What a day. What a month. What a year!

It’s only February of 2021 and it’s already been a doozy.

But, who can keep track at this point? In the latest crazy events, we got snow, sleet, ice and deep freeze temps across Texas that lasted for a few days. That, in and of itself was unusual as it occurred across ALL of TEXAS. It was very cold here on Monday, February 15 and while we were experiencing record breaking low temps across Texas approximately 60percent of us were without power. No electricity. No heat. A lot of our friends and family were without power the entire first day. We lost power in the evening around 5pm and were powerless for the following 39 hours. Around 7pm that first night, we also lost water. Not water pressure, but more like someone turned off the water for our entire block and much of the city at the same time. Yesterday morning, power was restored for 6 hours and then off again for 8.

So, here’s a few things we did and what we are continuing to do to try to weather this very strange time and storm. Please comment with somethings that you forgot or that you did that helped you weather this storm!

No water. No heat. No electricity. No problem.

  • Check and replace batteries. Charge everything while you can. Use your laptop or car to charge your cell phone. (Don’t run your vehicle inside your garage for risk of carbon monoxide poisoning)
  • Keep bottled water, beverages and snacks handy
  • Love coffee? Have coffee grounds set aside, if you don’t have a hand-grinder. Make French press coffee. It’s better anyway!
  • Have physical copies of your favorite inspirational books to read. My current faves: the Bible, Scripture and the Skeptic by Eric Huffman and Night Night, Little One by Stacey Donovan. When the internet is down, what will you consume?
  • Play family games that you create yourself!
    • We play a game where everyone thinks of 3-5 celebrities, historic figures or famous characters and writes them down on small pieces of paper
    • we split into two teams. Momma and Dad are team captains and we rotate Els on our teams
    • Each team gets one minute to try to get their teammates to guess as many celebrities as possible
    • Round 1: you can say anything (except for the name) and make any motions
    • Round 2: you can say one word and make any motions
    • Round 3: you can’t make any sounds. You can make any motions
    • Remember momma keeps score in her head and it’s always a tie
  • Finally, blankets and cuddles are required to keep warm and cozy

Hope you are all safe and able to get any damage repaired soon. We had one pipe burst in our garage and are working to have that repaired now, so we can take showers! Cleaning with baby wipes is just not acceptable for 3 days straight! Also, I won’t even begin to share about how bonded we are as a family, because of our new knowledge of everyone’s bathroom schedule and potty habits. The things you learn and go through when you don’t have running water!

Cuddles with baby Jimmie, 20 months old
Enjoying day one, before the electricity and water were no more

How To Make Yummy Goodness (macaroni, mixed veggies and ground beef in Alfredo sauce)

Using only 4 main ingredients, this is easily the favorite and simplest meal we created over this last year.

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  • Chopped white onion
  • Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to preference
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • cooked pasta of choice (I used gluten free macaroni)
  • Cooked veggies (I use mixed frozen veggies)
  • Alfredo sauce

I am so excited to share this recipe with you all.

How to Make the easiest and best dinner for your family in 30 minutes or less Using ONLY 4 MAIN INGREDIENTS!

How I imagine You

El Momma, big Sis Trinity and baby Mary-Linda

It’s always been hard for me to imagine how my babies will look and who they will look like, when I am pregnant. It was the same when we were expecting our second daughter in the summer of 2017. I knew she would look like an El. But, would her eyes be hazel like mine and Bakri’s? Would her hair be curly like Maddux and Leeland? Would she have olive skin like Trinity and Leeland? Or would her eyes be blue and her hair be blonde like Maddux?

When she died at 18 weeks gestation, I held her tiny little body in my arms. I remember that day so vividly. I never ever wanted to let her go and yet, I knew that her little body would not keep. And, I could not hold her like this forever. As the days passed, I would imagine her. I would have day dreams of her in heaven. I could see her. I could touch her. She wasn’t a baby at all. In my mind she was a little girl. She was three.

