04 August 2018

We went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture this week.  I had to get tickets months ago because they still are requiring timed passes, nearly two years after the museum opened, because there is still so much demand to visit.  It's worth any hassle you need to go through to get there.

I knew we wouldn't have time to see everything, and unfortunately I've had a cold and was feeling pretty run down that day so I didn't have the energy to stay longer even though the boys were happy to metro home without me.  It's also not an emotionally easy place to visit, and that was made worse by being tired.  

So we only saw the history section, below ground.  We didn't even touch the culture section which is in the main part of the building.  I'd read a little about the layout before we went so I knew we needed to go down as soon as we got there.  You ride an elevator down several floors to 1400 in Africa and Europe at the very beginning of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and then you walk up three floors through history.  No escalators, almost no places to sit, no restrooms, no other way out  You couldn't get away from the images of slavery or segregation.  Yes, I am certain that was intentional. I know there are people who don't like the design of the museum, but I like it when even the architecture of a place contributes to the history.

There is a ton of information presented.  Even in three hours, I didn't have anywhere near enough time to take in everything in the history section.  Maybe all day for that part and another full day for the rest of the museum?  There are also disturbing images and parts that are hard to deal with.  Most of the time I was walking through with my 10-year-old and I didn't realize that red-rimmed images were a warning, so he saw some hard things.  But we also talked about some important things as a result.

My son visibly recoiled in some parts.  Not just photos of lynchings (where I told him to look at the faces of the people witnessing the lynchings - sometimes laughing, sometimes with children (who brings a child to a lynching?)) but also the dolls and puppets and caricatures of African Americans.  We talked for a while before going in to see Emmett Till's casket.  For me, it was the tiny shackles that a child would have been forced to wear while crossing the Atlantic.  Again, who does that?  How do you take a child from their parents and sell them to the highest bidder?  (And how do you take a child from their parents and then deport the parents?)

Sometimes everything felt a bit jumbled, but that's how history really is, and real life.  You can be reading something fairly benign and then come up on a Klan hood.  Again, the idea came through clearly to me that you can't get away from this, and that this is history for all Americans, not just African Americans.

The museum is more political than any other Smithsonian.  I would imagine its presentation of history would irritate some people.  It's not the history I heard in school, which glossed over so much but co-opted the Underground Railroad and only ever talked about Rosa Parks. Any museum has its story to tell and this one is no exception.  To me, the way the museum chooses to tell the story tells you as much as the story itself.  This is American history, not told by white people.  And I would hope that anyone who goes here understands why that is important.

The history section ends with Obama's election, on an optimistic note.  But it also talks about Black Lives Matter.  And when you finish, you know what happened a few months after the museum opened, and then the next summer in Charlottesville where white supremacists waved Confederate and Nazi flags and were rewarded with being called good people by the new president. Those images fit the dark side of the history in this museum.

We ate lunch in the cafeteria, which is sort of a must since you can't re-enter the museum.  The food was delicious even though it was expensive.  But I never mind paying more for food at a free museum, especially one as huge as a Smithsonian.

Something else I noticed?  There were far, far more African Americans at this museum than any other Smithsonian I've been to, including Anacostia.  I also didn't hear other languages spoken very often, as I usually would in a Smithsonian.  I don't doubt that having to plan ahead to get timed passes makes it much less likely that international visitors would come.  But when Washington DC's population is half African American, it was good to finally see a museum in Washington that tells a new, American story.

It will be years before I'm able to go back, but I will be back.

24 July 2018

I wrote this before we left Riyadh but never posted it.

I’m writing this a few hours before our plane leaves.  By some miracle, I got everything ready to go with six hours to spare.  We need to find a way to eat dinner, and my husband still has to pack his suitcases (and, I fear, he’ll need to go out and buy another suitcase for all of his stuff).  But I am done.

Saudi has not been a place I have much liked living, which is very disappointing since there is a lot to love in this country.  I am leaving with at least as many regrets as good memories, which isn’t ever what I want in any country.  But I couldn’t do anything about it.  I am so ready to move to a place where I am allowed to live my life again.  Saudi sucked almost all of the enjoyment out of the many things I love about living overseas.

