Labneh & Zatar

When I started grocery shopping in Doha, I noticed that the dairy section here looks a little different than in the states. While they do have fresh milk, right next to it is fresh laban.  (So make sure you pick up milk, and not laban when shopping! I made that mistake once!) What is laban you might ask? It’s a type of sour milk.

According to Almarai, a manufacturer here in the Middle East, here is a better definition.  Laban is a cultured milk and dates back to
Arabian tribal times when milk was preserved by mixing fresh raw milk with yesterday’s fermented milk. Left to ferment naturally it was found to last longer and taste good.

Sounds kinda gross right? I have not tried it, so I cannot say.  So I assumed that labneh, a type of cheese spread was similar.

A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine brought an appetizer to one of our get togethers. It was labneh, zatar (a spice) and olive oil, which you then spread on pita and enjoy. They had taken a hiking trip to Lebanon, and this was served in each and every house they went to, so they felt obligated to try it.  After trying it, they realized how good it was!

Zatar is a really interesting spice that is used often here in the Middle East. According to gourmet sleuth.com,  it is a mix of sesame with sumac and dried thyme.  It is used in many variations here – on flatbreads, as a seasoning for barbecued meats, etc.

The labneh is much more like a cream cheese than sour cheese, so it tastes quite delicious! Dave and I like to mix up our labneh, zatar, and olive oil into a dip, and still serve with pita. It’s really yummy!

This is not really a food blog by any means, but I want to post recipes of regional foods when I discover something good that I otherwise would not have tried. So I took a few pictures last time I made this dip, and thought I would post the recipe here 🙂 Enjoy!

So first, the ingredients – pretty simple!  Zatar, Labneh, Olive Oil and some pita.

You can serve these three separately if you choose, but we like to mix it all together.  Here is it just before the mixing stage.

Finally, the finished product! This is such an easy and yummy appetizer – hope you try it sometime! You should be able to find the Zatar in the spice aisle, and the labneh will be in the refrigerated section.

Special thanks to my friend Kira, who introduced me to this new combination of flavors! 🙂

Another dinner at the Dean’s House

I think I all ready have 2 or 3 other posts titled Dinner at the Deans, so I tried to change this one a little!

At the beginning of the semester last year some of our friends were invited to the Dean’s house for a smaller dinner party with other faculty/staff.  Apparently, the Dean and his wife host a dinner party every week for about 12-14 people,  and randomize the guest list so that everyone can meet colleagues that they might not meet otherwise!

We waited all last semester for our invite, but it never arrived.  It turns out there are so many staff and faculty, that it takes them a long time to get through everyone!

So at the beginning of the Spring semester last week, we finally received our invite! Our dinner party was scheduled for January 18th, and it was a catered sit down affair. While I opted for the regular meal, Dave opted for a veggie meal.

We just got home from dinner, and it was really nice! We arrived about 5-10 minutes late, and the Dean greeted us and quickly introduced us to some new people.  Shortly after that, we retreated to the dining room and were seated for dinner.

I left my phone in the entry room, so I don’t have any pictures but here was the menu! (both mine and Dave’s).

First Course:  Seafood Medley with smoked salmon, prawns and lobster

Mozzarella and Tomato Salad for D

Second Course:  Broiled Salmon with white basil cream sauce

Ravioli with white cream sauce (It looked so good – I was jealous!)

Third Course:  Chocolate truffle with a crispy bottom layer (I forget the name of it!)

Fruit Plate (Dave was bummed that he did not get the regular dessert – so now we know for next time!)

Dinner was certainly a little awkward – since we were at a huge dining room table with a lot of people we did not know, but luckily we had some pretty interesting conversation with the people we had met at the beginning of the evening.

Also, one of the guys we met when we went through our harrowing medical authority experience was there, so it was nice to see him again. Plus, it turns out its his last semester here, so he will be leaving once the semester ends in May.

This dinner was a little bittersweet because the Dean and his wife are also leaving at the end of the semester 😦 After 7 years of being at CMU and really energizing and inspiring the population, they have made the decision to leave. Although we just met the Dean and his wife, I cannot tell you how instrumental they have been in making CMU-Q what it is.  We will really miss them and it just won’t be the same without them.

