Thursday, February 26, 2015

Calling All Indian Drivers!

Have you driven into or out of Saada lately? Have you?

It's a friggin nightmare. Before I start on this rant, I have to teach you a word. That word is "muntifunti." A dear friend taught it to me as a substitute for a much ickier word, involving obscene, unbiblical acts with ones mother. I dasn't repeat THAT word, because I am always a lady.

So back to the roads on the college side of town. The "flyover" (overpass bridge-thing for you Americanos) is well under way. Not only is the actual up-in-the-sky part of the flyover in progress, the road into Saada from New Salalah is all torn up, AND so is As Salaam street by Browniz. Can you say munti funti?

It's madness. To relieve my own stress, I decided to mosey into work by way of Hafa. Big mistake, because about a thousand other people had the same brilliant idea. And most of them were from Kerala.

I know, my Kerala friends. I know what happened. Felicia understands. You saw the banana tree-lined road and the cars lined up as far as the eye could see and a form of madness took over didn't it? There is a reason India is statistically the most dangerous place to drive (or ride) in the world. Y'all can't queue! Driving through Haseelah is now a bumper-car fun ride with maddened Malayalis gripping the steering wheel in a crazed frenzy to be the absolute first at the stop sign, to the point  where you, dear friends, cram the road five cars across, all headed in the same direction. I mean no offense. There are issues with driving related to Omanis as well, and (reputedly) women. Hah! But if you live in Salalah, you know what I'm talking about. Learn to queue people. All of you who are out and about, no matter where you are from, are not going to get where you need to be any faster by plowing down the side of the road and prizing your vehicle into the head of the line. You might even arrive a tad later, once you scrape down the side of someone else's car.

I arrive at work now with hate in my heart. Road rage is illegal here, and it's a very good thing indeed, or you would see a ninja dressed American in a hot pink car making a few munti funti-ing gestures lemme tell ya. Man!

As for the cake, I was in the mood for a slice of winter nostalgia. A friend brought me two cans of pureed pumpkin from England a couple months ago, and I put one of them to good use. 

Her Cake. From Lick the Bowl Clean. 

  • 2 cups sugar (I used 3/4 cup white sugar and 3/4 cup brown sugar)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-15 oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C
Whip the sugar and eggs until frothy. Actually, this cake doesn't need a stand mixer at all. Beauty! Whip in the vegetable oil and vanilla. Stir in the pumpkin puree. Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and stir into the pumpkin mix. Pour into a well greased bundt pan and bake 45 minutes, rotating 180 degrees halfway through the baking.

The frosting was to be a delightful cream cheese mix. However, A CERTAIN PERSON saw the tub of cream cheese on the counter and assumed I just left it there. I found it placed back in the fridge and said a big internal munti funti. I whipped about a cup of confectioners sugar and a couple tablespoons of milk together and poured it over the cake. It worked. Not nearly as good as cream cheese frosting, but since everyone at work ate it for breakfast, a plainish cake was easy on the stomach. 

My cake. Those of you suffering in the cold back home really should make this.

Now for something completely different! I can't figure out how to get my marvy North African style cooking on Pinterest unless the pics are in this blog. I am trying very hard to learn this style of cooking, with limited success. This lamb dish was great. I started with a Moroccan style mixture of spices, but added some Tunisian style flavors as well. So it's a North African fusion dish. I find when I feel free to wing it, without worrying too much about how the perfect Tunisian housewife would make the dish, it tastes quite good. Maybe not like something his lordship would find in Tunis EXACTLY, but still dang good.

Felicia's North African Style Lamb Stew

1-1.5 kilo lamb shoulder (2-3 pounds for Americans)
1 t. ground caraway
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground tumeric
1 t. white pepper
2 T harissa
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix these spices with the olive oil and set aside.

Chop 1 onion roughly. Saute in your pressure cooker until a bit translucent. 

Peel and cube 3 potatoes and place in pressure cooker. Pour the olive oil mix over the potatoes and mix.

Add a small can of stewed tomotoes and two cups of beef broth or two cups of hot water and two cubes of beef bouillon. 

Sear your lamb shoulder in a frying pan on high. Squish it down into the vegetable mix. 