She was the age she would be now, had she not had an undetected fetal maternal when I was 4.5 months pregnant with her. She would have a sweet nature, because, well the Els all have sweet natures as babies. πŸ’— She would have had a distinct way of speaking. They all do. Each one had their own special way. She is so loved. I wish I knew more of her. But, I know there is someday. And, we are one day closer to that day.

Mary-Linda’s expected due date in 2018

Family Favorite: Lebanese Cauliflower, ground beef & Rice

Here’s another Lebanese inspired dish that we make once every week or so. My kids request this one. They absolutely love it. We all do. They literally want this dish at least once a week.

At this point, you may be wondering, β€œhow do you get your kids to eat these amazing meals with vegetables?” The answer is pretty simple. I never made separate meals. From the time the older Els were little and currently with our toddler, we make a family meal and eat it together. Of course we have nights where people make their own dinner and eat whatever they want. But, as a practice, I make a meal for the family and offer it to everyone. I don’t like to make an issue out of food. So, we’ve never told our kids they had to clean their plates. We do encourage them to try new foods and at this point we’ve built up a good level of trust- I ((mostly)) serve them delicious dishes. There was that one time I made chick pea noodles in 2020. (Gross!) See below for the Lebanese Cauliflower, ground beef and rice directions and quick video. Please comment and let me know if you make this delicious dish!

Quick Video β€œHow to make Lebanese cauliflower, ground beef and rice by El Momma”

Video: How to make this awesome dish in 90 seconds!

Lebanese Cauliflower & ground beef Ingredients

Makes approximately 8 servings

  • 2-3 large whole cauliflowers. Cut to florets
  • Your choice of cooked white rice
  • [1] TB extra virgin olive oil
  • [1] chopped white onion
  • [1] pound ground beef
  • [1] TB 7 spices (recipe for seven spices included below)
  • [1] tsp kosher salt
  • [1] tsp ground pepper
  • 1 jar 24 Oz of diced tomatoes (I prefer roasted garlic)
  • 14 Oz crushed Tomatoes (I use Italian variety)
  • plain yogurt (optional) for garnish

*A very important ingredient of many lebanese dishes is 7 spices. 7 Spices are made with a mix of the following spices: all spice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander, caraway and nutmeg. I buy this through our local grocer, Phoenicia. I’ve also purchased on Amazon. * Recipe for my homemade seven spices blend is included at the bottom of this post.

Directions

Step 1: Rinse and cut the cauliflower into florets. Set aside.

Step 2: In a separate pot, cook the rice per directions on rice bag/box.

Step 3: Using a 2 1/2 – 3 inch deep skillet that has a fitted glass lid, cook the chopped onion and ground beef at medium heat in the olive oil. Add the 7 spices, pepper and salt and mix well. Careful not to over cook the meat.

Step 4: fold in the cauliflower, crushed and diced tomatoes. Mix well. Cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes with lid on, stirring occasionally at medium low to medium heat.

Step 5: serve hot over a bed of rice. Add a dollop of plain yogurt when serving.

7 Spices Ingredients

7 Spices

Makes approximately 3 1/2 tablespoons of 7 spices

  • 1T allspice,
  • 1T cinnamon,
  • 1t ground cloves,
  • 1t cumin,
  • 1t coriander,
  • 1/2 t caraway
  • 1/2 t nutmeg

