Lettuce Wraps

Working overtime, going to the gym and making a home cooked meal…it takes commitment to do them all. But I’m managing. Mostly.


Sometimes I worry that my dinners are too simple to be worthy of a blog post. But then, I think about why I started writing here in the first place. To share the happenings in my kitchen. To keep a personal record of my journey with food. So I’m going to try worry less and post more.

Like I said there’s nothing complicated about these lettuce wraps. But ground beef seasoning is flavorful and easy to throw together on a busy week night.

Ground Beef Seasoning

Black pepper
Chili powder
Red pepper flakes

That’s it. I kind of just sprinkle by eye so experiment as you go to get the taste you want. Squeezing fresh lemons over the top seals the deal.

And as always, I use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.


Pearl Couscous Stirfry

Have you ever heard of Pearl Couscous? I hadn’t up until a few weeks ago. I saw a coworker eating it at the kitchen table at work. I asked, “What kind of grain is that?” “Pearl couscous”, he said. “Would you like to try some?” And try some I did. And then just another spoonful more. Such a yummy, nutty flavor to it!

I liked it so much that I made a point to find some when I went to the grocery store later that week.


Searching the Web and Pinterest, I easily found a bunch of recipes. Tonight, I was inspired by a post from Your Food Life.

Pearl Couscous Stirfry
Serves 2 to 3

1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup filtered water
2/3 cup Pearl Couscous
1 tomato
1/2 white onion
6 mushrooms
Shredded cabbage
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 orange bell pepper
1/2 lb ground beef
1 egg
Garlic salt
Olive oil

1. Boil the vegetable broth and water, then add the Pearl Couscous. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Let it cook for about 20 minutes. Mix in a 1/2 tbsp or less of butter once the liquid is almost vaporated.
2. Brown the ground beef on a separate pan, then set aside.


3. Peel the tomato and chop it in the half. Then peel the onion and chop it in half. Blend both ingredients together into a puree.


4. Mix the puree with the ground beef and cook with a drizzle of olive oil for about 3 minutes.

5. Chop remaining veggies and add them to the pan.


6. Once the veggies are almost done, break the egg into a bowl and whisk. Then make a space on the pan and slowly pour in the egg. Wait a minute or two, then mix it in with the rest of the ingredients.

7. Season the beef-veggie stirfry then serve with your delicious Pearl Couscous.


This was a big hit. So glad I made it. 🙂

Kadın Budu Köfte (Fried Meatballs)

Kadın Budu Köfte, translated into English is lady thigh meatball. This is perhaps due to its shape or perhaps to where its going after you eat it. 😉 Whatever the reason, it’s well seasoned, fried, and dipped in cool yogurt. In other words, it’s “çok lezzetli” (very delicious).


Kadın Budu Köfte
1 lb ground beef
1/2 onion (chopped)
1/4 cup cooked rice
4 eggs
Köfte bahartı (ingredients below)
Salt & pepper
Vegetable oil for frying


1. Cook 3/4 of the ground beef with the onions, then drain the fat. Be sure to break it up as small possible.
2. Put the raw and cooked ground beef in a large mixing bowl with 1 egg, the rice, and spices. Knead together until well mixed. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.



3. Remove the bowl from the fridge and begin shaping your meatballs. They should look like mini footballs.
4. Put some flour in 1 bowl and beat the remaining 3 eggs in a separate bowl. Dip each köfte in the flour and then egg.

5. In a pan, heat some vegetable oil. Once the oil is sizzling hot, put in some of the köfte. I cooked mine in batches of 6.

Kadın Budu Köfte is traditionally served cold (prepared as above and then refrigerated and served the next day). But you can also eat it right away, warm. Serve with plain Greek yogurt.


Köfte Bahartı
Black pepper
Hot red pepper
Sodium bicarbonate

Breakfast Pizza

I found this breakfast casserole recipe (looks more like an egg pizza to me) during the holiday season, but never got around to making it until tonight. You’ll notice that I altered this recipe quite a bit from the original.


Breakfast Pizza
Pillsbury Thin Crust Pizza Crust
5 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 shredded cheese (cheddar & pepper jack)
1/2 lb ground beef
3 sliced mushrooms
2 baby gold potatoes (peeled and grated)
1/4 chopped bell pepper
1/4 chopped onion
Cumin, salt, pepper, garlic powder, sage

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place a skillet over medium heat and add the ground beef. Break up the ground beef as it cooks, letting it brown completely. Season, drain fat and set aside.
3. Sautee onions, mushrooms, and peppers in olive oil until soft. Drain oil and set aside.
4. Unroll the pizza dough in the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish.
5. Spread the sausage over the dough, then spread on the veggies.
6. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk, salt, and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the top of the casserole. Sprinkle with cheese.
7. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden and the eggs are set.

This was a lot of food for two people, but the leftovers will be good for the morning (real breakfast).