I hate the inequality here.  I felt bombarded with stories about friends being accused of crimes they didn’t commit, friends living far from their families, friends leaving the country because of Saudization.   I’m constantly discriminated against.  It’s always very polite, but it’s always, always there.  

The heat is oppressive.  I know, I know, it’s a dry heat, but a heat index of 102 does not beat an actual temperature of 113.  It’s not even close.  And it’s hot here for month.  You get used to it in many ways, but it’s still oppressive.  Like so many other things here.  

So yes, I’m more than ready to leave.  The abaya is in the trash can.  We’ve said goodbye to all of our friends and I hope to see them again someday.  We did end up having to get another suitcase, but it’s manageable.  And maybe someday I can live here again when it’s allowed to be me.

06 June 2018

Last Trip to the Escarpment

From the very first time I rode down the Jabal Tuwaiq in September of 2016 until now, this is my favorite place to be in all of Saudi Arabia.  This isn't our usual spot since the road is blocked off right now, and it was much too hot on Saturday to be out, but I needed to go once more before we leave.  I never felt like we got a really good photo anywhere along the escarpment, but I hope some of them will be enough to remind me.  

You get here by driving through Amaaria and then continuing on the road you can see on Google maps or Google earth that goes almost out to the edge.  The last bit is dirt roads.

Most people go to the top of Camel Trail 1 or to the Edge of the World, both of which are good spots to go.  But what I really loved was exploring anywhere we could that people didn't go

The first time we went to the top of the escarpment rather than driving down the Mecca road, I was trying to get us to Camel Trail 2.  It seemed like a doable thing and we found a road that seemed to work.  We didn't actually find the trail, but we both knew there was a lot more to see there.  We got a fire pit and telescope for Christmas and started to go out whenever we could when it was cool.  I think those are the favorite memories of Saudi Arabia for the entire family.  We'd pick different outcroppings to roast hot dogs on, sling stones off the edge, and once we took a pack of teenage boys who launched flaming balls over the side.  We looked at the stars and ate s'mores and kebabs and sometimes convinced friends to drive their cars out there with us.  

One day we drove to the escarpment down a long wadi I found on Google maps. I had no idea if that wadi would actually get us all the way there and it certainly wasn't a road, but we made it.  We ended up a little north of where the power lines go down.

Another day we started at the bottom of the escarpment and drove up an interesting looking road I'd found on Google maps.  It went up right up the escarpment and  looked like it was graded which is a major improvement over driving down a wadi.  You obviously can't drive up the escarpment in most places because it's a cliff, but this was a lovely and interesting drive.  After getting closer to Riyadh and seeing more signs, we realized it was the Aramco natural gas pipeline road.

After the road we had been using to get to our close spot was closed, we tried a couple of different options.  This road went down Wadi Laban and took a long time to get there, but we loved the sunset over the wadi.  This is the quickest way to our usual spots, but it takes over an hour to get there and the road isn't as good as the paved road further north.  It's probably better not to do this one in the dark.

We did end up finding a different way into our spot that worked for a few months, but that's closed now too. 

Goodbye, Jabal Tuwaiq.

31 May 2018

Jeddah during Ramadan

I didn't ever get these photos posted from Jeddah last year.  We spent the last week of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr there.  Our camera isn't great in the dark, but these are the photos I have.  This is the only place I've ever been in Saudi Arabia that actually feels authentically alive.  There was street food, games, hand-cranked rides, and lots of people out (although almost no women, as you can tell in the photos (women are always in black here which makes it really easy to spot women in any photo - if no one is wearing black, there are no women).  It's totally fine for women to be out shopping though. 

We asked around this year to see if there is anything at all like this in Riyadh.  Not surprisingly, there's not.  Next year in Cairo.

15 May 2018

Top Five and Bottom Five of Riyadh

I always meant to do some posts like this while we lived here, but I obviously didn't.  I didn't blog about much of anything here.  But now that it's nearly time to leave, it seems I ought to do this.  These are in no particular order.