Early Christmas Morning

Not unlike previous Christmases, I am the last one awake in my home. It’s Christmas Eve, after midnight, so technically it’s Christmas morning. I’ve just completed wrapping and placing all of the β€œmomma and dad” and santa presents under the tree. I ate the gluten free Oreos and drank the lactose free milk. I actually dunked the cookies in the milk before eating them. That was my reward for playing santa tonight. Honestly, I was kind of feeling down on myself. It’s not as though My husband doesn’t offer to help me. He shopped a lot last year when Jimmie was 7 months old. But, this year I did most of the shopping and planning and thinking alone. And, tonight I thought to myself β€œI’m not that good at this.” Rather, I must not be that good at this, or I would get more of this done sooner. Bear in mind, today I picked up groceries, a Christmas present for my nephew, attended rehearsal, picked up Trinity, sang in two Christmas Eve services and came home to make dinner. So, when I get down on myself it’s usually not related to what I accomplished, but it’s attached to what I didn’t accomplish. Really not a fair way to look at things. But sometimes I am not fair with myself. Somehow I let those negative thoughts go and when I finished I turned on the tree lights to take a photo. I felt compelled to sit for a few minutes. So, I did. I soaked in the beauty and the stillness. This moment was mine alone. I enjoyed these early hours of Christmas. I thanked God for this day. This moment. This night. This family. I love being in this wild family. I hope you will have time today to slow down and reflect on what you are grateful for today. I am grateful that I get to share my heart and life with each of you. Merry Christmas, friends!

Love, Rebekah (El Momma )

A 2020 Trend that should Stay…the Charcuterie Board

If you’ve been at home like most of us, you (likely) have tried new dishes, cleaned out closets, looked through and shared old photographs and gotten into Instagram inspired redecorating projects!

One of my favorite trends of this year is the Charcuterie Board. I actually started making Charcuterie Boards on the regular during the 2019 holiday season.

Charcuterie is a French word that means cut meats. First of all, let’s say it together. β€œCharr-coot-irree.” When we talk about a charcuterie board, we are talking about a display of Meats, cheeses and other finger foods.

Some of our best friends, who hosted my 40th birthday and (later) baby shower for Baby Jimmie at their home, make the best charcuterie boards. Literally if they ever ask me what I want to eat at their home- my answer is simple. Charcuterie! They are really good at knowing the best cheeses. I have another friend who WON a Charcuterie board contest. If you are serious Charcuterie connoisseur, this post is ((probably)) not for you!

Instead, if you are intimidated by all of the perfectly Insta-styled charcuterie boards across Pinterest and Instagram, I am here to tell you that you can create an amazing Charcuterie board that you and your guests will enjoy! Don’t be scared!

The basics-

  • A board- I purchased a couple off of Amazon. This marble one Fox Run 3827 Marble Pastry Board https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0036AQ0IC?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share AND this large, double sided wood cutting board Large Wood Cutting Board with… https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07XRTHJDH?ref=ppx_pop_mob_ap_share
  • Meats- I typically use whatever I have on hand. Salami and prosciutto work fine.
  • Cheese- this is where I pay a little more focus. I love cheeses. I have baked Brie in the past, although that’s not what I do for a quick board. I usually have a Brie, goat cheese, assortment of Gouda, sharp cheddar, and cheese logs that many times involve honey. You can basically do whatever you like with cheeses, but most people like a variety.
  • Crackers- everything I buy is gluten free. My favorites are these Absolutely Gluten Free Crackers, Original 4.4-Ounce https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0078DQ3DU/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glc_fabc_7j24Fb0F8NKGW But, I always put out an assortment of crackers. Gluten free pretzel sticks are a must!
  • Fruit: blueberries, raspberries, seedless grapes and strawberries
  • Most of what gets placed on the tray doesn’t need to be in a container. But, if you have some items that you want to contain or don’t want touching, you can use muffin papers. I buy muffin papers in bulk to use when I make breakfast ahead on the weekends. So, I have a lot of them laying around. Perfect to put a handful of m&ms in.
  • Some items that most charcuteries have are nuts (the Els don’t care for them and we have a nephew who is allergic) I also added Brazi Bites, Empanadas Black Bean Cheddar Gluten-Free, 10 Ounce https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083X741Y6/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glc_fabc_Xp24FbWRN1J8G These are so good! I baked them for 20 minutes and just put them across in the middle of the board. Dips are great too. We make the creamiest, best hummus. Recipe here- https://pin.it/Yhvu5Jd If you are going to buy hummus- Grandma’s Hummus out of Austin, Texas is the best store bought hummus around. Guacamole is also a great addition to the board. Don’t forget to include corn tortilla chips!

