Heather’s Famous Lasagna

July 17, 2009

by Heather Cabral


Whole Wheat Pasta
Ricotta Cheese (pref. skim)
1 bag of Mozzarella Cheese
2 lbs ground turkey
1 can of spinach or 2 cups of fresh spinach
half onion
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
tbs parsley
tsp sea salt
tsp season salt
tbs minced garlic
tsp black pepper

*boil 10 strips of lasagna
*mince (chop finely) red & yellow peppers and onion then sauté in pan. (Sauté means coat the pan with a very thin layer of oil (olive oil is best) and heat the veggies on low heat for a minute or two, (until the onions are clear/golden). If you rinse the onions in water first it will make your eyes sting less!
*mix ground turkey and seasonings in bowl then add to veggies in the pan
*add sauce to pan once turkey is brown
*in large bowl add mix half the mozzarella with all of the ricotta add egg to make smooth consistency.

*lay pasta in bottom of greased pan
*add half the turkey/veggie mix (in sauce!)
*add layer of spinach
*add layer of cheese mix
*repeat above steps
*sprinkle remaining mozzarella on top
*bake 35-45 minutes



Cape Verdean Corn Stew

July 15, 2009

Recipe by Anna Cabral Spencer

(The name of this stew is pronounced “meech en graou” which roughly translates to “Corn, one my one” in Creole).

Put in big pot:
½ cup of dried pinto beans (wash first)
A beef or pork neck bone and lamb stew bones and one spoonful of minced garlic

Cover ingredients with cool water and cook for 1.5-2 hours (keep flame on medium after boils)

Add 2 big tomatoes diced potatoes and 3 diced carrots and yucca (Cape Verdeans call it monyuac)
Add these spices: Italian Seasoning, Cumin, pepper and garlic powder
Let cook for ½ hr
Next add cut up par-boiled collard greens (or collard greens from a can)
Meanwhile, in a frying pan sauté onion (chop up an onion and throw it in a pan with oil on low until the onions turn golden/clear).

Add 3 big spoonfuls of ketchup to frying pan and stir.
Pour the onions and ketchup into the big pot for 40 minutes.
Throw in the pot 2-3 cans of loose corn (include the water in the can).

Add 2 cups of lima beans. (Frozen beans are better, says Nana).
Add ½ can of sliced tomatoes and some salt to taste.
Let cook for ½ hour and “if it tastes good, it’s ready!”


Nehad’s Za’atar Pizza

July 14, 2009

Nehad and her Mom








Traditional Palestinian Bread

3 1/2 Cups of Flour
1 1/2 Cups of Warm Water
1 Tablespoon Yeast
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Pinch of salt

Topping Mixture:
Za’atar (from Arabic grocery store)
1 Onion
Chili Sauce (amount varies according to taste)
Olive Oil
Feta Cheese

1. Pour yeast into bowl of warm water, stir to dissolve and leave aside for about five minutes.
2. Place flour in a large bowl and create a hole at the center. Pour warm water and yeast into this hole and add vegetable oil and a pinch of salt.
3. Bring flour into the other ingredients from the outside in using a spoon or a spatula, then mix dough with your hands. Continue kneading, adding flour to the dough, only until the dough is no longer sticky.
4. Add olive oil to a bowl and transfer dough into the bowl, carving the shape of an X very lightly on the top. Then cover and set aside for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

5. In the meantime prepare the toppings. Za’atar Mix: Combine 1/2 cup of za’atar with 1/3 cup of olive oil and mix thoroughly until you have a thick consistency. The mixture should not run.
6. Onion Mix: Chop the onion, tomatoes and combine with desired amount of chili sauce. The onions should not overpower the taste of the chili sauce.  Add salt and ground nutmeg. Then add desired amount of feta cheese to the mixture as well and mix in about one tablespoon of olive oil. 

7. Preheat oven to about 350 degrees.
8. After the dough has risen roll it into small dough balls approximately the size of your palm.
9. On a floured surface pat the dough balls down until they are flat, at about a quarter of an inch thick.