Best things:

1. The desert.  There is so much to explore in the desert here.  Slot canyons, cliffs, wadis, seasonal lakes, ruins, fossils, desert diamonds.  I just wish I could have done more. 

2. Diversity.  I get to talk to people from all over south and southeast Asia, the Middle East, and northeast Africa here.  I've learned about religious celebrations in India and weddings in Eritrea. I go to church with people from India, the Philippines, New Zealand, Japan, and Taiwan. And it's not just the diversity among expats, but also among Saudis.  We didn't get to travel to different regions as much as I would have liked, but there are many significant regional differences here that are really interesting.

3. History.  There is so much interesting history in this country, in nearly all corners.  It covers thousands of years and there are ruins, caves, castles, tombs, houses, and so much more everywhere. This is what I would come back for, if only on a tourist visa for a few weeks to travel around the country and see all the places I missed.  Our trips to Jordan and Mada'in Saleh were some of the best things we've ever done.  Even visiting the National Museum several times was a highlight.
4. Food. I can't imagine that I will ever find another grocery store that I love more than Lulu.  Being able to cook good food here made a huge difference, and it wasn't at all expensive.  Plus it's been fun to try food from so many countries and people have shared recipes with me in the grocery store, in cars, and at events.  And I would never, ever pass up a church potluck here.

5. Nice people. There are always nice people everywhere, but since so many of us are expats here, we're kind of in it together.  Everyone is always willing to answer my questions. And when I did get to talk socially with Saudis, it was always a very pleasant experience.

Worst things:

1. The environment.  So much sand.  This year has been particularly bad so far and it feels like there has been a sandstorm since February (with a few gaps in April).  You can't get away from it anywhere and I feel like the dust bothers me more than any pollution I've experienced.  If I were coming back here, I'd get several really good air purifiers and also insist the the house be sealed better.  I didn't even try to keep the house dusted.  There are lots of days when it looks dusty again a few hours later.

And the weather.  If the sandstorms hold off, the winter really is very lovely.  There are about four months when you can go out any time of day without being hot.  There are another six months when you can go out in the mornings and not be hot.  If you're willing to get up really early and are loose on the definition of hot, you can push that to seven or eight month total.  But it's really just hot here and so very dry.  I don't wish for hot and humid weather, but the extremely low humidity is soul-sucking. A heat index of 48 degrees is no worse than an actual temperate of 48 degrees with the humidity at 5%.

2. Discrimination.  There is discrimination everywhere, always, no matter what.  Yes, you'll find that everywhere, but it's so blatant here in so many ways.  Some things you just deal with, some things you try to fix, but some things never stop bothering you and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. The racial and sexual discrimination are systemic and entrenched. 

3. So many restrictions on women.   Yes, the driving ban is ending so that will technically not be a problem in about a month.  But it will take years for this country to get to "normal" regarding women driving.  I had thought this one wouldn't be so bad since I don't much like driving in places I'm not familiar with, but when I also can't walk or bike anywhere useful, and when it's usually too hot to walk or bike anyway, driving is a necessity here.  There is no other way around so a driving ban very effectively limits what women can do.  I don't expect to drive much in Cairo, but I won't be trapped at home like I am here almost all of the time. 

Also, I hate that stupid abaya.  The western media has reported more than once recently that it's not required anymore, but that's far from true.  We're all still wearing it.  The gender segregation is still here too.  And even though some family restaurants have more open seating now, I still can't eat inside the vast majority of eating establishments.  The bowling alley did call a few days ago and said that they might be able to arrange a day when a mixed group of teenagers could go bowling without parents as chaperones or the girls wearing abayas.  Wild times.

4. Almost nothing to do in Riyadh.  Yes, Saudi Arabia has a ton of things to do, but Riyadh itself, which is where I've been stuck almost all the time because of that driving thing, has almost nothing to do that I am both able to do and that interests me.  There is plenty to do outside of the city, from exploring wadis to poking around mud brick towns to finding fossils and petroglyphs, but those are not accessible to me.  If I were staying longer, I would definitely be driving out of the city often.  And I would hope that we could do more exploring further from Riyadh (except even with the driving ban going away, women still can't travel far on their own because of the rules about hotels).  You have to come with a plan of something to do, and a backup plan if there's any chance your original plan won't work out, unless you have small children at home.