Bring the steam up so that it begins to whistle. Put the heat on medium at this point and leave it for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the steam release by itself. This take a little time, but that will meld the flavors. If it is an emergency (like it's burning) release the steam by pulling up the cap or running the top of the pot under cold water. NEVER open a hot pressure cooker right away. 

Before cooking. Note the level of liquid and adjust accordingly if need be.

The lamb was soft as butter, I don't like lamb but somehow this worked.

So drive safely people. I hope I didn't tick too many of you off. Most of you, no matter where you are from, nodded knowingly. Now stay out of Saada for awhile! I gotta get to work on time!


Felicia El Aid

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentine's Day in Salalah?

As I looked around a perfume shop for a Valentine's gift for Mehdi, I noticed something was off. It was Valentine's Day, yet quiet and peace reigned at the mall.  I was the only one browsing at Capital Store, happily squirting cologne and sniffing away. Where were the frantic men? Where were all the red crap hearts plastered everywhere, signifying you'd better get yer sweetie something for the big day? Huh?

Well, I've got news for you. Valentines Day is, technically, haram. As my students explained, Muslims celebrate only the two Eids, and because Valentines has its roots in Christianity, and prior to that, Rome, it is not for Muslims to celebrate.

Oh the devastation. I love Valentines Day.  I love the dinner out, the small niceties we do for each other; I like the reminder that we are still in love. Honestly, like Mother's Day, it's my day. I realize I am being humored. An Arab husband generally has no experience with Valentine's Day, or the ridiculous stress American women attach to it.

American men generally hate the whole damn day. We women act like the entire frickin world is collapsing if we aren't feted like goddesses from the moment we wake up until our pearly toes (preferably freshly pedicured as a result of the spa package he gave us for Valentines) hit the sheets. We also want to hit those sheets in some sexy bit of frillies he purchased in a lingerie shop to prove he still desires us after years of childbearing and swinging children off our tatas. God bless those poor fellas, for they can't win. And while I'm at it, pardon the hetero-centic slant of this post. I know you feel me whatever your inclinations.

I digress. I can kinda dig the point of view that Valentines is haram. If you belong to a particular religion, and you are not supposed to celebrate customs with roots in another religion, that makes sense. For Valentines, though, those roots go so far back hardly anyone has even the vaguest idea that it was ever religious in nature. It is an invention of marketing really, a purely capitalistic way to part men from their money.

Calm down I say. Calm down and take me to dinner. Buy me stuff. Rub my back and tell me you love me, for tis the day for love and kisses. And I want it to stay that way.

Erm.....How about this one?

This day just passed without a peep from anyone that I heard, yet Valentines causes quite the fuss. Priorities anyone?

Onto the cake. I have been eyeballing a cake by Ina Garten for a few weeks now. Rather, I've been eyeballing a recipe. She annoys me with her constant blather about what she's cooking her husband. What is that dude's name anyway? Steve? Michael? So generally I avoid her recipes. I am not saying my reasoning is sound; it's like this sometimes.


  1. 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  2. 2 cups sugar
  3. 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  4. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 1 cup buttermilk
  8. 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  9. 2 large eggs
  10. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  11. 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee


  1. 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  2. 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  3. 1 large egg yolk
  4. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  5. 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar, sifted
  6. 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules

  1. MAKE THE CAKE Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment; butter the paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out any excess.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour with the sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt at low speed. In a bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the oil, eggs and vanilla. Slowly beat the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then slowly beat in the hot coffee until fully incorporated.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool. Peel off the parchment.
  4. MAKE THE FROSTING In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the chocolate at high power in 30-second intervals, stirring, until most of the chocolate is melted. Stir until completely melted, then set aside to cool.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat for 1 minute, scraping down the side of the bowl. At low speed, slowly beat in the confectioners’ sugar, about 1 minute. In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee in 2 teaspoons of hot water. Slowly beat the coffee and the cooled chocolate into the butter mixture until just combined.
  6. Set a cake layer on a plate with the flat side facing up. Evenly spread one-third of the frosting over the cake to the edge. Top with the second cake layer, rounded side up. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and side of the cake. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before slicing.
**I followed the recipe. Mostly. I did accidentally read two egg yolks in the frosting recipe, so I increased the confectioners sugar by half a cup. I had half a cup left in the box anyway and I didn't feel like putting away a mostly empty box. This worked fine. I crumb coated the cake lightly and refrigerated it for 30 minutes before icing. Really, it's a "crumby" cake, so do this. I've also started putting parchment down for chocolate cakes. Homemade chocolate cakes seem stickier than box cakes, and the parchment helps them pop out easily. The top of the cake is also smoother to frost. Admittedly it's a pain in the arse, but cut a bunch out with a template and keep them on hand. It matters.

