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.

 

 

 

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Coconut Curry

Teaching Grade 3 means that you are always inundated with funny, quirky things that kids say. But every now and then, you get a kid who consistently knocks it out of the park on a regular basis. I am lucky enough to have a few of those this year….but one little girl in particular like to encourage me (and my student teacher) and feels like she really has some nuggets of wisdom to share with us.

One day, this little girl handed my student teacher a card she had made her at home.

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We looked at each other and laughed and laughed…clearly she felt like my student teacher was floundering a bit (which she wasn’t) and needed a little pick-me-up

Then came her advice page for my student teacher’s goodbye gift.

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You can’t make this stuff up….

And finally her gift to me this Christmas.

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Just the thing I needed to keep me going through the New Year!

This curry recipe is another great creation from the new¬†Oh She Glows Everyday cookbook. I think after all the holiday indulging, these are the kinds of things we are going to need to eat more of…

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Coconut Curry

Ingredients:

  • 4 tsp oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 4 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 large sweet potato cubed
  • 1 can of chickpeas rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with the juice
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) can coconut milk
  • A couple handfuls spinach

Start by toasting your cumin seeds in the oil. It can burn quickly…so be careful. Let it get a little darker in color and then throw in the chopped onion and cook for another 5 minutes or so until softened.

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Coconut Curry

Add in the garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute or two.

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Coconut Curry

Add the sweet potato, chickpeas, tomatoes with the juice and coconut milk. Stir and cover. Cook for 20-30 minutes until soft. At this point, mash about a third of the mixture to help thicken the sauce.

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Coconut Curry

Stir in the spinach and let it wilt. Season the whole thing with salt and pepper to your liking.

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Coconut Curry

I served this over rice with a squeeze of lime and a little fresh cilantro.

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Coconut Curry

The Verdict- This is really delicious and it makes a lot! I’m a sweet potato fan so this was a definite winner for me, but even Andrew really enjoyed this.