Baby’s 1st Party!

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pink baby decor

details baby party

moghleh

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table 2

food

look

russian doll

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).

Deliciously Spoiled

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…

Ghada's Food

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

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
  • Sugar
  • 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.

Ready & Munchin’

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!

Upper left: dried grapes (malban) with raw walnuts  Lower left: fresh-from-the-field green almonds Right: Pickled mini eggplant  stuffed with peanut & spices

Upper left: dried grapes (malban) with raw walnuts
Lower left: fresh-from-the-field green almonds
Right: Pickled mini eggplants stuffed with peanut & spices

Last Days of Winter

The last stretch of winter is the toughest. You’re sick and tired of the gloomy weather, beaten by the cold and worn-out by the toll of heavy coats and layers on your shoulders. When these blues hit me, I take shelter in my kitchen where I always end up finding my remedy: Hello food innovation! Here are a couple of cold-weather-worthy recipes to try shortly before kissing wintertime goodbye!

Cabbage Cigars

photo 1-19I find that cabbage is usually not given its turn in most people’s diet from both gastronomical and nutritional perspectives. When raw, it’s commonly associated with abdominal conditions (such as bloating and flatulence) and is often kept away from cooking pots, as many find the smell of dissipating sulfur compounds in cooked cabbage unpleasant. Work around its minimal drawbacks and you’ll discern a smooth texture, a sumptuous flavor and a distinguished comfort in this winter veggie, a really great fix for cold days! You’ll also benefit from a great dose of vitamins such as vitamin K, vitamin C and folic acid in as little as 20 calories in a serving (75g).

Here is my favorite approach to savor cabbage:

*For a better digestion: parboil before cooking

*To mask its sulfuric smell: add some lemon juice and/or herbs (such as fresh or dried mint) to the cooking water

Cabbage Cigars is a melting-in-mouth dish! Cabbage leaves are stuffed in minced beef, rice and spices and seasoned with sautéed onion, garlic, mint and lemon juice. Here’s my recipe:

(Makes 6 servings)

1 whole cabbage

Filling:

  • 1 cup of sushi or Egyptian rice
  • ½ lbs. of ground beef
  • 1 tsp. of each: black pepper, allspice, ground cinnamon and salt

Seasoning:

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 head of garlic peeled (half of the cloves mashed and the other half left to distribute between rolls)
  • 3 Tsp. of crushed (dried or fresh) mint
  • 1 cup of lemon juice
  • 1-2 cup of water (or just enough to cover the cabbage in pot)
  • 2 Tsp. of vegetable oil

Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling water until they are tender. Cut the leaves in half if necessary and take the thick stems out (save them to line pot). Mix the meat with rice and spices and put aside. Stir-fry onion, garlic and mint in vegetable oil in the bottom of the pot then line the pot with the cabbage stems. Stuff the leaves by placing a tablespoon of the filling mixture in the middle and rolling it like a cigar. Place each stuffed leaf in the pot, one tight layer at a time. Add some garlic cloves here and there. Place a small plate on the cabbage rolls to hold them in place and to avoid the stuffing from coming out. Pour the lemon juice over the rolls and add water to cover the cabbage. Cook for about 1 hour over low heat or until the leaves are very tender and the stuffing is well cooked. Serve warm with plain Greek yogurt or with a minty cucumber yogurt accompaniment. Yum, trop chou!

Spinach Stew 

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Spinach is a treasure food for a light and healthy cuisine. Rich in water, super light in calories and unlike other veggies, its nutritional profile is enhanced once it’s cooked. Known for being packed in iron, thanks to Popeye, spinach also provides an exceptional amount of other vitamins and minerals (vitamin A, vitamin B9, vitamin K, magnesium and manganese). Furthermore, some antioxidants in spinach are particularly beneficial for the eyes.

Spinach stew is a zesty wholesome dish, a great consolation on cooler days. Moreover, lemon complements spinach perfectly as it enhances beautifully its flavor and improves iron absorption. Here’s my recipe:

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 kg of  frozen chopped spinach
  • ½ lbs. minced beef
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup Lemon juice
  • 1 bouquet of fresh cilantro
  • ½ tsp. of: black pepper, allspice, 7 spice mixture (optional)
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 2 Tsp. of vegetable oil
  • 1-2 cups of water

Blend the garlic and cilantro into a paste and stir-fry it in vegetable oil on the side. Stir-fry the onion in main pot with the rest of the vegetable oil. Add the meat and cook it while breaking it into very small pieces. Add the spices and salt. Cover the meat with the spinach and add water. Let it cook for 15-20 minutes. Add the lemon juice, cilantro-garlic paste, and stir all the ingredients together. Cover the pot again and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve warm with whole grain rice.

Produce from Paradise

Stopped by a farmers’ market in the small town of Hanalei (Kaua’i island) yesterday and indulged in some exotic organic local produce. The fruits here tasted phenomenal! The main event was my açaí breakfast cup, a blend of nutrients straight from heaven! Açaí is a berry rich in antioxidants and fiber which makes it a heart-healthy and anti-cancer superfood.

