Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lahmacun (Turkish Pizza): It's What's For Dinner

During my trip to Turkey I lost 10 pounds.

Not because I wanted to, but because their portions were so much smaller than our American portions. Plus they eat fresh food.  The fish is caught that morning and purchased from the fisherman.  The vegetables are pulled up from the garden, mildly rinsed, and promptly cooked.  There are no supermarkets filled with shelves of processed foods, and there are not four different brands of the same yogurt to choose from.  Oh, and they love to dance.

Here is my favorite Turkish recipe.

Lahmacun (Turkish Pizza)
Prep: 1.5 hours        Cook time: 10 minutes

Lamb Topping Ingredients:
1 lb. ground lean lamb
2 tsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
4 roma tomatoes
6 tbsp. double concentrated tomato paste
3 lemons (some for garnish)
1 bundle fresh Italian parsley (some for garnish)
3 tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves
3 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
*optional goat cheese crumbles

Directions for Lamb Topping:

Heat skillet over medium heat with a dab of olive oil.  Brown the lamb until mostly cooked.  Place 1/2 cup of parsley and all the other ingredients into a large food processor, slowly pouring in the olive oil until mixture is a thick puree.  Add puree to skillet and mix with lamb until heated.  Remove lamb mixture from heat and let come to room temperature.  Place in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (while you wait for the bread dough to rise).

Whole Wheat Flat Bread Ingredients:

5 c. whole wheat organic flour
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 c. warm water (115 degrees F)
1/2 c. room temperature water

Directions for Whole Wheat Flat Bread:

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour (sifted) and salt and mix.  In a separate bowl, combine yeast and sugar with the warm water. When the yeast has dissolved, add the oil and room temperature water. Pour the mixture over the flour and hand mix. If the bread is too dry, add a little more water and 1 tsp. vegetable oil until it sticks together.  Knead the dough ball on a lightly floured surface for several minutes.  Shape into a ball and place back into the mixing bowl (spread oil over sides and bottom of bowl first).  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave on your counter to let rise for one hour.

Once the dough has risen for 1 hour, punch it down and transfer back to floured surface.  Cut the dough into 6 pieces, shaping each into fist-size balls.  Use a rolling pin to flatten each ball (very thin) and transfer to the baking sheet.  Preheat oven to 475 degrees and roll out the remaining dough balls.  Remove lamb mixture from refrigerator.  Spread lamb mixture onto flat bread to the edges, sprinkle with goat cheese (optional) and bake on an ungreased baking sheet for about 10 minutes, or until bread is crispy and browned. Serve topped with a sprig of parsley and a drizzle of lemon.

**In Turkey, you roll the pizza up like a burrito and eat it.  If you want to do this, make sure your flat bread is VERY FLAT.  And your pizza has cooled slightly.

afiyet olsun!  (bon appetit in Turkish)

It's What's For Dinner...

There is absolutely no excuse for it:  I gained 20 pounds in 6 months. 
My favorite snack- CHIPS.  I love them all!

I admit, I hid it well during the cold of winter.  But with spring is right around the corner, and we bought a new house with a built-in pool that I plan to spend a lot of quality time with in the future, it is definitely time to come out of hibernation.

Mmmm Shepherd's Pie.  My favorite meal I've ever made...Ever.  
I was very athletic growing up, an avid track and cross-country runner, basketball, and soccer player.  During season I would run 8-10 miles each day and lift weights afterward.  I had the kind of metabolism that melted away a foot-long chili-cheese dog in a matter of hours. It didn't take much for me to be in great shape.  So seeing myself with a 'spare tire,' 'saddle-bags,' 'gobble,' and a flabby 'cottage cheese butt' made me depressed, disappointed, and a lot insecure.  I mean, we women all have a little extra cushion naturally, but I was feeling as bad as I looked.  I tired out easily during daily activities like cleaning house.  Waking up for work in the morning was like coming out of a bad hangover that I stayed completely sober to get.  All I wanted to do was sit on the couch after dinner and watch TV or play video games.  Walking upstairs made me short of breath... My skin broke out more often and looked dull and sagging.  My hair was flat and brittle.  I know I'm in my late twenties, married, and not as young as I used to be, but WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO MY BODY??
My homemade Chicken & Dumplings. Nom Nom.

It was the beginning of last month that I had a "come to Jesus" talk with myself.  It was time to start exercising and eating right.  The first few times I ran on the treadmill at our office gym, I thought I was going to die...There is no way I can do this.  But I disciplined myself to keep at it- cycling, running, and elliptical.  And then I started strength training.  And lots and lots of abs.  The weeks went by and the exercise became easier, therapeutic even.  A nice way to spend my lunch break clearing my head, and a great way to sustain energy throughout that afternoon crash time.  Four weeks later and I actually look forward to working out on my lunch breaks.
My favorite sweets- Thunder Cookies! All that sugary goodness...I bet Kevin Durant would LOVE these...

The hardest change was my diet.  I've never counted calories, been on a fad diet, or even payed much attention to what I ate as long as there was a meat, a starch, and a vegetable on my dinner plate.  Since I wanted to not only get in shape, but get healthy, the first step was to get a Google education on nutrition.  More on that in another post.  But my research all came to the same conclusion: eat less processed foods, high-calorie starches, and red meat. Eat more vegetables, fruits, proteins, and complex carbs. Okay, I thought.  I can do that.  One problem...I really don't like a lot of vegetables!  The texture of certain fruits and veggies give my taste buds the red light.  Trust me, I've tried to overcome this for years.  Determined to make myself eat them, I found my food processor to be my new best friend.  Behold the power of PUREE!

I love to cook.  I'm from Oklahoma, after all.  And we like our barbecue, pizza, hamburgers, and fried chicken.  So with a new way of eating (because as my friend Em said you can't call it a diet, it must be a lifestyle change) comes new, healthy recipes. That doesn't mean I have to do away with all my southern comfort food!  I give myself one day a week to make something hearty (the lighter version of it anyway) and one night to eat out.   That way I don't have to tell my Shepherd's Pie that we are never, ever, ever getting back together...Because I'll always love you, you delicious Irish casserole... Here are some of my (and my husband's and family's) favorites.



Now THIS is a big change...