If you want to read more about Chuck and his accomplishments, here’s a great article from the CMU website.  As it mentions in the article, he will be taking a sabbatical for a year, then heading back to Pittsburgh to continue his research at the Robotics Institute. Best of luck to him! 🙂

Some views from Education City

Dave and I are lucky to work in Education City, a few miles outside of Doha, which is under constant construction for new buildings (A student center, Northwestern’s building, etc).

Education City has a really lovely landscaping and every day when we come out, it is always right about sunset, if not a little later.  I am always love how beautiful the desert sunset is, so I finally caught it on my iPhone. I thought I would share some of them with you, my blog readers! Hope you enjoy!

Beautiful isn’t it? Its a view that I love coming out to every day! I know that we are so lucky to live in a place that is sunny and gorgeous about 98% of the year.  I am never up early enough for the sunrise, but I will continue to take pictures as I see cool desert sunsets! 🙂

Dave’s Birthday Weekend! :-)

January 16 was Dave’s birthday, and we had a great weekend celebrating it!

Thursday, we had friends over to watch a movie and snack on appetizers. We watched Zombieland which was really entertaining – more so than I expected. I really recommend it!

Friday – We went to Bharath, Dave’s favorite restaurant, for takeaway Indian and went back to our apartment to share with friends. We enjoyed an evening chatting, drinking, and just relaxing. It was a really fun evening, and Dave told me later it was exactly what he wanted for his birthday 🙂

Saturday – We spent the day just relaxing in the morning and Dave had gifts to open from me. So he opened all his gifts (new PJ’s, a robe, and a some new shirts), and then he had some work to do, so he headed off to Education City. Then in the evening, we had a nice dinner at home, and cake for dessert! 🙂 I baked Dave’s favorite – yellow cake with chocolate frosting! Yum!

We might head to Isaan next weekend for a nice dinner out. It’s a Thai restaurant with an open plan kitchen so you can watch them cook your food.  They even have a full vegetarian menu for Dave!  It’s really fabulous! And its in a hotel on the Pearl, so its got a great view and we can have a glass of wine 🙂

Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband! Thanks for making the past 8 years so happy for me! I am the luckiest girl in the world 🙂

Lulu Hypermarket!

While driving today I had the opportunity to take pictures of my favorite grocery store – Lulu Hypermarket! And this is certainly a hypermarket – there is a department store on the second floor, along with a grocery store, including a hot foods section, bakery, and fresh fish section. It is pretty awesome 🙂

This store has been quite the blessing for me when I started grocery shopping. I was nervous about what would be available here, and thanks to LuLu, just about anything I want/need is probably here. (Except for bacon!!!!). Also, once Dave became vegetarian, this store has an amazing selection of fake veggie meat, so it has helped me make normal dinners like tacos and chili!

During the day, it looks like a normal store, as you can see below.  Nothing too fancy, just your normal entrance to a super market.

But at night it transforms into a Christmas light lovers dream! This was actually taken from the highway, so you can tell how crazy the lights are! It is absolutely amazing!

While in the store today, I was shocked to discover  something I was craving over the holidays. Canned pumpkin! I never really looked for it over Thanksgiving, and now I wish I would have! I will be making myself a pumpkin pie very soon! (Although I will have to eat it by myself – Dave does not care for it) 😦

Hope this shows you a little bit about what grocery shopping is like in Doha! 🙂 Pretty similar to the States 🙂 I will try to blog more about my daily activities, since I can blog from my iPhone.  🙂

A New Year

Welcome 2010! The beginning of a new year is always a time for fresh beginnings, resolutions, and hope for the upcoming year.  This year is no different. As we wave good bye to 2009, and welcome 2010, there are a few things I hope to accomplish in the coming year. They are sort of like resolutions, but I hate putting a name to it, so we will just say they are things I hope to improve upon!

1. I  want to have my student loans paid off by the end of 2010/early 2011.  This is my main goal for the year, so I knock out my only debt, and then we can concentrate on Dave’s student loans. Then someday, maybe we can save for a house. Oops, I am getting ahead of myself!

2. I want to create a budget for our living expenses. We are fortunate to not have any living expenses here, but I want to make sure we are using our money wisely. (I know I can count on my sister and good friend Tiffany – who are budget wizzes for help with this!)