All you need to do now is make your display. Think of it like a work of art where you want to have balance and symmetry- not all of the bright colors or same colors together. I usually place the meats first, then cheeses and then add the fruits throughout the board.

That’s it! As you can see, my (throw it together in 20 minutes) charcuterie board is not difficult, but it was devoured and makes our nights feel a little less blah and a little more voila!

Another Favorite- Lebanese Green Beans, Ground lamb & Rice

Add this green beans, lamb and rice to the list of our family favorites. We make this dish every 1-2 weeks. I usually use about 3 pounds of green beans and 1 – 2 pounds of ground lamb. A very important ingredient of many lebanese dishes is 7 spices. 7 Spices are made with a mix of the following spices: all spice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander, caraway and nutmeg. I buy this through our local grocer, Phoenicia. I’ve also purchased on Amazon.

7 Spices

Makes approximately 3 1/2 tablespoons of 7 spices

  • 1T allspice,
  • 1T cinnamon,
  • 1t ground cloves,
  • 1t cumin,
  • 1t coriander,
  • 1/2 t caraway
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
Quick Video “How To Make Lebanese Green Beans, Lamb & Rice by El Momma”

How to make this awesome dish in 90 seconds!

Lebanese Green Beans, Ground Lamb and Rice

Makes approximately 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of fresh green beans, snapped and ends removed
  • [1] TB salt (for boiling green beans)
  • Your choice of cooked white rice
  • [1] TB extra virgin olive oil
  • [1] chopped white onion
  • [1] pound ground lamb
  • [1] TB 7 spices
  • [1] TB kosher salt
  • [1] tsp ground pepper
  • plain yogurt (optional) for garnish

Directions

Step 1: Rinse, drain, remove ends and snap the green beans. Prepare pot of water with 1 Tablespoon of salt. Add beans, bring to a boil and boil for 4-5 minutes. Prepare ice water bath. Drain cooked beans in colander. Submerge in ice bath. Drain and Pat dry.

Step 2: In a separate pot, cook the rice per directions on rice bag/box.

Step 3: Using a 2 1/2 – 3 inch deep skillet that has a fitted glass lid, cook the chopped onion and ground lamb at medium heat in the olive oil. Add the 7 spices, pepper and salt and mix well. Careful not to over cook the meat.

Step 4: fold in the green beans, cover and cook for an additional 20 minutes with lid on, stirring occasionally at medium low to medium heat.

Step 5: serve hot over a bed of rice. Add a dollop of plain yogurt when serving.

Grieving During the Holidays

I posted these reminders in 2017, after our daughter died of a fetal maternal hemorrhage at 18 weeks gestation. Now, in 2020, there are so many grieving across our nation. They are grieving the loss of their livelihoods, their jobs, a family member, a loved one, the loss of so many experiences over the last 9 months, and many who will not be able to be with their families this Holiday season.

So, for all of those in our lives who may be grieving this Holiday season, a few kind reminders:

1. Lower your expectations.Your grieving family member might not be able to do things they β€œnormally” do at the holidays. (Baking, cooking, gathering around the kitchen just to visit, or showing up etc.) Whatever they are able to do, should be okay. Let that be okay.

2. Be willing to change or alter traditions.In our family we usually take turns around the dinner table saying what we are thankful for. For someone who is grieving a loss, this can be especially difficult. We altered this tradition to have each family member have a spokesperson to β€œhighlight” things the family was thankful for. This should also be mentioned in advance, so people are not caught off guard and can prepare.

3. Try to listen without offering a solution.It’s hard to see our loved ones sad. But, sometimes it can’t be helped and it is part of the grieving process. It’s better to just be there and say β€œI love you” and β€œI hurt for you” than to say the wrong thing.