5. Zero freedom of religion.  This is often depicted as Islam being the only allowed religion, but even that isn't true.  One tiny subset of a small section of Islam is allowed here, and that's it.  Plenty of Muslims aren't allowed to practice Islam the way they would want to and they're forced to follow a different set of culture aspects they didn't choose.  And then there are all the other religions that are banned which makes it very difficult to practice them, even though people find a lot of different solutions.  None are particularly agreeable though.  It does look like the country might loosen up a bit soon to allow some churches in, although almost certainly they won't condone synagogues, Hindu temples, different mosques, etc. anytime soon. It will be interesting to see how they decide who is allowed to practice.  

There are also the inconveniences of not having pork and alcohol available, but since I don't eat much pork and am used to having certain food products unavailable in different countries, that didn't bother me much.  And I don't drink.  Store schedules are inconvenient too, both for prayer closings and Ramadan schedules, but again, it's normal to have to deal with new schedules in every country.  I know that for some these are major problems, but they rate as minor problems for me.  They don't even come close to how much negativity I feel about the things I listed above.

So that's it.  I really, really wanted to like Saudi when I moved here.  But the bad things far outweighed the good, especially since they so often made it impossible for me to take advantage of the good things.  I would not want to come back here without some big changes happening first, but I think there is real potential for several of the above to change and I would want to come back, at least for a longer visit, to see all the things I missed this time.

07 May 2018

Ramadan is coming. There are crescent moons and lanterns everywhere, the grocery stores are hiring seasonal employees, and Ramadan schedules are being announced.  The local boys’ soccer team will be practicing from 10pm to 1am during Ramadan.   My son’s last orthodontist appointment was suggested for 10pm on a school night.  Stores will open at 10 am and close before sunset prayers, then reopen at 9 pm and close at dawn.  Rush hour will be at 10 am.  Noon prayers are a little earlier at this time of year which makes scheduling a morning grocery store trip more complicated.  And if you can’t go during the day, you’re probably stuck going at 10 pm.

So I’m trying to figure out how we’re going to eat.  The movers are coming to take everything away  a few days after Ramadan starts, but we’re not actually leaving the country until after Ramadan is over.  Usually we’d just plan on eating out a lot and making quick grocery store trips a little more often for exactly the food that doesn’t need much preparation that we need to get through the end, but all of that won’t be possible, unless we switch to a Ramadan schedule.  And a Ramadan schedule is hard when school and work are still happening.  We might end up eating a great deal of ramen.

25 April 2018

It rained today.  Hard.  In the late morning.  And it's 16 degrees right now, in late April, in Riyadh.  That is pretty much unheard of.  It would be more normal for it to be 35.

Even better, I happened to have a grocery store trip planned while it was raining.  I almost never get to drive in the rain here.  The driver was as happy as I was, and we took the long way home because the main road was flooded under an overpass and causing a major slowdown.  One time he even has to turn the window wipers on fast as they would go and we drove through some puddles of water on purpose. 

I don't think I've ever gone to the grocery store at midday, and the one day I do, it's the day it's raining.  Some days you do get lucky here.

23 April 2018

I suppose it's near enough the end of our stay here that I ought to get some things written down.  And there wouldn't likely be enough time to make anyone mad enough that we get kicked out for something I say here.  Not that that is likely anyway, but still something I have to think about.

You might have heard there is a movie theater opening in Riyadh.  The building was started to be a concert hall, but when they decided to allow theaters, they changed plans.  It seems to have been a wise choice since it's almost impossible to get tickets at this point since they sell out so quickly.  I'm not sure if we'll try to go, although it would be quite an experience.

Here's the website.  If you're on the English page, you'll see the translated notification about who can watch the movie. There are a couple of things in there that get a little lost in translation even though this is a perfectly accurate translation from the Arabic page. 

"AMC Cinemas is currently showing movies in a family environment. Bachelor showings may be made available in the future. Children under the age of 15 will not be permitted in the cinema."