3. There is a gym at my workplace, and I want to start using it at least 3 times a week – if not more. I miss the days when I was working out at the Homestead library.  I felt good and enjoyed my workouts. I want to get back to that! No specific weight loss goals, just to get in shape and feel good about myself.

4. Finally, now that we have been in Doha for a few months and are feeling settled, I think it is time for us to start traveling! Even if we only do short trips to Bahrain, Dubai, Oman, etc to start, that would be fine. I am ready to start seeing new places soon!

Feel free to post your resolutions in the comments, and we can help hold each other accountable! 🙂 Happy New Year, hope 2010 is great for all of you! !

Looking back at 2009…

It is crazy to think that not only is 2009 over, but the 2000’s are over! Where did the decade go?! I wanted to take a quick look back at this past year, and all the great things that have happened! I will say the year was a total whirlwind, especially once we made the decision to move to Doha.

January – This was the month Dave started to think about applying for his current job in Doha, Qatar. At that time, it seemed like a far away idea in a very far away place! I also started my final semester of grad school!

February – We hosted a Super Bowl party at our apartment with some great friends, and after a exciting but nerve-wracking game, and the Steelers became super bowl champs again! Dave was doing his phone interviews with CMU-Q, and the possibility was becoming more real.

March – We hosted our annual St. Patrick’s Day party with Guinness stew, Irish soda bread, guinness cupcakes and watched our favorite movie, Darby O’Gill and the Little People! This was also the month Dave got the official job offer to move to Doha, Qatar to work at CMU.  At this point, I started a very hectic internship for grad school that would consume my life for the next few months.

April – This was a month of mixed emotions for me. I told my employer and all my co-workers and friends that Dave and I had made the decision to move to Doha.  I was excited, but also terrified! I was happy for Dave, but sad to leave my hometown of Pittsburgh. It was not an easy month :-/

May – This was a really great month! My grad school classmates and I got to participate in our graduation ceremony – even though we still had 2 months of work ahead of us. Even so, it felt like such a great accomplishment knowing how close we were to the end! I celebrated with family and friends on Mt. Washington and had a great day!

June – This month was really busy with me finishing up my internship, and then beginning to pack up for our big move. I was also still working full time at this point.

July – Finally finished my internship, and was able to focus on packing up the apartment.  I also was done with work at the beginning of the month. This was sad 😦 I was blessed to work with some really amazing co-workers, who made the past few years at my job a blast.  We had more fun at work than anyone should 😛 They also threw me a really awesome party at McCormick and Schmicks in Southside.  At the end of the month, we headed to Montana for a family reunion with Dave’s family, and some quality time in Dave’s hometown of Helena.

August – This month flew by so quickly, I don’t even know what happened!  We were in Montana til the 8th, home for a week to pack and say our goodbyes, and then we hopped on our flight to Doha on the 14th.  Even after arriving in Doha, the month continued to fly by – orientations, dinners, parties, etc.  We were so busy that the month just flew by!

September – I spent this month with my new friend Kat exploring the city, and getting everything in our apartment set up.  It was also Ramadan through out the Middle East, so it was an experience to see how Doha operates during that month. (Basically no eating in public at all during the day – including water!)

October – This was a fabulous month! Dave and I celebrated our very first wedding anniversary, as well as my 30th birthday.  It was fun to look back on the past year of marriage, and look forward to many more!

November – We celebrated our first Thanksgiving away from home, and while it was difficult, we felt lucky to be surrounded by friends on Thanksgiving, so we felt somewhat normal. (Although we were outside in November – so that did not feel normal!) Also, this month I started a new job working on some special projects in Planning and IR at Dave’s university.

December – Early this month, the majority of our friends headed off to visit family and friends, while Dave and I made the decision to stay in Doha.  We had two lovely dinners out for Christmas Eve and Christmas, and had a relaxing night at home for New Years Eve.  It was strange to experience a new years with no ball drop, so we watched Moscow party instead. We enjoyed a quiet Christmas holiday and New Year, but were relieved to see all our friends return in January!

And that brings us to today! It was a great year, with many changes, new experiences, and new friends! However,  these changes were certainly made easier thanks to our friends and family back in the States.  We are blessed to have unconditional love and support from the many amazing people in our lives.  So thanks to all of you for making this year a great one for us! 🙂