Psalm 118 says β€œOh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;for his steadfast love endures forever!” I wrote and recorded this little tune of Thanksgiving, based on Psalm 118, a few years ago. Still giving thanks!

El Momma on the WhinyPaluza Podcast with Rebecca Greene plus 4 Parenting Tips

El Momma talking about The WhinyPaluza Podcast new episode out on November 6th!
Baby Jimmie and I made this reel on Instagram this afternoon and in two hours it already had over 1500 views! (I had to change the music to one I have the rights to in order to share it over here. The song featured in this video is my song, Only In You from my album, Radiant You and available on iTunes) but, Whoa! I wanted to do a cute little reel that highlighted 4 Parenting Tips that I talked with Rebecca Greene about on the WhinyPaluza Podcast today! I will summarize below. But, check this out. Check out the WhinyPaluza Podcast- like, comment and subscribe! We really want to hear from you !

El Momma

4 Parenting Tips that Work for Us

  • 1. Keep a schedule, but let it go when it’s just not working
  • 2. Tell the truth. Teach the value of honesty to your children.
  • 3. SLOW DOWN. Enjoy today. You and your kids will only be this age at this moment in time. Don’t move too fast. You will miss it!
  • 4. Let them eat cake! The Els all giggled when they read this. Listen to my interview with Rebecca Green’s on The WhinyPaluza Podcast for the full story. But, the short version is there was a night in September when the big 4 Els were down in the kitchen eating leftover birthday cake with their grandmother at 10:30pm at night. Our response was probably not what you would think.
  • In summary, you do you. These tips work for us and the Els right now and I think they are good things to try, if you are looking for parenting suggestions and help. Or, just looking to expand your parenting management and skills.

I am so excited to share with you that I was recently interviewed by Rebecca Greene on The Whinypaluza Podcast. It was a great experience! We talked about juggling being a mom, a blogger, and a singer/songwriter.
The Whinypaluza Podcast features bloggers, parenting experts, and marriage experts as they shed light on tips and tricks to make life with your family better than ever!
I was fortunate enough to be a guest on the show. I found the experience to be both insightful and enriching. Rebecca is passionate about what she does! She was a true joy to talk to.
Here are just a few of the topics we covered:
●Why it’s important to both go with the flow and
make a schedule.
●How it can be difficult to cater to your child’s eating needs.
●How virtual learning has changed many things during COVID-19.
●Why all the parents are talking about school right now.
●How the pandemic has allowed many families to eat together more often.
You can listen and watch the interview below on Youtube:


You can also listen to the interview on: iTunes  Spotify Stitcher TuneIn iHeartRadio C-Suite Radio Amazon Music Google Podcasts and YouTube 
If you enjoyed it, please do us a favor and leave a review and let us know what part made the biggest impact!
Also, while you are there, please make sure and subscribe to The Whinypaluza Podcast to get access to all of the new and informative interviews!
Talk soon,
Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam
El Momma

El Momma's Lebanese Grape Leaves

How To Make the Best Lebanese Grape Leaves Ever!

RECIPE and VIDEO BLOG INCLUDED
I make this recipe several times a year, including Easter lunch for the last 10 years ! They are so delicious. (Dare I say that they are even better reheated the second day?!) This remains my most viewed blogpost. I know exactly why- these are the most amazing to eat and well worth all the work, love and effort to make them.
Watch this youtube video for detailed instructions.
And, Scroll down for directions on how to make the BEST LEBANESE GRAPE LEAVES IN THE WORLD! Seriously, they are so good.

I recorded this on Facebook Live in 2016 in our home we lived in for 15 years. Enjoy! love, El Momma

<<El Momma Tip>> If you don’t want the history behind this recipe, or you’ve read this before, please scroll on down to The “INGREDIENTS List.” The ingredients are separated by what we need for the rice lamb mix, boiling the lamb shanks and the final touches for cooking the grape leaves and serving.