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Bean Medley

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Trying to get off the holidays’ rush, lack of structure and overindulgence wave and finding it a bit overwhelming to get back to your normal routine? Well, me too!

I usually like to take it easy the couple of days after the holidays, so I make sure to have a smooth transition into my usual routine to avoid post-holidays blues. At the same time however, I try not to stall too much in getting my family back onto its normal schedule.

My first fix is a healthy, cleansing and simple meal. By simple I mean no trip to the grocery store and only minimal preparation. So I dig into my pantry and I make the best out of it. Here’s a recipe that helps put me back in a supreme state of mind, ready to hit all my to dos for the rest of the week!

 “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Roosevelt

Bean Medley (or Makhlouta) is a soup gathering the essential groups of food, making it a complete meal with nutrient-rich ingredients, mainly a fiber mine! It’s simply a mixture of 4 or 5 types of beans (white beans, kidney beans, lentils, chick peas and black eyed peas), grains (bulgur or wheat and rice), onion, a bit of olive oil or canola oil and spices. You can make your own mixture, depending on what you find in your pantry.

Here’s my recipe for 6 servings

  • ½ cup large white beans
  • ½ cup black eyed peas
  • ½ cup lentils
  • ½ cup chickpeas
  • ½ cup bulgur
  • ½ cup rice
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. If you’re using dried beans, soak them separately in water overnight (except lentils)
  2. In a pot, heat the canola oil, add the onion and stir fry until browned
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the lemon juice) and let them cook on medium heat for 30-45 minutes or until the beans are tender
  4. Add the lemon juice and let it cook on low heat for 5 minutes
  5. Serve hot (This soup is thick as the grains absorb most of the added water)

Mama’s Remedy

Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup

It’s flu season and the season for the debate about the effectiveness and safety of the annually changing flu vaccination, prescribed antiviral drugs and over-the-counter pain relievers. Unless you’re at a high risk of developing a flu complication (young children, pregnant women, older adults and people with chronic illness and weakened immune system), hominess is the best and safest way to let your flu fly away without subjecting yourself to any potential side effects.

So take your flu as an excuse to get cozy and snuggle in your blanket for a day or so in the cold weather and try to recharge body and mind generally! While fluid drinking is important to keep you well hydrated, there’s nothing that could replace mama’s go-to sick-day-food: the one and only magic chicken soup! It might not kill your virus right away but it surely comes with the best remedies that help your body fight the virus away: nourishment and love!

My mama’s chicken soup recipe

Ingredients (for 6 portions):

  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 4 medium carrots cut in thin rounds
  • ½ cup of sushi or Egyptian rice
  • Spices for flavoring the chicken: 2-4 bay leaves, 1-2 cinnamon stick, ginger root, whole peppercorns, whole cloves and whole cardamoms
  • Water
  • Salt (optional)

Preparation Steps:

  1. Place chicken in saucepan. Add water to cover chicken.
  2. Bring to boil on medium-high heat or cook for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is no longer pink.
  3. Remove chicken form saucepan and wash it with cold water. Disregard boiling water.
  4. Add chicken, spices and cold water in saucepan and bring to boil again or cook for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Drain broth and keep it to be used as the soup fluid.
  6. Disregard spices and shred chicken into small pieces.
  7. Add broth and carrot to saucepan and bring to boil. Add shredded chicken and rice and let it cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes.

Enjoy the warmth and the soothing flavors of this hearty soup…and get well soon!

Chéri Chicory

Chicory

Chicory

Lately, chicory is on my mind as I crave a good vegetarian winter dish!

I don’t find chicory very often in stores here, but when I do I take great advantage: I eat it raw as a snack! Now you’re probably imagining a farm pet munching on a grassy meadow, that’s not exactly the case, although I don’t hate the bitterness of its raw leaves, I only snack on the un-leafy stem part of chicory, which is less bitter, crunchy and has a rich taste that makes celery so dull in comparison (you’re probably still imagining a munching pet; my husband often tells me that I should have been born as a bunny, I take that).

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Chicory – Leaves and stems separated
While leaves can be used for cooking or in salads, stems are a great, crunchy and refreshing snack.

I also prepare chicory as a salad with a light, homemade vinaigrette (olive oil, lemon juice and herbs). However, the ultimate way to really savor the best of chicory is to cook it for a short time in boiling water then sauté it with caramelized onions and lemon juice… so yummy with pita bread!

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A popular countryside vegetarian meal in the Middle East
An assortment of sautéed chicory or dandelion with pita bread, cabbage-and-tomato salad, lentil-and-rice pilaf and greek yogurt

Chicory is a preferred ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. Wild and cultivated varieties are both popular. They are mainly used in salads nevertheless they can be a perfect replacement to any leafy vegetable in many cooked dishes. From Provence to the Middle East recipes abound and vary but chicory’s draw is the same: an appetizing taste, a medicinal character (detoxing, diuretic and tonic) and a great nutritional content. Chicory is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals mainly folic acid, vitamin A, potassium and vitamin C.