Her cake. This is the usual example of cheating by the magazine. There is no way to frost the cake  this much without doubling the recipe. Yes, it would look like this if you friggin stopped frosting half the cake. 

My usual crap pic in a dark living room. This is a rich, RICH cake with a lot of coffee flavor. The egg yolk makes the icing like silk on the tongue baby. Yes, this is a nice cake.

I think as humans we need to focus on what matters. For me, that isn't about whether I pull hairs from my eyebrows (I tried to stop) or cover my hair. Those are really important to some people, but I just don't see it as a big thing in a world where women are mutilated and children are slaughtered. That beat goes on and on. So if you want a little love on Valentines Day, rock on with that. In my humble opinion.


Felicia El Aid

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cafe Dreams

You can't open a cafe if you regularly burn cake. And I routinely burn cakes. It gets discouraging, you know? For example, yesterday I found one egg in the refrigerator and googled "one egg cakes." Isn't Google great? I do have cookbooks and compilations of recipes in notebooks, but in a pinch googling is the way to go.

I found a one layer vanilla cake, whipped it up, added a titch of cinnamon, and popped it in the oven. I'd JUST taken another walnut bundt cake from the oven (MAJOR hit at home) and wanted to make something for my coworkers.

I set the timer. I did. The problem is I have a fancy shmancy phone now, and I've started playing Angry Birds Transformers (yes...oh the shame of it). The timer went off and I was almost through with this level. A couple more minutes couldn't hurt could it? Those two minutes were just enough to add a lovely black sheen to the top of the cake. Bugger.

I brought in a few slices of walnut cake for people I know haven't had any cake in ages. Picture starving hyenas when cake arrives at work...Darwinian rules apply in the cake world and the gentle and polite go cakeless. I am still behind (by two weeks) one caramel cake, another walnut cake, and a cake for my husband's good friend. Sunday I have on order a rainbow cake for a birthday party. Crikey!

So if I can't keep up with a few cakes a week, how would I ever do this as a business? The answer is I can't. I've learned. All those bakery/cafe dreams are totally unrealistic. I am a classroom teacher. That's it. Once this year of cakes is finished, I am sure I will continue to make them, but never as a real business. I need the money they bring in right now so my blog continues. Otherwise..nah.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go home soon and start baking. It's also Thursday, so who knows what adventures the night will bring. Perhaps I will dance with my husband. Lord knows no one else will now.

Weekends away from the damn oven.

1 1/3 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 t. vanilla
2/3 cup milk

I also added 1/2 tsp. cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 350/180. Grease and flour an 8 inch cake pan, a 8 inch square pan, or a 12 cup cupcake tin. I don't do cupcakes...they annoy me. So trendy and cute. Bite me.

Mix the butter and sugar on medium high until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until creamy, about 4 more minutes. Add the vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and add half to creamed sugar. Add half the milk and blend in on low. Add the remaining flour and milk and mix until just incorporated. You don't want to mix too long at this point, as the cake will toughen. 

Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. You might want to stay off your gaming system for this. Lesson learned eh?

Their cake. How cute! 

I dub thee "Angry Birds Cake."  It is resting in peace in a dustbin. 

As an aside, an added hint as it were, this is what happens when you invert a cake too soon. Let bundt cakes cool a good 20 minutes. I got impatient. This is a walnut bundt cake someone ordered (5 OMR by the way). My coworkers enjoyed the "mistake and so did I. Meh.

Keep asking for cake. Feel free. It keeps the blog going. Next time I think I will write about my couchsurfers. I know you can't wait!


