Pasta Spinach bake

I have always tailored meals to my 9 kids and what they are willing to eat as well as what they like. I had a bakery of sorts on one of the compounds in Riyadh, made sweets for a very wealthy man three times a week, had dessert nights with lady friends on the compound, but the most fun and rewarding cooking has always been for my kids!  So I am always trying to create new and different recipes or tweak ones so that they will like them. While comfort food for the kids tends to be rice and some type of Arabic food, they also love pasta. So, this pasta with homemade Marinara sauce, ricotta and layers of vegetables is a big hit with the kids!

After you read this recipe it might occur to you that this seems like lasagna, well it is! I find I can add spinach and more vegetables  and call it pasta bake, the kids love it and don’t question the vegetables much!


1 batch of Marinara sauce of your choice- I have mine listed under favorite recipes

1 package pasta of your choice

1-15 ounce container ricotta cheese

1 cup frozen spinach cooked according to package directions

1 zucchini, peeled, washed and sliced

1/2 tsp. basil

1 tsp. salt or to taste

1 onion chopped

1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

1/4 cup parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, spinach and 1/4 tsp. salt


Boil the pasta until done, but firm, drain. Mix pasta with ricotta mixture.


Saute onion in olive oil, add zucchini, salt and basil. Cook until soft.

In a 9X13 ovenproof pan, pour enough sauce to cover bottom of pan.


Spoon enough pasta to make a layer,


Top with  a layer of vegetables, sprinkle a little mozzarella cheese, continue layering pasta, vegetables, cheese and sauce. One half of this pan is no cheese that is why it looks different!



Cover well and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.



There are many ways to make CousCous. I met a dear and sweet lady named Suad (originally from Morocco)on the compound in Riyadh, we became fast friends. She made CousCous and of course it was delicious! She asked me to her house one day to watch her and I learned how to make a lovely version that I still make today. Years after that, a Lybian friend made a wonderful red,spicy CousCous which I fell in love with! Both types of Cous Cous are tasty and lovely but my kids always ask for this red, spicy variety. So, here is my recipe. Keep in mind this has been adapted, my friend had steps that were difficult for me and so I am making it my way.


5 chicken legs or thighs

1 sweet potato

1 potato

1 green bell pepper

1 onion

2 tomatoes

1 zucchini

2 carrots

1 cup of cabbage

3 garlic cloves chopped

1 small can tomato paste

1 can garbanzo beans

salt to taste

1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. allspice

cayenne pepper pinch or desired amount

2 boxes of CousCous or desired amount


Peel potato, carrots, zucchini, and sweet potato.

Chop onion and garlic. Wash and chop all vegetables.

I like to cut them into large chunks.


Place onion, garlic and chicken in large pan. Put a little olive oil and start sauteing. Add water, (enough to cook the chicken, vegetables and have left over broth!) spices and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and keep a low boil going and cover. Let the chicken cook. when the chicken is totally cooked, turn off heat. Remove chicken from broth and set aside. Strain liquid to make sure there are no pieces of fat or bone. Add vegetables to liquid and bring to a boil, turn down heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until vegetables are well cooked, add drained garbanzo beans to liquid and cook a few more minutes. Turn off heat, remove vegetables to a pan.


Measure out liquid for CousCous. My friend made the Cous Cous in a more traditional way but that was too complicated for me. So, I use the box of plain CousCous and follow the instructions for adding liquid and measurements. Use the spicy,red broth to make your CousCous. Follow package directions for measurements and cooking times.

CousCous mixed with broth


CousCous cooked


After it is done, fluff it and drizzle a little olive oil and stir it to keep it from sticking.

Spoon CousCous onto a serving plate and arrange cooked vegetables around and on top.


Chicken Pot Pie

I have been making Chicken Pot Pie for the past 15 years and it is definitely a family favorite. I decided to put small pieces of broccoli and guess what, it is now a favorite vegetable for my kids!


One double pie crust of your choice–(see recipe)

1 Chicken breast cut into small chunks, boil until done and drain water, set aside.

2 carrots, peeled and sliced.