After the ingredients list, I’ve included photos of all the items you will need to shop for. You will also need a large pot for boiling the shanks and cooking the rolled, stuffed grape leaves. Be sure to clean out the pot in between. You will also need small plates to place on top of the pot of grape leaves. This will hold them down in the water, while letting them cook fully.

Let me give you a little history as to why you won’t regret making this recipe and consider this a recipe from an expert. After 10 years making these several times a year, I now am officially a Lebanese Grape Leaf making expert!

My husband’s father’s family is from Lebanon. My father-in-law moved to the United States in the 70’s to attend a university and met my mother-in-law. She is a fifth generation Texan. She was an adventurer and loved to travel abroad. So, while dating my father-in-law, she took off on a great adventure to meet his parents and learn about the Lebanese culture. While in Lebanon, she embraced the culture and his family. His family loved her, taught her many things and she was a bright shining star (and a blonde -aired beauty) who they enjoyed having in Lebanon very much!

Luckily, for all of us, she married my father-in-law and is an amazing cook! Many years later, she continues to be an expert in cooking Middle Eastern faire. I asked her to teach me and this is the result. I continue to look back at this recipe each and every time I make Grape Leaves. 

Please note, if you have ever had grape leaves that were cold at a restaurant- you probably did not have grape leaves like this. These are served hot and they have lamb and rice in them- they are not vegetarian.

If you decide to try this, please reply to this post, comment here or on pinterest. I’d love to hear how it goes!

The first challenge: What to buy and where to shop. If you are in the Houston area- there are many grocers that specialize in Middle Eastern foods. A great one is Phoenicia. It is like a Sam’s Club for Middle Eastern food. It is huge. Their westheimer location even has fresh pita bread that comes down from a conveyer belt in the middle of the store. It’s entertaining for adults and kids alike.

INGREDIENTS list for 2 lbs of ground lamb mixture:

  • 2 lbs of high quality ground lamb
  • 2 Tablespoons of 7 spices for lamb/rice mixture 1T per lb of ground lamb)
  • 2 Tablespoons of salt (1T per lb of ground lamb)
  • 3 cups of Calrose Rice (Riz Masri)
  • 2 jars of Orlando California Grape Leaves, 16 oz. each (rinsed thoroughly with stems removed)

INGREDIENTS list for boiling lamb shanks

  • 4 pounds of lamb shank (approximately 4 shanks will fill the bottom of a large boiling pot or dutch oven)
  • 1 Tablespoon 7 spices
  • 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt

Remaining INGREDIENTS to prepare for serving

  • Juice of several lemons to make 1 cup of lemon juice to pour over pot just before serving
  • 1 bunch of mint leaves for garnish
  • 1 or 2 bunches of green onions for garnish
  • optional to serve with Labne (A Lebanese Yogurt spread) (top with olive oil and sliced tomatoes)
  • arabic bread
  • fresh lebanese hummus (recipe and How to Video HERE)

Grave leaves. Buy 2 jars of Orlando California Grape leaves. They are stored in a jar so that they will remain preserved. I used 2 jars of grape leaves to roll approximately 150 grape leaves. Remember the grape leaves must be washed thoroughly before you cook with them, or your result will be REALLY SALTY grape leaves!
7 spices. We will use this to season the lamb and the rice. I have made this in the past. Search up β€œLebanese 7 spices” for recipes.

5 pound bag of Calrose Rice (Riz Masri)

Lamb Shanks
Ground lamb

Lemons for garnish and lemon juice (which we will use for the last few minutes while cooking the grape leaves.)

We also need salt. That’s all we need for our ingredients. Now, it’s time to get to work!

