Homemade Spanakopita

It’s strange when you move to a new place…for the first little while it kind of feels like you are just on vacation. You don’t want to commit to too much cause it doesn’t feel like you will be there all that long.

Here is an example- while in the grocery store I waffled over buying a jar of mustard because my brain thought we wouldn’t be here long and wouldn’t use it all. I had to remind myself that, in the course of a year, we will probably use up a jar of mustard. If not, let’s live on the wild side and buy one anyways!

So you are always oscillating between visitor and resident. Setting up and putting down roots, but not too deep because you don’t want it to be hard to dig them up in a year.

I wonder if, as the months go on, that feeling will go away.

We have been here a month and I feel like things are starting to feel more like home. We can get around and find some of the places we visit all the time without google maps. We have a weekday and weekend routine and we are getting out to see more of this new city we live in. And finally I can tell which direction is north…for the first month I had no idea which way was which…

We have visited the Grand Mosque which was breathtaking. It took over 10 years to build and the Sheikh it is named after and who had the vision for this beautiful building never saw his dream realized. He died before construction finished. I’ve heard it said that if you have seen the Grand Mosque, don’t bother going to see the Taj Mahal…it’s a bit disappointing in comparison. We thoroughly enjoyed our tour (though I did feel a wee bit hot in all that covering and at one point may have considered lying down on the air conditioned tile floor).

The Grand Mosque

 

We walked a small part of The Corniche, a beach/walkway along the Arabian gulf. We made our way out onto the sand and dipped our feet into the bathtub-warm-clear-blue water….and then promptly made our way back to the air conditioned car and promised ourselves we would come back in November…not at noon.

The Corniche

I’ve had some henna done my good friend and her beautiful daughters. This was an amazing and eye opening experience. I was, by far, the most fair person in the whole place and the more I sat there, the more I became acutely aware of how different I looked and dressed. Though everyone was incredibly gracious and kind, it was a highly self conscious moment. Even so I look forward to many more henna visits and interacting more with local women in my new home.

Henna for my birthday

And we walked the Yas Marina Circuit (Formula 1 track). Again, another one of those surreal moments as you walk out onto the track and see it from the ground level. It is massive, expansive and you can just imagine the cars racing around the corners. You can run, walk or bike this track 2 nights a week and it is such a cool place to be and to watch people. We loved it and are looking forward to our next visit and hopefully a chance to ride the track on bikes too!

Yas Marina Circuit

I am working to build up my little pantry here in Abu Dhabi so that I can cook the things we love from at home…the problem is, you can’t find all the things to make the meals you loved at home. And the brands you recognize are much more expensive. It’s been a bit of a challenge to say the least. Groceries is a multi-hour affair because you have to look and read and wander back and forth to find what you are looking for, and try to find a suitable substitute when you CAN’T find what you are looking for. Hopefully as time goes on, it will get easier and I will feel more comfortable in our local grocery store. Right now, it feels like I’ve run a mental marathon when we get back into the car.

But we have food, can afford food and are being open to new things. So an extra hour in the grocery store is not that big a deal.

The other hurdle I am overcoming is my new micro-kitchen. At home we had a lovely, large kitchen with a big island and lots of counter and cupboard space. Here I have 2 small counters and literally 4 cupboards. Again, we are adjusting…tripping over one another and adjusting.

Tonight I made spanakopita for dinner. I had bought a large container of feta cheese last week and was looking for a quick and easy way to use it up. This seemed like a great way!

I bought some puff pastry squares, frozen spinach and some Parmesan cheese and I was in business.

I mixed together the drained and squeeze-dried spinach, a large cube of feta cheese, some Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.

I spread a little bit of the mixture on each of the puff pastry squares and folded them into little triangles.

I sealed them with a fork and baked them in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes until the pastry had puffed up and was golden brown.

 

The Verdict- they were pretty good! I said to Andrew, we could put lots of different fillings inside (both savory and sweet) and would have lots of different pie type meals. The pastry would also be great for on top of a shepherd’s pie or chicken pot pie…maybe that will be something I try next.

 

 

 

Watermelon Shrimp Salad

Andrew, Mom and I decided to take a road trip to do a little shopping at a nearby outlet mall a few weeks ago.

After a full day of shopping, we decided to do what any normal people would do….find a restaurant, eat something delicious and revel (or regret) all our purchases.

Now unfortunately when I go to a restaurant, I don’t want the healthy salad… or healthy anything for that matter. I want the fries. All the fries. Sometimes only fries…loaded with gravy and cheese.

Image result for Not eating healthy memes

But I’ve been trying to make healthier choices. I mean I am going to live in a summer-all-year-round country very soon…no hiding in comfy cozy sweaters. I need to get a hold of things.

So I chose (begrudgingly) the salad.

I could not have been happier with my choice.

Shrimp Watermelon Salad

 

So of course, once I got home, I just had to find a way to reproduce this deliciousness. And because Pinterest has everything right at your fingertips, I found a recipe that looked very close to what I ate a Brewsters.

All you need to make this incredible dish is

  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Honey
  • Arugula
  • Mint
  • Feta cheese
  • Shrimp
  • Almonds
  • Watermelon
  • Shallots
  • Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper

I started by marinating the shrimp. I waffled with how to flavor the shrimp, but finally decided to just keep it simple- I used the same dressing recipe that I was going to use to dress the salad.

Shrimp Watermelon Salad

In a Ziploc bag, I put

  • 1 bag cooked thawed shrimp
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 a diced shallot
  • salt and pepper
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (depending how spicy you like things)

I let this hang out in the fridge for an hour or so.

To put the salad together I dressed a container of baby arugula (peppery greens that are complimented nicely with the sweetness of the watermelon and dressing) and some fresh chopped mint with the same dressing recipe as above (minus the cayenne)

Shrimp Watermelon Salad

On top of the arugula and mint, I crumbled some feta cheese

Shrimp Watermelon Salad

Threw some salted almonds in

Shrimp Watermelon Salad

Places some cubed watermelon on, and a shrimp on top of each of those.

Shrimp Watermelon Salad

Doesn’t it look pretty?

Shrimp Watermelon Salad

The Verdict- I could eat this salad every day! It is so amazing…and so beautiful!