10. Spread desired amount of topping on the dough. When all dough is topped place in the oven to bake for about 10-15 minutes. Then turn the broiler on for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool down and enjoy!

Watch this video to hear Nehad talk more about her grandmother and family cooking:

Super Simple Spaghetti

July 13, 2009

When I moved to Philadelphia for college, Spaghetti was one of the first things I learned to cook after I learned how to boil water (It’s a skill, lol). I’d watched a few people make it before, and to my surprise it was as easy as it looked.


One box of pasta
Olive Oil
A pound of meat
A 1lb 10 oz. jar of spaghetti sauce (I prefer RAGU’s meat flavored sauce, but anything along the same vain works)
Salt, Pepper and Season Salt
An Empty Belly!


You should be able to serve 7-10 people pretty good portions, or eat out of it for a week and some change.

Step 1: Check Your Meat!
You want to make sure your meat is completely thawed out. If it’s been frozen (we know you’ve been meaning to cook it for a few days now) you want to set your microwave for about 15 minutes on defrost (but pay attention, this really really varies for everyone’s microwave!). If it browns a bit that’s ok, but make sure it doesn’t start to seriously cook.

Step 2: Pasta!
Your pasta is gonna take longer to cook than anything else, so you can start boiling your water first. Make sure you have a pot big enough to fit all of your pasta and turn on the heat! I like to put two tablespoons of olive oil in my pasta for flavor.You want to let your water boil, and once it’s boiling, you can dump your pasta in. It takes about 20 minutes to cook.


Step 3: Meat!
Give your pasta a good 10 minutes or so, and once it’s looking a little limp you can start to cool cook your meat. Get a pan large enough to cook your meat in, cover the bottom with olive oil and dump your meat in. Use a large wooden spoon (or whatever you have) to break the meat up and spread it out over the pan. Next, get your salt, pepper and season salt and pour a generous amount over your meat. It shouldn’t completely cover it, but it should be noticeable. You want to spread your meat over the pan while mixing it and turning it over a bit as you do. You have to pay close attention to your meat, so don’t walk away while it cooks! Continue to mix it up every few minutes until it begins to brown.


Step 4: Sauce!

Dump your sauce into your pot and put it on medium heat maybe 5 minutes after you start your meat. Stir it up every couple of minutes to make sure its evenly cooked, and doesn’t get stuck. When it starts to bubble, cut your heat down by about half of what you have it up so and let it simmer until your meat is finished cooking.


Step 5: Mix!

Once your meat is nice and brown, mix your sauce and your meat together, first in the pot that you cooked your sauce in, then dump it into a seperate container…something that is refrigeratable.

You can transfer the meat one of two ways…strain the oil out by dumping it all into a strainer, or get a big spoon with holes in it to take the meat out to be dumped into the sauce.

Step 6: Drain your speghetti

With a strainer, strain the water and oil out from your speghetti, leaving nothing but the pasta goodness.


Step 7: Serve!

Take the speghetti out and pour the meat sauce onto your plate for each serving. Store your sauce and pasta seperately.



(Ok, don’t laugh at our sloppy meals and our hood bowls. We take the heat, cause we likes to eat!)

How I started cool cookin’

July 7, 2009


One of the fondest memories I have of the last couple of years is being told by someone close to me (constantly) “Rashid…you have a very poor relationship with food.” Wait, what? Me? The pickiest eater alive? The guy who, when he remembers to eat a meal, orders everything plain has an unhealthy relationship with food? Really?


I guess that’s an understatement if you look at my eating habits. I used to have a really bad habit of not eating anything. Not because I wanted to lose weight, I was and still am very happy with my Buddha belly. It’s not even because there was a lack of options (even though there just aren’t a lot of spots with good inexpensive food these days) but because I just plain forgot. Since the end of high school, eating was always a social activity. I’d gotten into the habit of hanging out with my friends almost every evening, and after class or after work, what would we do? Go out to eat. I’d get a phone call from one of my homeboys that went something like:

Him: Yo, whats good?
Me: Nothing, what-chu tryna get into?
Him: I dunno, but I’m outside.
Me: Aight. I’m on the way.

