Produce Inspo 🍅🍇🍊🌼

Here’s me coming full circle, as just like this one, my very first post was also an ode to the beauty and inspiration of French market produce… Colors, shapes, patterns and textures, inevitably leave me dreaming of possibilities after a trip to a fresh market. Thanks to its abundant variety and creative nuances, I’ll always be a disciple of nature when it comes to taste!    
    
    
     

   
 

Courgette Chocolate Cake

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Among all the February celebrations, my warmest is my hubby’s birthday. For the past couple of years, my daughter and I started a habit out of baking a cake on that day. I don’t often bake, so this makes this day extra special as it gives us the opportunity to share memorable, exciting, messy, one-off funny/panicky moments in the kitchen before we polish everything up before daddy comes home for the big surprise (well perhaps not-so-surprise anymore as he’s starting to notice the tradition now).

This year my daughter and I decided to bake a… Zucchini Cake! Credit for this idea has to go to my daughter’s amazing former nanny who introduced us to this cake.

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I know some of you may be cringing and despite the nutritionist in me, I myself was initially skeptical, but the result is AMAZING and it’s almost impossible for someone to figure out that Zucchinis were involved in the mix! In effect, none of the people I served this cake to suspected this twist. So here you’re thinking, why should I ever try a Zucchini cake and to that I’d say:

  • Zucchini replaces the butter and gives the necessary moist to the cake (ideal for people trying to cut on fat-calories since Zucchinis have close to zero fat!)
  • Introducing vegetables in cake-baking with your kids is a great way to promote vegetables to them as appealing and fun
  • It is actually VERY TASTY IN ITS OWN UNIQUE WAY and you will only believe me once you try it so here’s the recipe:

 

Ingredients (10-12 servings cake):

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. canola or other mild vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups blended zucchini (about 1 large)

 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (175°C). Grease a 10-cup Bundt pan.
  2. In a bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  3. Mix eggs and oil and add to the dry mix. Add blended zucchini and stir.
  4. Pour the evenly mix into the prepared pan. Bake 60 minutes in the preheated oven.
  5. Cool the cake completely before decorating it with your favorite garniture. Here I sprinkled on my beautiful blossom-shaped Bundt a bit of confectioners’ sugar then left the final touch to my daughter who decorated it with her favorite fresh berries!

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🍋 Sour Treat 🍋

Back to my favorite corner at home, my kitchen! It’s been since I got busy with our move that I haven’t really spent quality time in there. I circulate in the kitchen pretty much most of the day, everyday, having converted it temporarily to an operation room/playroom/dining room while the rest of the house is gradually getting fit for use. Nevertheless, I only recently started using my kitchen to create things that makes my family happy and not only sated. And voila some happiness in a bowl!IMG_4172

It is called Harrak Osba’o (حراق اصبعه) which translates from Arabic to “finger burner” (I promise no finger burning required for the recipe)! It is a Syrian dish that I discovered a couple of years ago when my mother-in-law was entertaining. A fun and really easy vegetarian dish when Mdardara (lentil based Lebanese vegetarian dish) starts becoming meh. It is all about that sour punch that gives it all its juiciness and the secret for that is pomegranate molasses. The recipe combines lentils and pasta seasoned essentially with sautéed onion, garlic and coriander. The combination of a legume (lentil) and a grain product (pasta, preferably whole grain) makes of Harrak Osba’o a rich-in-protein vegan dish. Not to mention that lentils are also rich in fiber, folate and iron. The original recipe includes garnishing the dish with fried pieces of dough or fried pita croutons. I chose to omit this part to keep it as healthy as possible:

Ingredients (4 servings):

  • 1 cup of brown lentils
  • 1 cup of small shaped pasta
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves mashed
  • ½ cup of coriander chopped
  • 4 cups of water
  • ¼ cup of pomegranate molasses
  • 4 spoons of lemon juice
  • 1 spoon of vegetable oil
  • Salt, to taste

Method

  1. Place oil, onion, garlic and coriander in a cooking pot and stir-fry
  2. Add lentils and water, bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes
  3. Add pasta and cook for 10 minutes
  4. Add pomegranate molasses and lemon juice and cook for 5 minutes

Sour never tasted so good!

Yes You C.A.N.