First, "family" means something different here than it means in the US. For an American, a family environment means that children would be welcome.  But that's obviously not the case here because children under 15 aren't allowed in this family environment.  Here, family means that women can enter, with or without men, but men on their own cannot. It doesn't have much to do with children, except tangentially.  Children are more likely to be on the family side, since they aren't out with only their male parent as often.  That is unfortunately true all over the world. Also, since family sections aren't only for women, abayas are always required.

The two choices for any segregated establishment here are literally translated as "family" or "male individuals/singles" (this is not the way the US uses "single" to mean unattached to a partner, but instead that this particular man doesn't have a woman with him right now - my husband is single if I am not there).  Women aren't supposed to go in an place designated for singles and a man or a group of men can't go in a family place without a woman with him/them.  Generally.  There are exceptions.  Many places aren't segregated - anyone can go in a grocery store by themselves or with anyone they like.  There are some family-only stores, usually selling women's clothing.  There are few singles-only stores. There used to be more, but now women can generally get their shopping done in most stores.  Restaurants are a different story though.  All larger restaurants have a family section, but a large majority of eating establishments, since most are small, don't allow women at least to sit down.  Like the Dunkin' Donuts nearest my house, for example, which I discovered one time when I needed to sit down in a place that was not hot and wasn't allowed to. 

The interesting thing about this cinema is that it is segregated, but it is one of the rare places where a man cannot enter without a woman while a woman can enter without a man.  It's practically the only example of a place where single men would want to enter but aren't ever allowed to without a woman.  As soon as they announced that theaters were coming I wondered how they would do the segregation and now I know. 

(We have run into trouble with this at the bowling alley.  We all went over to bowl one day with two of our children wearing shorts.  That's fine for our youngest son, but our teenage son wasn't allowed in the family side in shorts.  And I obviously wasn't allowed in the men's section.  So I waited in the car while they bowled on the men's side because I'm not much of a fan of wearing an abaya while I'm bowling and that was better than my son sitting in the car while the rest of us bowled on the family side.)

22 April 2018


I've posted recipes for this more than once, I think, but here's a better one.  We're sorting through all the hassles of moving to Cairo right now so it's nice to remember the good parts too. This version uses the instant pot and also cooks each thing separately so you can layer them.  I prefer them cooked separately, but you can do them together, cooking the lentils in plenty of water, then adding the rice after 20 minutes, then the pasta ten minutes later.  If you want garbanzos, cook them earlier. The system I use below doesn't get too many pots dirty which is the biggest drawback to the cook everything separately system. You just end up with one extra small pot that needs to be cleaned.

First, slice a bunch of onions (5 is not too many) and saute them till they're caramelized.  This takes a long time, but if you start them at the beginning and remember to stir every so often, they'll be ready when everything else is.

Next, get some water boiling for your rice and then start the rice cooking when the water boils.  At about the same time, also get the lentils cooking in the instant pot.  It's a 2-to-1 ratio of water to lentils and they'll cook for 15 minutes.

You can use lentils, rice, pasta, and/or garbanzos and you can adjust the ratios as you like.  A simple option is to do one cup of three different choices.  It really doesn't matter.  You can also use brown rice and whole wheat pasta.  I use garbanzos I cooked earlier because they take longer to cook.

While the lentils are cooking, get the sauce going.  Saute lots of garlic in some olive oil, then add some chopped tomatoes.  Maybe four plum tomatoes if you don't want much sauce, the way kushary seems to be done now, or more if you want more sauce.  I like more sauce so I use more tomatoes.  Also add some tomato paste (maybe 1/2 cup for less sauce, and 3/4 cup for more) and a glug of vinegar (3 T for less, more for more).  And some salt and cayenne- spicy is good for kushary.  Simmer that for 10-15 minutes while everything else cooks.

When the lentils are done, do a quick release, then spread the just-cooked rice on top.  If you're using garbanzos, add them for a layer.  Then rinse out the rice pot and boil water for the pasta, if you're using it.  When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it for the last layer.

