Capture Fall Flavors with this Delicious Mediterranean Chicken and Rice Pilaf with Cinnamon Recipe!
Passed Down from Mother to Daughter
Shown here in this picture is me, my daughter Lillie and my dearest sister Leila. My mother would be here, except she is kind of busy up in heaven probably doing other amazing things as she did here on earth. It’s tough to lose someone, to be sure. But one of many great ways to honor her perfect memory is to pass down to my daughter her recipes and shared stories. Between me and my sister Leila, my daughter has a pretty keen sense of exactly who my mother was. And that’s a good thing.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I want to pass not just this recipe, but the shared experience that can be enjoyed when gathered to roll grape leaves. You see, every good Lebanese girl learns to roll grape leaves. It requires a patient cook with confident and steady hands. The labor involved does not fall under my “fast, quick, and easy” recipes that I usually offer. Rather, it is involved and time consuming. But that’s okay. It’s okay because you get to prepare something that almost everyone loves and when they do enjoy feasting, there is this great satisfaction the cook can enjoy when watching her table relish each bite. I hope you will not just enjoy this recipe, but the process involved. I hope that you will find loved ones in your life to either cook with or to serve as grape leaves seem to just need that right combination.
Grape Leaves served with cooked carrots
adds color to the table and makes it a complete meal.
Serves 6. Cooking time: approx.: 1 or more (1/2) depending on how much rice you use. Test the tenderness of the grape leaf and the thoroughness of the rice before serving
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of natural butter
1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons of salt (depending on preference)
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 – 3/4 cup of rice (depending on carbohydrate preference)
1 lb. of fresh ground beef (or lamb or a mixture of both)
1/4 – 1/2 cup of water (depending on how much rice you use less water for less rice, etc.)
Additional Ingredients used in the directions:
3 cloves of crushed garlic
1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon of dried mint
Sauté onions in the butter until soft. Mix onions and butter, salt, pepper and cinnamon into rice. Add the meat and water. Mix well. Note: *This meat mixture may be used as a stuffing for a variety of vegetables, not just for grape leaves.
Layer onto the bottom of your pot small baby carrots. Lightly salt the layer of carrots and squeeze some lemon. Roll your grape leaf, one by one. Lay your grape leaf with the rough side up and place a desired meat mixture (approx. 1 tablespoon or less) in the center. Fold the bottom of the leaf over the stuffing, then fold it in from each side to the middle. Roll tightly, forming a roll about 3 in long and 1/2-1 inch thick.Pack the rolls tightly, (open ends down) into fitted rows. Depending on the size pan you use, you may get 1 – 2 rows per jar of grape leaves. Sprinkle each layer with salt and lemon juice. The final layer sprinkle with 1tsp of mint, 3 cloves of crushed garlic, salt, and the remainder of the lemon. Cover with enough water to cover the grape leaves, place a heat resistant plate upside down over the grape leaves to prevent them from unraveling. Bring to a boil, reduce to low and let simmer until rice is cooked and grape leaves are soft.
Happy Mother’s Day From RaqiSa Fitness!
Watch for Mother-Daughter RaqiSa Fitness Events Coming this Month
It may seem impossible with a busy work week; or perhaps it’s the last thing on your priority list, but preparing your own foods is always the healthiest option. To start off, try keeping in your pantry Mediterranean staples to help inspire the impulsive chef you may be. As taught by my mother, a good Lebanese woman, (or man), will always keep in their pantry: Olive oil, Tahina, Garlic, Lemon, fresh, as well as dried mint.
Want popcorn? Make it with olive oil! Need an instant salad dressing? Mix olive oil, lemon, garlic, and dried mint. Any vegetable dish always tastes better with olive oil drizzled. In fact, you may be surprised by the bright flavors in grilled zucchini drizzled with olive oil and topped with fresh mint! But for this blog, the spotlight is on the EGGPLANT prepared as a simple (and fast) recipe you can enjoy called: Baba Ghannouj. This versatile dip can be served as a delicious snack in between meals, or is worthy enough to serve as an hors d’oeurvre. Having a “meatless Monday”? – Enjoy baba ghannouj as a spread for your wraps!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the eggplants into a hot oven for approximately 15 – 20 minutes, (or until the eggplant is completely soft). Allow to cool. Remove the skin carefully, while holding the stem. Discard the stem. Place into a food processor as shown below. Add the 1 Tbsp of Olive Oil and 5 Tbsp of Tahina, and squeeze the juice of one medium lemon. Blend until creamy. Prepare a garlic paste by adding a little salt to the garlic before crushing. (As shown in picture, I squeezed a bit a lemon first to hold it together.) Combine in a dish all the ingredients and mix well. Add additional salt to taste and place in a serving dish. Drizzle 1 Tbsp of olive oil before serving.
In Summation: Making your foods with a Mediterranean spin is actually easier than expected. I am a busy mother and a wife; and I work just like the rest of the world, but I delight in knowing that I am also the self proclaimed nutritionist in the house who aims to serve only the best for my family. It’s funny. Before I sat to write these final thoughts, I served my husband the pictured dish with the fresh vegetables. And do you know what I just heard my husband say as I type this? “Mmmm. I love eating healthy foods…Healthy foods made by you. Mmm, the garlic in it is good too. Mmmm.” Now that’s what I like to hear! I will tell him what I always say… “Sahtain”! – Which means “may it be toward good health”!