It sounds overwhelming and vague whenever you hear the well-known phrase: Fad diets are not the answer to lose extra body weight, a healthier lifestyle is. Nevertheless, it is true, diets provide only short-term solutions and could have serious side effects on your health and a healthier lifestyle is the ultimate long-term solution to a healthier weight. In theory, this is a simple notion, yet we find it difficult to put into practice. Because old habits die hard, figuring out how to change our eating habits into healthier sustainable ones can be challenging. The key to an efficient and smooth transition is to take things slowly and simply, one step at a time.

I recently came across a new study about healthy eating conducted by Cornell University and found it really interesting to share with you all as I thought it suggests brilliant yet simple and practical ways to healthier eating. After analyzing 112 studies that collected information about healthy eating behaviors, the study suggests using what they called the C.A.N. approach to achieve a healthier weight. The CAN approach highlights 3 important principals that focus on designing an environment that makes healthy eating simple by making healthier foods easiest to choose and consume. Hence, to get to eat healthier, healthier food must be:

1- Convenient (visible and easy to reach)

2- Attractive (enticingly displayed)

3- Normal (appear like an obvious choice)

The C.A.N. approach

 

For instance, placing a fruit bowl in a convenient place, where people walk by it, make it more accessible hence more convenient rather than storing the fruits in the back of a drawer in the refrigerator where they are out of sight and out of mind. Fruits assembled in a nice bowl are more attractive than fruits stored in a plastic bag or a drawer in the fridge. Making fruits easily accessible, appealing and part of your daily environment will gradually instill them into your daily routine and create healthy long-term dietary habits. Before you know it fruits will become a more popular choice in your household than cookies!

Apples and flowers

Here are some CAN inspired ideas to get you started:

  • Use canned and frozen fruits and veggies for more convenience. Like canned beans and frozen greens
  • If you still prefer fresh, opt for pre-packed pre-cut fruits and veggies for added convenience and accessibility like baby carrots, celery sticks and cucumber slices
  • Have single-servings of various proteins in:
    • the refrigerator (e.g. hard-boiled eggs, string cheese or bite-size cheese, or single-servings Greek yogurt); or
    • the pantry (e.g. packs of trail mix or raisins)
  • Buy a better brand of apples or yogurt that you will be more incentivized to eat (vs. let it perish in the fridge!)
  • Make appealing well-organized colorful veggie platters (tomato, celery, cucumber, carrots, cauliflower) and place them somewhere easy to grab like the coffee table in the sitting room (that could also be an interesting alternative to a flower arrangement for a change!)

It’s all about manipulating your environment to normalize and favor healthy choices at home or even in your office. As for the less-healthy food options, the CAN approach works in reverse: make them less convenient, less attractive and less normal. Although I think a swift shift to this lifestyle is best, you can take baby steps, for example move that Hershey Kisses bowl just 6 feet away from your desk and you will eat, on average, about 125 fewer calories every workday!

Oh and remember… Yes you C.A.N.

Happy International No Diet Day! 🍮

If you’ve just started that latest extreme diet fad, please stop and remember that today thousands of people are:

  • saying NO to diet and weight obsession
  • celebrating the diversity of body shapes and the acceptance of our natural shapes and sizes
  • asserting that a healthy lifestyle is about finding a sustainable way of eating healthy and that is unreachable without a wholesome balance between keeping healthy and enjoying what we like
  • highlighting that drastic and extreme dieting can be very dangerous and could lead to serious physical, emotional and psychological distressesRoquefort & Raspberry JamI’m celebrating this day with a favorite -Roquefort & raspberry jam- breakfast, miam miam! How are you celebrating?!

Today’s Harvest

If you want to take a break from Gaudí while in Barcelona but not completely escape the fantasy of his work, why don’t you go to the source of his inspiration… nature! and see what it has to offer: a good place to start is: La Boqueria… at first glance from the Las Ramblas street, La Boqueria seems like yet another produce market, but once I stepped into it, I felt like Alice in Wonderland falling into the rabbit hall and onto an imaginary world where all my culinary fantasies were on creative display, in rich colors and abundance! It’s like a museum of Catalonian culinary tastes had come to life and I was invited… My main challenge though: for the most part, no pictures were allowed (they seem to think they’re a museum too!) but I still managed to get you some!

orange - boqueria

red - boqueria

green 1 - Boqueria

green 2 - boqueria