:)
Jillian R.

Emoticon Sugar Cookies
I hope your day is going great so far
:x  :p  and :) to you too!


Jillian R.
I really don't like eating out very much these days if I don't absolutely have to; or if a restaurant serves something that I can't/don't know how to make at home.

I started planning my weekly menus about two years ago. It started the first few months after we moved to Muscat. We didn't have a car (we rented one later on) and every time we needed to take a taxi somewhere, it involved 10 minutes of haggling - and still paid such a hefty fee for a 5-10 minute ride. We did a major food shopping once a week, so I had to make sure my shopping list didn't leave out the cilantro! Anyway, we realized quite quickly how much more convenient menu planning was, and how much healthier we were eating.

To make this post as brief as possible, I wanted to show you how easy and fast it is to make a satisfying three course, balanced meal in about an hour - I spread it out throughout the day, but there's no reason why you couldn't do it all at once.

On the dinner menu today I have the following Gordon Ramsay dishes :-

To start; Cauliflower-Saffron Soup


I cheated a bit with this one and used instant vegetable stock instead of making it from scratch (I usually do). It took 5 minutes to boil the milk, another 2 minutes to cook the cauliflower florets, a few seconds to whiz it all up into a pureé and about a minute of sautéing a few florets into a lovely golden brown.
Total time: 10 minutes
Note: If I do use homemade stock, I would make it a day ahead so that I could skim off the fat

The entré; Chicken Marsala with Red Chicory


I cut up the chicken earlier in the day and had them covered in the fridge. All I needed to do during dinner time was brown the pieces for a few minutes in the pan with some garlic, threw the Marsala over it and dish it out. It took all of 20 seconds to stir fry the chicory leaves.
Total time: 15 minutes (including prep time)

And finally, dessert; Chocolate-Coffee Mousse



Desserts always take the most time to make (in most cases), and this one in particular needed time to set, so I had it done in the early afternoon. It took about 5 minutes to whip the mascarpone and cream, while at the same time melting the chocolate on the stove. The mixing took another 5 minutes.
Total time: 10 minutes (cleanup NOT included!)

So, like I said, this entire dinner took about 40 minutes to cook. It's healthy; I substituted low fat milk for milk, olive oil for butter, etc, clean and easy on the wallet. Plus, eating at home means *doggie-tax for the babies!

*Note: We NEVER feed our dogs from the table. We make them wait until we finish eating and they get a couple of bite-size pieces of our meal. This way, they don't get overfed, and don't beg as they know that waiting is rewarding!
Jillian R.
There is a new Korean restaurant in town!

This one merely a five-minute walk from our apartment; well two minutes if we walk faster.


The restaurant sign was put up a couple of months ago and I've been anticipating its opening ever since. It's been about two years since we left Korea, and I've been craving some Korean dishes. Despite being able to make some of our favorite Korean dishes at home; thanks to the tubs of gochujang which are available at the Chinese Supermarket, it is not really the same without the variety of side dishes that are always served with a Korean meal.

Anyway, the restaurant opened a week ago, and it is apparent that not too many people know about it just yet; as we were the only ones there when we arrived. The decor is very Korean; complete with floor seating and barbeque grills on the table. The only thing missing is a water cooler in the corner and a cup sanitizer.

One look at the menu and I whispered to Eric "Guess we're not in Kansas anymore". Although they have quite a selection; everything from everyday Korean dishes like Kimbab, Kimchi chigae and Bulgogi to Korean-Chinese dishes like Jjampong, Jjajangmyeon, to the less common Godongah; which is a Mackerel-Kimchi Stew, the prices are about three to four times more than what we used to pay in a nice restaurant in Korea.

We ordered the beef barbeque (would've loved to have Samgapsal which is pork barbeque, but of course, being in a Muslim country, this is not available).


I was quite disappointed seeing the few bits of meat as the "set" costs 85 AED (US$23). We have a choice of having them cook the meat in the kitchen and bring it out or cook it ourselves on the table. We chose the latter, but as it turned out, cooking it ourselves meant having the waitress do it for us...

The beef was tender, nicely seasoned and came with refillable side dishes.


Besides the raw garlic (which we couldn't cook on the grill because the grills were too far apart), green peppers, ssamjang, tofu, and Kimchi, none of the other side dishes are typically served in Korea. They were nice however. I realled liked the zucchini rounds seasoned with some kind of soy sauce.
 

After gobbling up the meat and had the side dishes refilled once, we decided that we had to order another dish to fill our bellehs. We ordered the Godongah; which I never had a chance to try whilst living in Korea. It was delicious and quickly went from the plate into our tummies before I could take a picture.

The restaurant is great really, the owner is a Korean woman who has been living in the UAE for over 20 years. The food is authentic, even though it comes with a steep price tag. I just don't think I would ever get used to seeing a 50 AED (US$13) roll of Kimbab after having only paid 3,000 won (US$3) for them at the little eateries located every street corner in Korea.


All in all, Manna Land is a must-visit for those who love Korean food and cannot make it at home. We would definitely be going back, if only to use their flat, metal Korean chopsticks and to watch the waitress barbeque our meat for us.
Jillian R.
When we moved to Abu Dhabi last August, I was immediately captivated by the beauty of the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque (SZGM) as we entered the city in a taxi. We arrived at night, and the mosque was illuminated by colored lights. I later learned that the lighting system reflects the phases of the moon.

