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.
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)
- Preheat oven to 350° F (175°C). Grease a 10-cup Bundt pan.
- In a bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- Mix eggs and oil and add to the dry mix. Add blended zucchini and stir.
- Pour the evenly mix into the prepared pan. Bake 60 minutes in the preheated oven.
- 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!
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!
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
- Place oil, onion, garlic and coriander in a cooking pot and stir-fry
- Add lentils and water, bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes
- Add pasta and cook for 10 minutes
- Add pomegranate molasses and lemon juice and cook for 5 minutes
Sour never tasted so good!
In the past few days London has been blooming with the most exquisite of Springs and unseasonably great weather has made it possible for me to take it all in and get inspired… so much so, that I opted to organize my second daughter’s 1st birthday as a picnic birthday in Hyde Park. Everything went to plan… except → see the left chair in the penultimate picture…
🌀 So today ultimately felt like a battle between my relentless desire to get the sunny season really started and the weather reminding me that it’s still April in London and that there are no weather guarantees around here! (a.k.a chill (literally) ! we’re not in the Mediterranean!)… I’ll call it a tie! 😉
In the past few months, my life has been witnessing drastic changes, mainly as a consequence of welcoming a new baby and moving to the other side of the Atlantic. While, in the balance, the changes have been very gratifying, they tagged along numerous expected and un-expected novel responsibilities that I had to squeeze into my previously busy (yet paced) routine. To say the least, it hasn’t been easy to see my organic life dissipate, as I feel I’ve been entered into an impossible turbo race with time, which has become ever more fleeting and, with the load of my responsibilities, impossible to catch up to. Despite my best efforts, things are still chaotic to my taste and so in order to keep sane I am convincing myself that a meticulously structured and slower paced routine will eventually settle in after this transition period during which I am rarely in a “be” mode, and constantly in a “do” mode.
Juggling a new baby and a toddler, adjusting to a new city, house hunting and so many other challenges left too little time for me for basic necessities like having a proper meal. So I end up either eating on the go or gobbling food like a turkey! Something that has been upsetting not only my stomach but my whole wellness and lately made me reflect again on the risks of rushing meals and eating quickly; an eating behavior I was now sharing with many many other people who slide into this habit because of the demands of their work and family, which in an ever more competitive and interconnected world can be relentless and unrealistic.
However, it’s important that people (myself included), remember that this compromise of finding the additional time one needs by taking time away from food, isn’t without its risks and should be closely re-assessed:
- Satiety, or feeling of satisfaction, is controlled by signals between the brain and the digestive track. It’s a process that takes at least 20 minutes to take place. When we eat fast we don’t give time for this process to suppress hunger levels and we end up eating more.
- Furthermore, eating fast often means lazy chewing and swallowing food in big chunks, which can cause poor digestion. Beside discomfort and other digestive conditions like reflux and indigestion, a poor digestion can also lead to further weight gain.
- Finally, by speed eating we put such little time to savoring food that we get little enjoyment from our meal, which may lead us to add on during our day an unhealthy desert or snack to make-up for this.
In my family my sister was always the last one to finish her meal, and it drove the rest of the family crazy. Quite the opposite, I was the champion of speed eating, as I was always the first to finish. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that her slow eating was to credit for her being able to eat smaller portions and the secret to her flawless tummy. So some of us may be born slow eaters or figure out its benefits early on and don’t deviate from it easily, but for those of us who aren’t, or who are pushed more easily into speeding up our eating habit, here are some tips to start practicing Slow Eating:
This month, many people are fasting in observance of Ramadan and they too should be careful with the risks of fast eating at the time of breaking their fast for the same reasons discussed above, so to them I would say: Ramadan Karim, Fast & Don’t Eat Fast Later! The key is to break your fast gradually and slowly to gauge how hungry you really are, rather than just starting to eat an industrial amount just because you now know you can and think you should because you haven’t eaten all day.
I’ve always had a weakness for russian dolls… they are a fun symbol of maternity and I thought they would make the perfect party favor to embody the close bond I share with my two daughters whose initials are featured on the medium and small dolls. On the large doll I chose to feature a bouquet as my daughters’ names are floral. Those Matryoshkas are also pretty cosmopolitan themselves as they were designed in the US (per my guidance), the wooden dolls were made in Russia (by Golden Cockerel), while the packaging (the printed boxes and stickers) were made in Lebanon (by DELF / Dar El Founoun).
My mom’s idea of supporting me through the pre and post labor phases has meant for the most part cooking and cooking some more… of course she went way overboard and I’m enjoying every bite of it, each bringing back unique childhood memories and a lot of comfort as it reminds me that I have the support I need to go forward…
I particularly want to focus on Meghleh, a traditional Middle Eastern pudding served as a treat to family and friends after the birth of a new baby.
Meghleh has been flowing in my house for the past couple of weeks and I have consumed industrial amounts of it! Not only is it smooth, delicious, festive and addictive but more importantly for breastfeeding mommies, it can give you a much needed and quick energy boost to cover those extra calories you’ll still need to insure your milk supply while benefiting from its healthy ingredients:
- Spices: caraway and cinnamon (Grandmas swear that those spices help stimulate the breast milk production)
- Rice flour
- Toppings: shredded coconut, raw walnuts, pine nuts, almonds and pistachios, each boosting your diet with filling protein, fiber, healthy unsaturated fats and important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
You know labor is near when you’ve downloaded your contractions app to keep track of their length, intensity and frequency and your mom moves in and brings with her delicious delicacies to make the wait bearable!