1 bunch broccoli cut into chunks

1 Potato, peeled and cubed

1 small onion chopped

1 stalk celery, sliced

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour a little less not level

1/4 tsp. basil

1 tsp. salt (estimate)

dash of black pepper

1 1/2 cups water mixed in pan on stove with bouillon to make broth

1 1/2 cups milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Wash, peel and cut all vegetables, boil them or cook in the way you desire, set aside.

Melt butter in large pan, add onion and celery, saute until soft.


Add flour and whisk well making a roux. Let it bubble.


Add milk and broth mixture. Cook this mixture whisking continually until it boils, continue cooking an additional 2-3 minutes, add basil and salt. salt is an estimate.


Add all of your vegetables and chicken, mix well. Season for taste.

Roll out crust and place on the bottom of baking pan, pour chicken pot pie mixture on crust.


Roll out second half of dough and make a top for the pie. Place on top of pie and seal.


Bake in oven for 50 minutes or until done. Remove from oven and let set a few minutes, pie will be very hot!


Eggplant Parmesan


I had never eaten, purchased or cooked with eggplant in my life. I really didn’t even know what it was! I bought a Middle Eastern cookbook and started leafing through the colorful pages. I picked out many recipes that I thought looked festive and different. I knew it would be simple to just follow the instructions. So I did, I made meat pies, cheese pies, rice pudding and a list of other traditional foods. I served them to my many Middle Eastern  friends and each polite person asked “Oh is this an American dish, interesting” The first time I told them that it was their traditional dish sfeeha or roza halib the look I got was never forgotten! I had followed the recipes to the letter, bought the rose water, syrups and spices and yet here I was back to square one! I noticed that Middle Eastern cooks used eggplant so I decided to try making something with eggplant. Surely that shouldn’t be too hard. Although I had never eaten it or cooked it I figured it couldn’t be that hard, or could it? I made a dish with eggplant and it was bitter and rubbery! No more eggplant for me! I swore off of anything that needed this vegetable and gave up on Middle Eastern cooking all together. Months later I saw a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan and reluctantly gave it another try. This time it was a total success! Ever since then I have made this dish which I then found out is nothing like traditional Italian Eggplant Parmesan but still a big winner for me! My Arab friends loved it even though it was not a dish familiar to them. My kids grew up eating and loving this dish as well! This experience started my love for eggplant and I found other ways to use it. Many Middle Eastern dishes call for Eggplant and we will explore a few of these this week!


3 large eggplants

1 onion chopped

2 tsp. dry basil, 1 tsp. salt

2 pieces of bread

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

2- 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes

3 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley

Olive oil to saute eggplant

Directions Chop onion and saute in olive oil in large pan. Preheat oven to 250 degrees Wash the eggplant. Cut lengthwise. _DSC1504 Using a spoon carefully scoop out flesh of eggplant. Set aside. Keep the shells in tact and set aside on tray in refrigerator.   _DSC1506 Coarsely chop the eggplant into bite size pieces. Put eggplant in pan with onions and continue to saute. Add salt and basil. Keep stirring and cooking. _DSC1510 Add 2 cans of crushed tomatoes,stir well and keep cooking. Cover and keep on low boil. Stir every few minutes to keep from sticking or burning. While eggplant cooks, get 2 pieces of loaf bread, end pieces are fine. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until crisp and dry. Remove from oven. Break bread crumbs up and put in with the eggplant mixture, stir well. Add parsley, Parmesan cheese and stir. _DSC1514 Preheat oven to 350 degrees Place eggplant shells in a baking pan in single layer. The pan must have high enough sides because you will be adding water to the pan. _DSC1518 Using a spoon scoop eggplant mixture into each shell.

Pour water into pan around eggplants so that they do not stick to bottom and they cook well. Do not use allot of water and do not pour on top of eggplants.Approximate water to use–1/2 to 1 cup. Just enough to cover bottom of pan. Let eggplants cook for 1 hour until crusty on top. Be careful when removing pan from oven. Eggplants and water will be very hot. Let pan set and cool slightly. Move eggplants to serving platter. Using a spoon serve desired amount of eggplant mixture from shell, discard shell when empty.Can be eaten with Arabic bread, rice or plain. Delicious!