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Middle East Feast

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Posted by Mariah | Posted in Appetizers & Sides, Main Dishes, Meal Ideas | Posted on 25-10-2009

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Feast your eyes on the feasting table.

Feast your eyes on the feasting table.

Middle Eastern food is one of my absolute favorite cuisines, so it was important to me to make sure my kids liked it from day one. We make homemade hummus here on a fairly regular basis and use pitas for everything from pizzas to sandwiches. However, this post is focused on several recipes and ideas that you can use to create a full-on Middle Eastern feast!

The basis of this particular feast is chickpeas, of course! I received some sprouted chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzo beans, from my friend, Cara Ullrich. Cara works at Roots Market, and is a bona fide food guru. She explained to me that sprouted garbanzos contain much more protein and nutrients than your average canned variety, and are also much more flavorful — and she was absolutely right! These beans made some of the tastiest hummus I’ve had to date! NOTE: If you can sprout your own garbanzos, I highly encourage it. However, you can used dried or canned garbanzo beans to make the hummus included in this post.

The next item on the feast menu is falafel. I’m seriously CRAZY about falafel. In fact, I had some leftover from the feast and I ate with some Sriracha sauce for breakfast (but I seriously never eat anything considered “normal” for breakfast).

Unfried falafel patty.

Unfried falafel patty.

Falafel is a fried ball or patty made from spiced chickpeas and/or fava beans. Wikipedia tells us this is a popular fast food in the Middle East and I so wish this were the case here (although they do serve some great falafel at the Pita King in Waterloo). You can make your own homemade falafel, but this takes time.

Instant falafel -- just add water!

Instant falafel -- just add water!

For my personal feast, I opted to use the Fantastic Foods boxed mix, simply because it’s easy and delicious. If you want to make your own falafel from scratch, here’s an excellent recipe from Epicurious.

Now, onto the fun part — the tzatziki sauce! My version of this is probably not technically tzatziki, but I’ve found a combination of flavors and textures that everyone in the family, especially Chris, loves. My sauce is pretty simple — just Fage Greek yogurt, green onions, fresh lemon juice and a little garlic powder. Chris literally ate every bite of the batch I made and practically liked the serving dish!

So, how do we serve all of this stuff? Creatively. I will be blatantly honest right now and say that the kids aren’t big fans of falafel. This is really frustrating to me, since it IS a version of fast food, is brown and fried and very nearly resembles a chicken nugget. So, I tuck these little critters neatly inside a warm pita, add some fresh spinach and slather lots of tzatziki and hummus all over it. The kids can have more hummus, tzatziki and pitas after they try their sandwiches.

As for mom and dad, we make several different types of mini sandwiches out of our pitas — falafel/tzatziki, hummus/chili garlic sauce, falafel/tzatziki/hummus/chili garlic sauce.

Because this post contains so many recipes, I have created individual pages for each and linked to them below. For the falafel, either follow the recipe above or buy the Fantastic Foods mix! Even if you don’t make the feast all at once, I encourage you to try at least one of these recipes and introduce this delicious and nutritious cuisine to your family.

Our friends, falafel and pita, waiting to be slathered in tzatziki and hummus.

Our friends, falafel and pita, waiting to be slathered in tzatziki and hummus.

Middle East Feast Menu

1 package whole wheat pita (you can make these into pita chips as well)
1 package Fantastic Foods falafel mix
1 large bunch or bag of fresh spinach
kalmata hummus recipe
tzatziki sauce recipe
Sriracha or chili garlic sauce to taste :)

Low-Fat Pita Chips

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Posted by Mariah | Posted in Appetizers & Sides, Breads | Posted on 25-10-2009

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Baked pita chips

Baked pita chips

These low-fat, baked pita chips are so easy and take just minutes to prepare and bake. Follow these directions and you’ll even save energy when baking them!

NOTE: Serve this is part of the Middle East Feast menu.

Ingredients:

1 package whole-wheat pitas
kosher salt
garlic powder

Directions:

1. Cut one package of pitas in half.

2. Cut the halves into thirds to make little pita triangles.

3. Unfold your pita triangles and tear them into two pieces so you have two little pita triangles.

4. Set your oven to bake at 350.

5. Put pita chips on two baking sheets. Spray with Pam cooking spray or olive oil spray.

6. Sprinkle with kosher salt and garlic powder.

7. While oven is still heating, put the chips in the oven. This will allow them to slow bake and become very crispy.

8. When oven reaches 350, turn it off. Let the chips bake for about 10 minutes total or until golden brown.

9. Serve with kalmata hummus.

Simple Tzatziki Sauce

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Posted by Mariah | Posted in Appetizers & Sides, Meal Ideas | Posted on 25-10-2009

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Our friends, hummus and falafel, await a good slathering in tzatziki.

Our friends, hummus and falafel, await a good slathering in tzatziki.

This is tzatziki sauce is not a traditional recipe, but is simple and geared toward younger tastes. Serve as part of the Middle East feast.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. green onions, diced
2 cups Fage Greek-style yogurt
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor.

2. Pulse until smooth and creamy.

3. Chill for at least one hour before serving.