Vegan Portobello Shawarmas

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I can’t believe how quickly the summer has ended! Although my husband and I both survived our first few weeks of the semester, we know that life is about to get  much busier and even more challenging. Blogging obviously isn’t going to be a main priority (booo, I know) but it will be nice to share some of our adventures as we trudge along through the rest of the school year. Some of the things that will still remain a priority, however, are eating clean and healthy and working toward a simple, sustainable lifestyle. To do that we will definitely have to become more efficient at organizing, meal planning, and prepping and that will certainly be easier with an arsenal of quick and easy recipes.

If you haven’t noticed, one of the things we’ve been trying to do around here is cut down on red meat. Sure there are many vegan dishes out there, including plenty of Middle Eastern options, but gosh darn it when you’re craving a shawarma, sometimes you really need to have your fix. Luckily, I found a way to have just that without the grease and fatty surprises and without all the baggage that comes with eating red meat. Eating portobellos as a meat substitute isn’t something new for us but incorporating meatless substitutes in very classic Middle Eastern recipes is. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? I should note that this recipe has been tested and approved by my brother who leans toward carnivority (not sure if this is a thing). I won’t pretend that he was completely fooled but he had nothing but good things to say (he’s also a man of few words). I guarantee that you’ll be very pleased with this faux shawarma sandwich; the texture and flavor of the mushrooms combined with all of the vegetables and creamy tahini sauce, tastes pretty darn close to the real thing. Not only is it delicious but it is super easy to make and with minimal ingredients too. But you don’t have to take my word for it, try it yourself!

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Vegan Portobello Shawarmas

  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients
2 pounds portobello mushrooms
1 teaspoon shawarma spice (more if you like it spicier)
1/4 cup white vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt (to taste)

For sandwiches:
Pita bread
Tomatoes, diced
Onions, thinly sliced
Parsley, chopped
Pickled cucumbers or turnips, sliced
Sumac
Taratoor (tahini sauce)

Note: This recipe makes between 4-6 sandwiches depending on how stuffed you like them.

Directions

  1. Gently wash your portobello mushrooms and slice very thinly.
  2. In a large pan, drizzle olive oil and add in the mushrooms in batches. Each time the mushrooms start cooking down, add another batch to the pan.
  3. Once all the mushrooms are in the pan, add in the shawarma spice and vinegar, stir well to incorporate.
  4. Cook on medium-high until the liquid cooks off and the mushrooms begin to brown, approximately 10 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, prepare all your sandwich toppings and condiments.
  6. Open your pita bread into halves and layer on the goodness: portobello shawarma, tomato, parlsey, pickles, onions, sumac, and a drizzle of taratoor.
  7. Roll up and enjoy!

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Chickpea soup with tomato pickle salsa (Hummus M’Sabaha)

Ever since I purchased an Inkwell Press Meal Planner back in January and forced myself to commit to meal planning, we have been pretty consistent about practicing Meatless Mondays. Having a set genre for each day has really helped narrow down the selection for the menu, which is something I had a hard time doing prior because I enjoy making many different things. Today I’m sharing one of our favorite meatless dishes that’s nutritious and simple to make. It’s very similar to another Lebanese dish called foul and hummus except it’s without the foul or fava beans. Foul and hummus is usually eaten for breakfast and while I enjoy it now, I used to HATE it growing up. It was just too heavy for me and it wasn’t nachos or pizza so I was understandably upset when I could smell the distinctive aroma of garlic and fava beans wafting through the air. My father, the negotiator that he is, would allow me to leave out the fava beans as long as I ate everything else and that’s how my love for this dish of hummus m’sabaha blossomed. Traditional Lebanese hummus m’sabaha is much thicker and creamier than what I show here. Usually it’s roughly mashed and a little bit of tahini is added for creaminess. This spin on my childhood favorite is like a mix of hummus m’sabaha and lablabi, a Tunisian chickpea soup. We personally enjoy the combination of the light lemony, garlicky broth with the texture of whole chickpeas.  And speaking of broth, please don’t use canned chickpeas. Technically you can but if you do make sure to drain the chickpeas well and simmer them in a vegetable stock or bone broth. Starting with dried chickpeas is essential for getting flavorful chickpea broth that is not a metallic tasting goop.

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I always soak the dried chickpeas on Sunday evening and boil them first thing on Monday morning. My recipe calls for two cups because that’s what I soak but we don’t necessarily eat all two cups unless I planned to eat leftovers the next day {usually we don’t because it’s Taco Tuesday ;)}. Whatever I don’t use I will freeze for a rainy day. I grew up learning to cook from my father who never measured ingredients so I’m still working on how best to write and share these family recipes. Anyways, I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

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Chickpea soup with tomato pickle salsa (Hummus M'Sabaha)

  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients
2 cups dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon baking soda
10-12 cups water
2-4 garlic cloves, minced*
1/2-1 cup lemon juice*
high quality extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
salt & pepper to taste

Salsa:
1 cup diced Lebanese pickled cucumbers
2 cups diced tomatoes
1/4 cup of fresh mint, chopped
1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped

To serve:
Radishes
Lebanese pickled cucumbers
Sweet onion, sliced
Pita bread
Lemon
Fresh herbs like mint and parsley

*Note: If you’re not afraid of flavor, you might consider adding more garlic and lemon juice.