Serve the layered legumes and grains out of the pot with the sauce and onions. Everything (the onions, sauce, and legumes/grains) should all finish at about the same time if you're lucky. The entire process takes about 35-40 minutes if you stay on track.

17 March 2018

Instant Pot Lo Mai Gai

It has been so nice to finally try all the recipes for steamed foods that I have avoided for years because I either didn’t have the right equipment or enough patience to deal with them.  This is supposed to be wrapped in lotus leaves and have mushrooms and sausage in it, but this is the version I can reasonably make in Saudi.

2 cups sticky rice
Banana leaves
1/2 kilo boneless chicken, chopped up (I use kitchen shears)

These are the basic ingredients and then you can flavor them the way you want.  Soak the rice for a few hours, if you remember in time, then a bit before you start cooking, drain it well and add some sesame oil, soy sauce, and vinegar.  Or something else that sounds good to you.  Let that marinate.  Also, marinate the chicken in some oyster sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and cayenne.

Prepare the banana leaves.  I can get frozen, fairly narrow leaves so I just wash them and cut out the veins and have ten long strips.  That works nicely.

Sauté the chicken in a bit of oil till it’s just cooked.  Put a spoonful of the flavored, uncooked rice on the end of a banana leaf, then a spoonful of chicken, then another spoonful of rice.  Just divide the chicken and rice between all the leaves as evenly as possible.  Roll/fold the banana leaves around the chicken and rice (not too tightly so the rice can expand) and load the packets into a steamer basket.  Cook over high pressure for about thirty minutes (a little less is probably fine too), then do a natural or quick release, whichever works best for you.  

These are moist and don’t need extra sauce in my opinion.  I like to serve them with sautéed greens and add a little vinegar to the greens.  I’ve never tried these with lotus leaves, but banana leaves add a lovely flavor.

01 March 2018

Instant Pot Steamed Savory Rolls

Dumplings isn’t the right word for these.  But neither is spring rolls, and lumpia doesn’t fit either, or really anything else.  But whatever they’re called, they’re really easy.  The timing is for a filling that doesn’t need to be cooked (or that cooks quickly).  Use whatever filling you like. There are a million recipes out there or you can make up your own. Today I used tofu, jusay, and pickled cabbage and ir was amazing. I use mutabbaq sheets of dough because that’s what I can get here. You can make smaller rolls using sambosa sheets, or use spring rolls or wonton wrappers or whatever.  I like the big sheets because then I can use lots of filling so the ratio of filling to wrapper is skewed in favor of the filling.

Fill your wrappers with your filling, then roll/fold into your preferred shape and steam for 7 minutes at high pressure. Quick release.

A super easy dipping sauce is gochugang mixed with cane vinegar.

Instant Pot Pumpkin Cheesecake

This should be added to the post two down, but I can never edit posts on my device so it has to be separate.

This is basically the jar cheesecake but with pumpkin on top. You can double the labneh mixture and cook these in two batches to make 12, or save half the pumpkin mixture for another time, or make half a can of pumpkin. Personally, I freeze half the pumpkin mixture for later because then it’s reslly quick to put these together.  You can also assemble them ahead of time and leave them in the fridge till you want to cook them.

One digestive biscuit per jar, bashed to bits
1 cup labneh plus 3 tablespoons sugar plus one egg, mixed (for six jars, double if you’re making 12)
Pumpkin mixture from the back of the can or however you change it or your own recipe (for 12 jars, makes 4 cups)

Layer in the crumbs, cheesecake goo, and pumpkin mixture, dividing equally between the jars.   Cover with lids or foil.  Cook on high pressure for ten minutes and do a quick release. Cool and chill.

28 February 2018

Instant Pot Sweet or Savory Bread Pudding

This is our current breakfast.  It’s quicker to do one in the microwave, but four is quicker in the Instant Pot and requires no babysitting.  I do two sweet and two savory for me and my boys.  

One slice of bread per jar (any bread, but something hearty and possibly stale is best)
One egg per jar
3-4 tablespoons milk per jar
Cheese, sujuk, and/or vegetables, if you like 
Sugar, vanilla, spices, if you like
Salt, to taste, depending if it’s sweet or savory

Beat the milk and eggs.  Tear the bread up and put it in the jar, along with any additions you like.  Pour the milk/eggs over the bread (leave an inch or so at the top) and cover loosely with a lid or foil.  Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes on a trivet, then quick release.

