring some home for lunch. Husband had Mango Boti Kebab which is basically lamb kebab in mango sauce. It was DELISH! The roasted veggies on the side were so juicy, and fresh and spices just right. We had some good pivo with our meal which completed it just fine. Oh, and the huge boat like dish full of rice came in for both of us to share with our main dish. And the whole evening I heard, " You gotta make this rice," or "I like this, can you make this at home, hon?" or "you gotta learn how to make this." It was a very flavorful basmati rice. We also had Naan (indian pita like bread. Thinner than pita, with butter on top) with our meal. 
Our waiter forgot to bring out my lassi (mango yogurt drink), and when he did we were finished with our dinner. So he gave it to us for free in a to go cup. Pretty cool!

Here is before we dug in. The chef came out to greet us and check on our food. Such a pleasant guy, he made sure everything was ok and if we enjoyed ourselves. 

Nice date night place :) 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The summer has been nice and HOT. Holy southern heat! Wowsa. If its not steaming hot, its raining, Im not sure what I'd prefer anymore.
So here are Joy Gifts I am thankful for today:
1) Laughter
2) Long summer days
4) this little man who loved Science camp this week.
This was Lucas' first time at a week long camp. Mom was worried more than the kid, he met his teacher/counselor, went in, and waived "Bye, mom!" Over the course of the week we have accumulated rocks, leaves, water bottle filled with some pretty blue concoction that taught the kids how oil separates from water, and even a bug catcher!  1st camp - success!
5) this precious princess
6)  nap times :)
7) breakfast made by hubby on early Saturday morning
8) coffee, of course!

As I said earlier, it has been a HOT week, like steamy sauna hot. So after camp we either went to the pool or stayed in and worked on some projects. Over the last few weeks we encouraged Lucas to work on the "big" puzzle project. He was excited at first, a few times he did not think he could do it, he took breaks, sometimes few days at a time, and then I encouraged him by saying that if he were to finish it all by himself  he can pick a place where he would like to get a treat from. That got him going :)
 We are so tickled to see him finish 300 piece puzzle. Momma and daddy are so proud of you, little man.
The kid is going to think he had one boring childhood :)
He choose McDonalds. We decided to up the offer and see if he'd like to go elsewhere, and he agreed on a frozen yogurt treat.

 You so deserve it, dude!!!

Be blessed and count your gifts...

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" James 1:7

Sunday, June 30, 2013

One of the many reasons I love summer is ...Basil. The husband said I was "weird" when I brought a big bunch from farmer's market, buried my nose into it and smelled it forever. "Smell it, baby! Its smells so fresh." His response was, "It smells like grass." OK then :)
Yes, I love fresh basil. The dry kind just doesn't do justice. I love how it flavors food, how it makes my kitchen smell, how pretty it is and now I am patiently waiting for it to grow in my "garden."

Some moons ago, husband and I visited Chicago and stopped for some pizza at one of the local joints, Lou Malnati's I believe it was. And that was the first time I tried Creamy Basil-Tomato Soup. Oh heavens!!
After reading and trying different recipes, I sort of made my own recipe of this wonderfully creamy basily soup.
Creamy Tomato Soup

1/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 big onion, chopped
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes (ideally you want about 3 to 4 lb of fresh juicy tomatoes)
1 14 oz can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 cups of chicken broth (or stock. Will make it even more flavorful)
basil - about a cup - rolled the leaves up into a cigar/tube and thinly slice
some sugar
1 cup of heavy cream

Saute onion in olive oil and butter until tender. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, basil, salt, pepper, and some sugar, bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and cover. Simmer for 35-40 min. Take off the heat, pour it into blender and blend until smooth (but NOT baby food smooth! you want some texture). I used immersion blender, which worked fine as well. Pour it back in the soup pot and keep it on low. Gradually whisk in a cup of heavy cream, let warm thru for 5-8 minutes. Voila! Garnish with fresh basil if you like. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese for some salty action.
*** you may also add garlic when you saute the onion but be careful not to add too much. Too strong of garlicky flavor will "kill" the soup flavor.

One the side I served fresh mozzarella grilled cheese sandwiches.
For 3 servings:
6 slices of crusty Italian bread
3 thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
3 slices of deli's provolone cheese (package one will work too!)
Smeared some butter on each side and grilled them in a pan. If you have panini grill - it will work perfect!
I added some Balsamic Vinegar reduction onto mine - YUMMY! (just boil 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar and then reduce to simmer for 15 min -  sweet and tangy and super delicious on this kind of bread)
The husband asked for another sandwich, had to tell him no! (saving fresh mozzarella for Eggplant Parmesan tomorrow) So instead he ate our daughter portion of the soup. Alrighty. All this talk about basil smelling like grass :)

I also think it would be pretty amazing to add some fresh garden tomato slice and basil leaves into this sandwich. Next time.

Perfect dinner for a rainy summer Sunday!

Pryatnogo appetita, dryz'ya!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Summer, summer, summa time

1 month of summer down ( I count from June 1st)
Here is what we have been up to:
  • Being silly - favorite thing to do
  • Lots of pool time
  • Reading
  • Cartoons :)
  • Exploring the area, meeting new peeps
  • Vacation Bible School week
Pool time with COUSINssss!!
 Movie at the park 
 Yay!! we got to hang with cousins!
 Choo-choo goes the train - exploring Raleigh. So much fun!!
  Train-heaven at Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, NC

"Mama, Im gunna make you" Yes, thats my kid! 
 so much to see, so much to do - check out this cool submarine
 this was his favorite part of the museum - pizza place. Well, second favorite..trains win the first place. 
"What do you want on your pizza, mama?"
 He got really upset when someone took his pizza out of the oven while he wasnt looking, so he made another one and guarded it until it was "done."  :)))

 My favorite chef!!  (kind of blinked here)  Sofie was mad she didnt get to make the pizza. Oh may be she was exhausted from all the playing she did. 
 What can be better than an ice-cream on a hot stormy summer night?!! 

 We are so thankful for the pools in our "backyard." Sofia prefers to hang out poolside rather than swim
 Daddy grilled wonderfully yummy dinner tonight!! Corn on the cob with butter, salt and pepper - now, thats Summer! 

As I sit here and reflect on each moment, each heart overflows ...and I must remind myself to be thankful, to say thanks, to give thanks, to live thankfulness...I must remember that I don't deserve anything, that every day is a gift from God..truly is..and I must remember that...not take it for granted. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

I love summer. I love all things summer BUT the heat of summer. I can survive in 85F degree weather; anything above that ...well, thank goodness for air conditioning :) One of my favorite things is fruit and vegetables that come during summer months. So my hubby and I discovered an awesome farmer's market, literally..Farmer's Market: fruit, vegetables, herbs, cheese, fish, meat. Amazingness! Reminded me of home...*sniff*
So I packed the kids and off we went. What a hot day it was?! Phew! Sticky, humid, but any day is a good day for fresh produce.
It was a quick but productive trip. I was inspired to make an eggplant parmesan with basil and eggplants we bought at the market. Oh the yumminess!

Husband approved, kid devoured it. Fresh vegetables and fresh mozarella is the key.
I dont  make it often - its time consuming, but it will definitely be showing up on our table this summer.
Once I figure out how to attach the recipe, I will do so...

Happy summer!