20 minutes later, we’d be at TGIFridays, Red Lobster, Olive Garden or Applebee’s.



Every night was a new place with the same items on the menu. Buffalo wings, fries and a brownie with ice cream. I’m an easy guy to please. I think I may have had more variation in my drink choices than my actual diet…I was notorious mixing different juices with lemonade.

This trend continued into my first year away from home in college. You have breakfast, lunch and dinner with your friends on campus. Having an unlimited meal plan was great, because since we were all dirt poor, it was just assumed if we were gonna kick it, we’d kick it in the cafeteria. It was a ritual. It was a show. It was what you did to meet new people. I can’t tell you how many friends I made at Temple just through hanging out in the cafeteria, but that formed my habits of eating.

Even though I lived in an apartment far from campus that you had to catch a shuttle to eat, it was still a ritual. Even though my mom would come through once every two months and take me on a shopping spree in the market, there was nothing like eating in the caf, and even though that’s where some of my earlier food experiments began…a lot of that shopping spree food went bad.

Flash forward, I take a year off, move to Baltimore and get back into the habit of hanging out with my friends every night where food dominated our social activity. I got a job selling phones downtown a bit later in the year, and it was again, a ritual to find somewhere new to eat. I had maxed out the bagel place, McDonalds, the Fudgery, Legal Seafoods (which I still think was ran by the mob), and countless other places, and I didn’t know what to do.

I’d moved back to Philly with some of my new found brothers that September, and since we were all without a meal plan, there was only one logical thing to do…eat out. My best friend at the time had a fried chicken diet…which is exactly what it sounded like. He ate almost nothing but fried chicken, and since I’m in the habit of eating when and where other people eat…so did I. Though I’d alternate fried chick with potato wedges or mac & cheese, our diets were pretty much the same.

Then some thing miraculous happened. Maybe the best thing that’s ever happened to my eating career.

I was broke.

Ok, not flat broke, but I wasn’t making very much money, so eating out became less and less of an option. The problem of course, was since I wasn’t eating out with friends…I wasn’t eating at all! I remember going for days on what my brother Matthew called, “An all candy diet”. It became very  normal for me to eat a pack of twizzlers as my daily meal. I couldn’t tell you how long this lasted, but I can say it was at least a semester. Probably two.

I can’t tell you when the change happened. I was losing weight…and fast..and not healthily. I was working out with my roommates pretty consistently, and I was riding a bike as my primary mode of transportation. It made sense to start eating a little healthier…which meant…well…eating. This was back when I had a pretty decent routine going, so it was easy to get started. I’d bike to the Hollywood video once a week to rent movies, and there was a Whole Foods in the same shopping center, so I’d stop by…pick up about 20-30 bucks  worth of food which would get me through (which isn’t very much in Whole Foods, lemme tell you, lol).

I don’t remember when that changed…but I want to say it was around the time I started dating my last serious girlfriend. I was too broke for us to eat out all the time, and since she still had a meal plan, she ate lunches on her own or with friends, but the more time we spent together, the less we hung out…or went out. So, it just made sense to start cooking. I’d try simple recipes’ at first and expanded until I was eating pretty consistent home cooked meals.

I couldn’t stop.

When I found  a recipe, I had to keep making it every time I ran out of it just to make it better. To try something new. My obsessive, probably Capricorn nature kicked into hyper-drive. I just cooked, and made everyone try what I made. I didn’t make a lot of food in that span of time, but what I learned to make was solid. Once I was able to make 3 or 4 different meals, I threw them in rotation and tried something new each time.

I remember the first time I tried paprika. I still don’t know what it does, but things seem to go better with it.

Flash forward to now, and I can’t remember the last time I ate out (ok it was last week, but before that….lol). While my eating habits aren’t that amazing, I’ve grown to really really enjoying cooking for myself and other people. I think my challenge is to learn other recipies and mix and match. This blog is as much a collection of stories on how we came to find these recipies as much as it is a collection of them. Each spice in any recipie I’ve ever made as a history, and what would be the point of us sharing this without that history…right?