26 February 2018

Instant Pot Jar Desserts

I had plans to blog more this year.  And then I broke my foot at the beginning of January.  So pretty much all I’ve done is blog about what we’ve been eating from the instant pot because I’m mostly stuck at home.  And by the time I’m back to normal, it will be getting hot and then we’ll move. So much for seeing more of Saudi before we leave. 

I still use the instant pot nearly every day.  Almost never for an entire meal, but for parts of a meal.  One of the things I like most about it is that I can make individual and customizable things for everyone in the family at the same time. Also, it’s just fun to experiment with something so I’m glad I’ve had some entertainment.  Some of these are based on microwaveable mug cakes but you can make then all at once in the pot.  It’s not worth doing for one, but nice for four.

For all of these recipes, I use 8 oz jars.  I can fit six in my 6 quart pot.


1 cup labneh
3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
3 digestive biscuits
3 jars

Mash up the digestives (or another other cookie/biscuit thing you have available, including graham crackers) and divide them between the three jars.  Combine everything else (you can use cream cheese instead) and divide between the three jars.  Cover loosely (I use the lids) and place on the trivet over a cup or so of water.  Cook at high pressure for four minutes and do a natural release for ten, or cook for ten and do a quick release. Cool and chill.

Peanut butter cake

2 T flour
2 T peanut butter
2 T milk
1 T sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp or so of vanilla

Mix everything in a jar, cover loosely, and cook as above for ten minutes, quick release.

Spice cake

2 T flour
2 T milk
1 T oil
1 T applesauce
1 T sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
Spices (up to a teaspoon total) like vanilla, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, etc.

Cook the same as the peanut butter cake

Chocolate cake

2 T flour
2 T milk
1 T oil
1 T applesauce
1 T sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1.5 T cocoa
Chocolate chips 

Cook as above.

14 February 2018

Instant Pot Sauce for Tortas Ahogados

It’s February 14th and the anniversary of the founding of Guadalajara, so tortas ahogadas are needed. I’ve started making one spicy tomato sauce rather than a mild tomato sauce and a super spicy arbol sauce.  If you want to make the arbol sauce or need a reminder about how to make all the parts of the sandwich, see this post. http://amiralace.blogspot.com/2017/03/tortas-ahogadas.html

1 kilo tomatoes, cored
1/2 cup water
1 onion, chopped
A few cloves of garlic
Oregano, maybe a teaspoon
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of cloves
Cayenne to taste 
Salt to taste

Dump everything in the pot and cook at high pressure for 15 minutes.  Do a quick release or a natural release and blend with an immersion blender.

08 February 2018

Instant Pot Dolmas

I love stuffed grape leaves, but the rest of the family doesn’t.  I prefer them without meat, but making them at home just for me is a hassle.  Until now.  This recipe takes less than thirty minutes and makes enough for one person.

1 tomato, minced
1green onion, minced (or two small ones)
1/3 cup coarse bulgur
Salt to taste
Drizzle of olive oil
Grape leaves
Juice of two lemons (1/3 cup)

Combine everything except the grape leaves and lemon juice, then use that filling to make about 15 dolmas.  Don’t roll them too tightly because the bulgur will expand. Put them in a single layer on the bottom of your instant pot, then add 1/3 cup of water and the lemon juice.  Cook on high pressure for ten minutes and do a quick release.  

02 February 2018

Instant Pot Corundas

I made these at Christmas but didn’t get around to posting the recipe.  Good thing for Candelaria.

This is basically the same recipe I posted in 2015 with a few changes for the instant pot and not living in Mexico. These are made with fresh corn leaves in Michoacán but banana leaves are a great substitute and they’re always available here.  You can find them in a decent Mexican or Asian grocery, probably frozen, but that makes them easier to work with.