Etli Biber Dolması – Meat Stuffed Peppers

I’ve been looking forward to making this dish all week. It was my first time ever making biber dolmasi, so I needed a recipe to reference. Google came back with this. I didn’t have any reassurance that this recipe would turn out well and a Turkish man to please. The odds were against me. But I am proud to report that I was successful.

I had to adjust the recipe slightly: I used 4 bell peppers, 3/4 of a pound, and a 1/2 cup of Jasmine rice. I omitted all of the seasonings except for salt and pepper. Then I added some cumin, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder (only had a tiny clove of fresh garlic). Other than that, I followed the recipe as is.






The peppers came out nice and soft, but not too soft. And the stuffing was delicious.

And now I am stuffed! 🙂

And tired. Glad tomorrow is Friday.

Turkish Manti – Sort Of

I hate leftovers. I have a weird thing with eating the same thing twice in a row and most prepared foods just don’t keep well. But I also hate wasting food. That’s why I’ve been working so hard to figure out the right portions. I want to make sure we have enough to eat so that we don’t go on a Taco Bell run…but I also don’t want to have extra. Aren’t we lucky that this is a major concern in our lives?

There are a few things that I can tolerate as leftovers…one of those being ground beef. It’s a lot easier to make a pound all at once even though the most we usually eat in a night is about half of that. I just bag up the second half and save it for the next night. The best part? I can make an entirely different dish–and quick.

Manti is a classic Turkish dish that I absolutely love. It’s like dumplings or ravioli, but soo soo much better. It’s also pretty challenging to make. To be honest, my one attempt to make it was a complete fail. I’ll try again someday, but until then I have an easy substitute.


I simply make elbow macaroni noodles and top them with garlic yogurt, a little bit of ground beef and marinara sauce, melted butter, and red pepper flakes. You get a similar flavor for a lot less work –and I get to use up my leftover ground beef.

In case you were curious, here’s a picture of real homemade manti I ate while visiting Istanbul last July:


How do you deal with leftovers?


Main Course – Chickpeas with a side of Zucchini Squash

Yes, chickpeas — or garbanzo beans– can be made into the main course of a meal. That is, with the help of the Turkish olive oil/onion/tomato paste mixture and seasoned ground beef. This is such an easy and cheap dish to make! That’s why it’s my go to on busy nights like tonight. You can also skip the beef if you don’t feel like going to store or prefer a vegetarian dish. Just mix the seasoning in with the onions.

I rarely buy canned goods or frozen foods. But I make an exception for chickpeas and tomato paste (along with a few other items). I’ve soaked dry chickpeas over night, but the cooking process takes way too long with too little payoff. I say go for the canned stuff, but buy organic!

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To start, brown a 1/2 lb. of ground beef then drain the excess fat. I actually cooked the entire pound I bought, since I plan to make a meat sauce for pasta tomorrow night. 🙂 We’ll likely have leftovers from tonight’s meal as well so I already have my lunch lined up as well. Amazing how far you can stretch $6! I’ve also been curious to try ground turkey since it’s a healthier option.

Once your ground beef is drained, continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so while you season.

Ground beef seasoning



Black pepper

Cayenne pepper

Garlic powder

Red pepper flakes (optional)

If it’s your first time using cumin, I suggest you go easy. Cumin is the perfect seasoning for meat, but it’s very distinctive and can easily be overused. If you know what you’re in for, season to your heart’s content. You can also use a taco mix, which basically has the same ingredients already mixed for you. Once your meat is nice and seasoned, turn off the heat.

2 cans of chickpeas will feed 2-4 people, depending on how hungry everyone is and what else you serve along with it. I drain the cans by opening them most of the way with a can opener, putting my finger over the lid and pouring over the sink. Then I put the chickpeas in a medium saucepan, covering them with filtered water just covering them. Whenever the water isn’t going to drained, I use drinking water, never tap. I notice a difference in the taste and just find it to be a rule of thumb for healthy cooking.

Keep the chickpeas on medium heat while you saute chopped onions in olive oil in a separate pan. Once the onions are translucent, add a large spoonful of tomato paste and mix. Now you can add the ground beed and olive oil mixture into the saucepan filled with chickpeas. Allow some time (at least 5 minutes) for the flavors to absorb. I try to get it to a tomato soup sort of consistency. That way I can dip bread into the tomato sauce. 🙂 You want the water to evaporate somewhat, but not completely.

For my side dish, I made divine summer zucchini. My dad is the inventor of this dish and it’s one that I make time and time again. Summer may be over, but as long as the grocery store carries, I will buy zucchini.

Summer Zucchini

2 small, thin zucchinis (served 2 perfectly)

1 garlic clove, thinned chopped or peeled

Lawry’s Garlic Salt (or use fresh parsley and sea salt)


Parmesan cheese (I didn’t have any, but this is usually included)

photo 2 (2)

Bake at 350 degrees F until the butter melts and the edges of the zucchini get light brown.

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And there you have it! Top with Greek yogurt and dip with your favorite bread. I toasted seven grain bread but I bet this would be divine with some garlic French bread.

How do you prepare chickpeas?