"This architectural work of art is one the world’s largest mosques, with a capacity for an astonishing 41,000 worshippers. It features 82 domes, over a 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers and the world's largest hand knotted carpet. The main prayer hall is dominated by one of the world’s largest chandeliers –10 metres in diameter, 15 metres in height and weighing twelve tonnes. The mosque's first ceremony was the funeral of its namesake, Sheikh Zayed, who is buried at the site." - Source: Visitabudhabi.ae.


I remember telling Eric that we had to find out if non-Muslims/tourists were allowed to visit the mosque, and that if not we had to at least drive near it to have a closer look. We had missed visiting the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque of Oman you see, having only lived in Muscat for 6 months; of which I was mostly bitter...


The grand mosque in Oman is beautiful but the SZGM is breathtaking!

Anyway, when "winter" (refers to the non-scorching, very, very pleasant weather in the Middle East) rolled in, we were still busy setting up the apartment, taking care of business, you know, the usual must-do's when you move to a new country, so we never had time to do anything touristy. By the time we were all set up, summer had arrived again, and we were mostly confined indoors for the next 6-7 months.

It is now winter again! Time to finally see Abu Dhabi, a city which I've come to love!

As it turns out, the mosque is open to the public every day except Friday morning. We arrived shortly before lunch and the place was quite empty.

The weather was wonderful; it had just rained a couple of days ago so there was a constant cool breeze. On top of that, there were puffy clouds in the sky (which was rare, clouds here are mostly scattered all over the place). We didn't join the complimentary tours, instead we just wondered around the grounds. 





The lighting is cleverly hidden in these beautifully engraved pillars


Before entering the mosque, men and women were asked to enter from separate entrances. The men merely walked in while us women entered through a dressing room where we covered up in abayas which the mosque provides free of charge. I had bought a very affordable abaya just for this occasion as I didn't want to wear the "public" abayas. I could see the abayas hanging on racks with dry cleaning covers over them, so they probably were clean.

I've always had hygiene issues with clothing. I never wear anything new (even if it just came out from its wrapper) without washing it first. If the garment is white, I have to bleach it first.

Anyway, after putting on the abaya and struggled with covering our hair (I had to tie it into a ponytail so that it didn't slip out from under the headscarf), we were given the okay by the female security guard to leave the dressing room.




There was a board showing the do's and don't's while in the vicinity of the mosque. Some of the obvious ones were of course; no hugging and no holding hands. We saw a couple with a baby taking a picture where the husband tried to place his hand on his wife's shoulder and a vigilant guard immediately said "No hugging!"


Seeing that, this was as close as we dared stand!

The inside of the SZGM is absolutely beautiful, one does not need to know how to read the Arabic scriptures to appreciate the work of art that is this place.






It could be the high ceilings, or the intricate art work, or that the mosque being such a holy place; there was a sense of calmness and peace that washed over me as I wondered through the building. Having said that, I am glad it is opened to the public, I think we would definitely visit again in the near future, and this time, the camera stays at home - I want to really see the place, not through the lens.
Jillian R.
I promise that what I'm about to share with you, your dog(s) will absolutely L.O.V.E. It will also probably satisfy the most picky eaters. I know because our Jester is one who turns away from the most delicious-smelling store-bought doggie treats. When chewed, these treats make LOUD crunchy sounds, and of course, which dog does not like to crunch things?!

I started making these chicken treats because Ginger has Colitis and has to be on a strict diet. The only treat (besides her prescription food) she is allowed to have is chicken. It only took a few pieces to get the dogs to do whatever we want. I now use these as high value treats, together with other home-made treats which the dogs also love (but not as much) for training.



What you need:-
4 Chicken Breasts (the lower in fat, the better)
A pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Put chicken breasts in a pot and fill with water just enough to cover them. Add a pinch of salt.

2. Bring water to a boil. Remove lid so that it doesn't boil over and continue cooking for 10 mins or so or until chicken is cooked. Do not overcook as we do not want the chicken breasts to have a stringy texture.

3. Remove chicken from stock. I reserve the stock to pour over the dogs' food - they love having a bit of gravy.

4. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut into medallions.
(I like cutting it against the grain so it doesn't flake when baked)

5. Cut the medallions into bite-size cubes. 
(Note: Make sure your cubes are smaller for smaller/older dogs. I like bigger chunks like these because it's easier to handle during training)

6. Place chicken cubes on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 45 mins to an hour, or until the cubes turn golden brown.


7. When chicken pieces are done, place them in a microwave safe dish, cover (optional) and microwave on high for 4 minutes.

(Note: You don't have to microwave, but I find that this last step really helps zap up any moisture left in the chicken and turns it harder and crispier. Skip this step for puppies and seniors)

8. When they cool, place the chicken cubes in a Ziploc bag or airtight container. They keep in the refrigerator for up to a month (or longer, I can't say, because my dogs gobble them up so quickly that I make a new batch every other week!). They do just fine in room temperature too.

I like to place a small jar (top picture) of it by the door so that I could easily grab some and throw them into my pocket as I take the dogs out. These are a good distraction if Jester sees a cat (or laborer) during walks.

Try this out. If you like making your own dog treats like I do, this is as easy as it gets. I guess if your dog loves other meats more than chicken (is that even possible?) you can easily substitute the chicken breasts for beef chunks, etc. 

I hope this post inspires you to make your own dog treats. If you like knowing what you put in your food, why shouldn't you know what your dog is eating? I've stopped buying dog biscuits and treats a long time ago - only the best for our babies!
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