Around three cups masa harina, plus water to reconstitute to one kilo of prepared masa
A few tablespoons of oil/lard/your preferred fat
A few tablespoons water/broth/your preferred liquid
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda
Banana leaves

Combine the prepared masa plus the fat and liquid to make a spackle-like dough. Add the salt and soda too.  It really is flexible. If it’s less sticky, that’s okay.  But you don’t want it to be any more sticky than spackle.

Cut your banana leaves into two-inch wide strips.  They can be hard to work with, but it’s okay if your strips are short.  You’ll just use a couple for each blob of masa in that case.

Take a blob of masa (75 grams or so) and put it on the end of a strip of banana leaf.  Wrap the banana leaf around to make a triangular package.  Use more than one if necessary. Arrange the packages on a steamer rack in the instant pot (add a cup of water first), using two racks if possible to keep the bottom layer from getting too squished.  Just do your best.  Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes, manual release, then enjoy.

I serve these with crema (or labneh in Saudi) and tomato sauce with shredded chicken. Blend 5-6 tomatoes, a couple of garlic cloves, and a hunk of onion, then pour it into a lightly oiled skillet and fry for a couple of minutes.  Easiest sauce ever.

15 January 2018

Instant Pot Egg Cups

We nearly always eat eggs on school mornings, but the boys don’t approve of adding vegetables.  We’ve done baked cups like this which are fine but I prefer the texture of these.  You can put whatever you want in each cup (vegetables, cheese, sujuk) then pour the eggs over the whatever.  Usually I do one egg per cup I’m making, but if I want lots of vegetables, then I do one egg for two cups. I use silicone muffin liners which have turned out to be a very useful investment. You can also use small canning jars which is a good idea since they puff up.  It’s best to brush a little oil in the cups before you add any ingredients.  I tend to forget this but it’s not the end of the world. 

Just beat as many eggs as you need, then add salt and milk or cream or any ingredients everyone wants.  Grease the cups and add any individualized ingredients. My favorite is jusay. Add water to the insert, put in the trivet, and put in the cups.  Pour the eggs in the cups and cook at high pressure for five minutes and do a quick release.  It’s a little hard to move the cups when they have egg in them, so even though it’s a not easy to pour in the egg when the cups are in the insert, it’s better than moving them later.

14 January 2018

Instant Pot Jareesh

This dish is perfect for a pressure cooker.

1.5 cups jareesh (cracked wheat)
3 cups dairy (milk, cream, a mix, whatever)
2 cups chicken broth
1.5 cups yogurt
Shredded chicken, up to a cup
Salt to taste

Dump everything in the pot and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes then do a quick release (watching closely for sputtering).  It can be anywhere from runny to thick according to your taste.  Add water if it’s too thick, let it sit a bit if it’s too liquidy.  

13 January 2018

Instant Pot Yellow Fish and Rice

One reason why I waited for years to get an instant pot was that all the recipes I was seeing were for typical American food which I don’t cook much.  But then more Indian recipes started to appear and I read enough about it to realize that it’s a pot, not some super specialized thing that needs its own recipes that someone else develops.  Just use it to make what you usually make, only easier and faster.

We’ve been eating this fish for at least ten years.  It’s not difficult at all, but since I always make it with rice and these greens (http://amiralace.blogspot.com/2012/05/recipe-day-bangla-vegetables.html), it does require some fiddling in the kitchen.  So I tried cooking the fish in the insert and the rice in a separate bowl.  They turned out perfectly and it was easy to make the greens while the rest cooked, and to read a book for a while too.

About a pound of frozen fish (this is flexible)
One can coconut milk
1/2 tablespoon turmeric
Salt and cayenne to taste

Put the fish in the insert then mix everything else together and pour the sauce over.  Put the trivet that came with the pot on top of the fish, then put a cup of well-washed basmati and a cup of water in the bowl.  Cook for six minutes on high pressure, then let it naturally release for 10 minutes.  The coconut milk frothed up quite a bit when I tried this and got into the rice, but that made the rice taste even better.  

Since the fish is frozen and your coconut milk probably not hot, this one will take longer to come to pressure so the entire cooking time from when you turn on the pot to when you open the lid will be closer to thirty minutes.