How does a Momma grocery shop for her Els in the Summer?
This is a question that has me a bit perplexed this afternoon. Most of the Els are finished with school and out for the Summer. The oldest has his last day of kindergarten tomorrow.
What I am wondering about is: how I will manage to get any grocery shopping done this Summer? Yes, I know I always have the option of bringing four children with me to the grocery store. And, I exercise this option when I “have” to. With this option comes a lot of work, a lot of evil looks, many “are you nuts?” looks and the occasional “I’ve been there” smile. I don’t mind any of the responses, really, I don’t. But, it is SO MUCH HARDER to take four kids to the grocery store with me than say, three kids or two kids or miracle of all miracles, I get to go A-L-O-N-E! That’s a vacation. And, it’s fun. If, you get to go grocery shopping alone, appreciate it. You can have a really great time talking to strangers, sampling food and buying things you don’t need. Enjoy every second!
Back to my original question: How will I grocery shop this Summer?
First of all, I must realize that there are times I may head out to the grocery store and not ever get there. And, that’s okay. I spend a lot of energy planning things and then even more energy being super flexible. It’s a necessity of being a momma who doesn’t want to be stressed all of the time. Today, in fact, I was in the car headed to the grocery store twice and twice we didn’t make it there. Once, because my oldest was asleep when we picked him up from school. He’s not feeling well. So, I was not going to drag him to the store when he obviously needed to be home in bed. When I planned to go earlier, we were also in the car on our way there and pulled into a parking space only to realize the car next to us was parked to close. So, I went to move the car, so I could get the kids out, nearly getting hit by another mom travelling way too fast through the parking lot in her large SUV. I looked back and Baby Leeland was asleep. So, I decided to take him home and let him nap in his crib. By the time we got home, two of my other children had woken him up. But, it was too late to go back.
Second, I may not go to the grocery store any of the weeks when I have all of my kids with me 24-7. I’ll try. But, it just may not happen. I will have to plan ahead when I have the older ones in camps or VBS. So, I can have a pleasant quick trip to the grocery store with only 2 Els.
Finally, I am going to ask for help. It’s the only way! My husband is amazing about shopping for me. I prefer to do it, because, honestly, I don’t get as distracted and only buy what’s on the list. But, he is always happy to help me and so he is probably going to have to do more of the shopping this Summer. And, I may end up with a few surprises in the pantry!
Here’s to a successful Summer of cooking and eating well with the Els! And, to many happy, tantrum-free trips to the grocery store!
Happy birthday to the Daddy El or El Daddy or El Husband! We love you!
|Our family, May 30, 2011|
Moustapha’s parents took us to Maggiano’s last night on Post Oak. One of Moustapha’s 3 sisters joined us with her family. We had a great time celebrating Moustapha’s birthday. We ended the night with an impromptu dance session. It was fun. We are so thankful for Moustapha. He is a wonderful daddy, husband, friend, attorney and person. He is a genuinely good man with a heart of gold. Today and every day we are thankful for him and love him very much.
|El Momma and Leeland|
|Miss Trinity telling us how to dance|
|Leeland and Jiddy enjoying the music|
|The “kids” dancing|
|we came to “dance dance dance”|
|look at that smile! so happy!|
|Candles and singing!|
|Maddux sporting a tie for the occasion|
|Birthday boy, Maddux, Jiddy, our nephew and Trinity|
Graduating from Kindergarten, playground or ceremony? Is it all the same?
My friends who are raising their children in the same school system we grew up in are getting to experience this as a parent. Their children are graduating from kindergarten. It is a big accomplishment. A lot of changes take place that first year of elementary school. I, for one, am not getting the same child this Summer that started school last Fall. He’s matured and grown so much.
So, why are we not celebrating this accomplishment with a graduation ceremony? Our school graduates students when they complete fifth grade. I think that is fine. But, in my opinion, we’re missing an important milestone by not graduating them from kindergarten. We, instead, are celebrating with all of the kindergarten classes in the neighborhood park with a playday in the sun. It will be fun. But, will it be as memorable and special as a kindergarten graduation would be? I suppose we’ll find out. I’m up for the challenge of trying to make the end of the year and all that he’s accomplished be a big deal to him so that he is motivated to accomplish so much more with his future.
Happy graduation party day, kindergarten class of 2011! We are proud of you and we wish you a bright sunny future!
Bakri, playing Ode to Joy for his first piano recital, age six.
How To Make the Best Lebanese Grape Leaves- UPDATED- RECIPE and directions
WATCH THE VIDEO DIRECTIONS HERE:
UPDATED BLOG POST with Ingredients list:
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.
These are directions on how to make the BEST LEBANESE GRAPE LEAVES IN THE WORLD! Seriously, they are so good.
<<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 “Lebanese 7 spices” for recipes.
5 pound bag of Calrose Rice (Riz Masri)
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, Mary for teaching me this amazing skill. I promise to teach this to my children and grandchildren. Love, El Momma