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, add your chickpeas and baking soda and cover with water. Let the chickpeas soak overnight or for at least 8 hours.
  2. Drain and rinse your chickpeas and cover with 10-12 cups fresh water in a lidded pot. Bring to a boil then let simmer covered for 30-45 minutes or until tender.
  3. Using a mortar and pestle, mince your garlic cloves with salt until you have a smooth paste.
  4. In the meantime make your salsa by combining diced tomatoes, diced pickles, chopped mint, and chopped parsley.
  5. Once the chickpeas are tender, add in your garlic paste, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. You can use your pestle to give some of the chickpeas a quick mash for thickness if you desire. Let simmer for another 10 minutes then adjust seasoning to your taste.
  6. Ladle into individual bowls, drizzle with olive oil generously and top with sweet onions and salsa. Serve with fresh pita bread and garnishments of your choice.

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Iraqi Eggs in Tomato Sauce (Makhlama)

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We pride ourselves in our diversity as a family so this post will touch on that a little bit. Together, my wife and I, have roots from six different countries including where we were raised: Albania, Iraq, Lebanon, Poland, Sweden, and The United States. This specific recipe has been a breakfast staple in my household growing up and my father used to make it for us as far back as I can remember. Although the ingredient list is simple, this dish is truly a labor of love; from the slow caramelizing of the onions to the bubbling and simmering of the fresh tomatoes with turmeric and pepper. It’s the spiciness and subtle sweetness of the scrambled eggs that really sets it apart from its omelet cousin. Served with warm, freshly-baked samoon or sangak and sweet, mint-infused black tea, makhlama is sure to brighten any morning.

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In 2014, we visited my family in Sweden and my wife was able to taste the epicness (made-up word) of my father’s makhlama for the first time. Since then, it has become a highlight of our weekend breakfasts together. While in Sweden, we would eat makhlama alongside räksallad, a creamy shrimp salad, and knäckebröd (Swedish crispbread) and it was simply delicious. At home in the States, we eat it with buttery croissants, sharp Vermont cheddar or creamy labneh, and arugula. We consider ourselves very blessed that we have such diverse tastebuds and culinary menus to draw from when meal planning. There is never a dull meal. We eat and enjoy dishes from all around the world and we get to share with each other (and hopefully one day with our children) the memories of what those meals conjure up.

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Iraqi Eggs in Tomato Sauce (Makhlama)

  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients
4 eggs
1 medium sweet onion
4-5 small ripe tomatoes
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Note: Serves 2-4

Directions
1. Dice the onions very finely and sauté in hot vegetable oil on low until light brown and caramelized. This takes time so be patient and stir often so as to not let it burn.
2. In the meantime, dice your tomatoes and prepare your spices. Once your onions are slightly caramelized, add in the tomatoes and spices and cook off until thickened.
3. Crack your eggs into the pan and scramble them around until cooked.
4. Serve with warm delicious breads, cheeses, and fresh herbs. And of course a nice hot cup of chai!

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What are some meals that remind you of your childhood growing up in a different culture?

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Lebanese Lentil and Rice Pilaf (Mdardara)

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We know we haven’t posted in a while but we have been a bit busy working on some fun DIY projects around the house as well as an exciting project that we will be announcing next week. Although our lives are busy, we wholeheartedly believe in eating healthy homemade meals. It might seem difficult to strive for but there are plenty of healthy and simple meal options that one can make in a pinch. That’s why today I’m sharing one of our favorite vegetarian meal options that we enjoy almost every other week. I didn’t like this meal much when I was a child but it grew on me to the point that I now crave it as an adult. It’s a pilaf made of rice, onions, and lentils topped with more crispy caramelized onions and served with yogurt, crunchy radishes, and a side salad. It is both nutritious and delicious.

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To be honest though, there is one downside to making this dish. ONIONS. Your house will smell like onions, you will smell like onions, your car will smell like onions. The smell of onions will permeate your life for days. But I can promise you that it will all be totally worth it! I look back now and laugh but I remember in my early undergraduate days when I’d be getting ready to leave the house for my evening class and my father would start cooking this meal. I would try to race through the kitchen and out the side door but to no avail. That split second in the kitchen was enough to have me reeking. It’s funny to think that now, as a mom, I will be responsible for ensuring my family has their fair share of embarrassing, onion-filled moments. The circle of life. How beautiful 😉

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Lebanese Lentil and Rice Pilaf (Mdardara)

  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup white rice
2 medium yellow onions, diced
3 large yellow onions, cut into half rings (optional)
4-5 cups of water*
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

*Note: I use 2 cups of water to parboil the lentils and 3 cups to cook the onions, lentils, and rice together. Even on the lowest setting our stove gets very hot and cooks very fast. You may find you only need 2 cups of water rather than 3.

Directions

  1. Rinse your lentils under cold water and remove any small debris.
  2. In a small pot, parboil your lentils in 2 cups of water for 10-12 minutes. Drain and set aside for step 5.
  3. Meanwhile in a larger pot, begin caramelizing your finely diced onions in olive oil. This will take time so be patient. Keep the fire on low and stir every so often until you have beautiful golden brown (but not burnt) onions.
  4. Add the remaining 3 cups of water to the onions and bring to a boil. Stir well, reduce the heat, and let simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the rice, lentils, salt, and pepper into your onion mixture. Stir well, cover, and cook until all the water has been absorbed (about 15-20 minutes).
  6. While your rice and lentils are cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan and fry your onion rings in batches until crispy and golden brown. Let drain on a paper towel until ready to serve. This part of the recipe is a bit unhealthy and you can skip it though it won’t be the same. Or you can slow caramelize your onions (I have done this many times) but it will take more time and they won’t be as crispy.
  7. Top your mdardara with the crispy fried onions and serve with yogurt (to keep this meal vegan leave the yogurt out), radishes, mint, and a fresh salad.

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What are some healthy meals you hated growing up but grew to love as adults? Let us know in the comment section below.

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