First, we must rinse the grape leaves. As I mentioned above, this is a crucial step. Without rinsing the leaves, they will be very salty and not taste good at all.
Now, let’s boil the lamb shanks. Get a large pot of water.
Add one tablespoon of 7 spices

And add one table spoon of kosher salt. Place the lamb shanks in the pot and bring water to a boil. Cover and simmer for half an hour. (if the shanks are frozen simmer for 1 hour) The shanks do not need to be completely cooked at this point, because they will cook more with the grape leaves.

In a separate bowl, we will make the rice/ground lamb mixture. We will start with rinsing the rice. Use 1.5 cups of rice per pound of ground lamb.  Add water to the rice and rinse. This will make the rice easier to work with. I usually rinse the rice in a very fine colander.
Add the ground lamb and a 1 tablespoon 7 spices per pound of ground lamb to the drained rinsed rice. Add 1 tablespoon of salt per pound of ground lamb. Mix this together well.

Lay the grape leaf (shiny side down) on a plate with the stem at the top. Cut the stem off the top. (To simplify this step, I pull off the stem as I wash each leaf individually)
Pinch a small amount of the ground lamb/rice mixture, as pictured and place in the middle of one grape leaf

Wrap the grape leaf, like a present, bringing up the sides first and then loosely rolling the entire thing together. The shiny part of the leaf should be down so that it is the outside of the roll, once the grape leaf is rolled around the ground lamb and rice. Make sure to roll loosely. This will give the rice room to expand as it cooks in the grape leaf. If you roll too tightly, the grape leaves will not be able to stay together and they will pop open as they cook.Always remove the stem. Also, if the grape leaves are too large they can be cut in half.
Carefully place the rolled grape leaves in a container.

Once the lamb shanks are finished with their first stage of cooking. Remove them from the pot.

Cut some of the meat off of the lamb shanks. The goal is to place the shanks and meat evenly at the bottom of a clean pot to make a nice even layer to place the rolled grape leaves. You can use the same pot where you boiled the shanks, just be sure to clean it before this next step. I usually just wipe it clean. 
This photo demonstrates the lamb shanks and meat in an even layer at the bottom of the pot.
Ready to add the grape leaves.
Take the rolled grape leaves and place them as evenly as possible in the pot on top of the lamb and lamb shanks. Make sure to place the rolled grape leaves down on the point of the leaf so they will not come unrolled while cooking.

The result is a beautiful pot full of grape leaves ready to cook! Add water to the pot until the grape leaves are completely covered. Place the pot on the stove top until bubbly. Simmer on medium to medium low for 2.5-3 hours. While cooking, place small plates (instead of a pot lid) directly on the grape leaves. This keeps them under the water, allows them to breathe and cook perfectly. The grape leaves must remain covered with water while cooking. I use a tea kettle on a separate burner to boil water on the stove top. and add this to the grape leaves pot as needed.
Once the grape leaves are finished cooking turn off the stove (approximately 2.5 – 3 hours). Pour fresh lemon juice over the entire pot. Use a liberal amount of lemon juice- at least one half cup or one cup if cooking in a large pot. When the grape leaves are finished cooking, tender, delicious, easy to cut them with a fork, turn off the burner and pour the lemon juice over the top of the grape leaves.

To serve, slice lemons and wash and cut green onions. Grape leaves taste great with a sqeeze of lemon juice and a green onion.

Ready to serve. I’ve removed everything from the pot and placed the lamb in the center of the serving dish and the grape leaves around. It makes for a “wow” presentation. Save the juices from the pot. My husband likes to pour these over his grape leaves. You can also save the pot juices for later (leftovers) in the fridge and the oils will harden, so you can easily scrape them off the top.
Grape leaves are also served with mint leaves. I’ve placed them in a small vase, so they double as decoration and as a garnish.
I am so happy with the way my grape leaves turned out. They are so amazing. Thank you, to my dear Mother-in-Love, Mary for giving me this wonderful gift. I’m so thankful to carry on this tradition with my family for years to come. Love, El Momma