Felicia El Aid

Monday, February 2, 2015

Temper Temper Missy

I didn't mean to do it. I really didn't. But there is something about a "beach party" at the Hilton, with it's thumping, atrocious Eurotrash music pounding away that brings out the worst in a girl. Erm..woman. I eighty-sixed a woman from the dance floor because she had the misfortune to dance with my husband when I felt a wee bit irritable. Normally this isn't my style.

Wait. Yes it is. My temper is legendary. I've just kept it as much in check as possible since embracing Islam (Islam means "peace" for those of you who watch too much Fox news). It's not like I beat my kids for crying out loud, but I just have certain limits..ya know? And a woman in a very short skirt happens to be one of them. I had a moment. 

Let's paint a picture. I look up and see the husband, who I honestly trust completely, heading to the dance floor with a young woman. I squinted at the scene, Clint Eastwood style (picture him in The Outlaw Josey Wales). 

Yes, it was a little like this.

I started for the dance floor, passing a couple women friends on the way. I whipped off my sweater (I am all about dramatic flair) and tossed it at a chair. They both sat up straight, shisha pipes jammed tight, in happy anticipation of the scene to come. I stalked to the dance floor, tapped the hapless lass on the shoulder, and told her to leave. Cease, Desist. Amazed looks were thrown. The crowd gawked (joyously I might add..there is nothing the Hilton crowd loves more than a good punch up). My poor husband looked like he'd just seen a three headed alien land from Mars juggling lemon pies. She smirked and I went nose to nose. Needless to say, she left the dance floor and I turned on my heel and left too. A Moroccan girlfriend laughed and threw me a high five. Other girlfriends congratulated me and professed they loved me a lot. It was, as my sister calls my lapses in discretion, a rich moment in history. 

I want to feel badly. I want to feel shame at my inexcusable behavior. I just don't. (I didn't feel badly about throwing loose change at a T conductor in Boston either, when he yelled at my mom). I heard the innocent victim of dance floor fame was tearful later, and certainly I embarrassed the hubby for about five minutes, then he laughed it off. Why did I do it? Latent insecurity in the face of a very short skirt containing a very big badonkadonk? I dunno. I am always modestly dressed, to the point where my more liberal Arabic friends tease me about my covered arms and legs. I haven't worn a skirt showing my legs in ages, nor would I. I guess I am only human, as they say. 

If it makes people feel better, a good friend chided me the next day. I snorted. When I said I enjoyed myself tremendously, he shrugged and said, "I guess you informed all women in Salalah didn't you?" Why yes, I guess I did. 

Correct Dance Partner. Hmpf.

I think not.

As for the cake, I finally hit my stride again. I made a wonderful Walnut Bundt Cake, perfect with tea or coffee. I also bought a Samsung Note 3 (cause Carrefour has a good sale now that the Note 4 is the thing). That means I can take my OWN cake pics and get them online. This means more posts again! Hooray! How lucky are you?

This recipe is from the Diamond Walnut Company. I promise you, it's lovely.

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 t, baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temp
1 T. vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk (not available here...add a dash of white vinegar to regular full fat milk)

1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 t water

Toast the walnuts at 350/180 for five minutes. Keep oven preheated at that temperature. Grease a bundt pan (use a lot of butter) and coat with flour. Sift the flour, baking powser, and salt and set aside.

Blend butter and sugar on medium high for 3-4 minutes until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, blending well with each addition. Add the vanilla. Alternating by 3 with the buttermilk, blend in the flour mix. Fold in the walnuts and scrape batter into the pan.

Bake about 35-40 minutes until toothpick tests clean. Cool 15 minutes, then invert to a wire rack. Cool completely. Mix the powdered sugar and water and drizzle over the cake. Top with some walnuts if desired.

Their cake. I don't have this particular pan here, but if you see one like it let me know. I wantee.

My cake. Note the artistry of taking the pic on my white comforter. I'm all about presentation.

I didn't bother with the glaze...I am not an icing fan. I like simple cakes with hot tea and not too much sugar on them. 

Oh..and by the way, Dhofari Gucci put a feed to my blog. Heart be still, for she is awesome. At least I think so, because I see feeds coming from her blog. Maybe I should go read her last couple posts. hehe


Felicia El Aid