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!    
    
    
     

   
 

🍋 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!

🍊rangey Amalgam

D&G window

I was walking by the D&G store and spotted this fruit trolley featuring a certain orangey fruit and I wasn’t quite able to pin down what to call it! Being a nutritionist, I was alarmed and on a mission to solve my dilemma!

I remembered that I’ve always called any tiny-looking orange, labeled “cutie” in the US and “easy-peeler” in Britain, Clementine. Although I knew some of these “tinies” could also be Mandarin or Tangerine, I was never quite confident which is what! After a couple of investigation trips to my local supermarkets, here is what I gathered and hopefully this will help you tie-up your orangey jargon!

Mandarin, Tangerine and Clementine can all look pretty much similar but each still got some interesting characteristics

Mandarin, Tangerine and Clementine can look pretty similar but each has a unique history & distinctive characteristics

Ultimately though, don’t let those distinctions drive you mad as nutritionally speaking they’re all a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants and rich in soluble fiber, a great cholesterol fighter. After all, despite their unique characteristics, each batch of a given type will taste slightly different as well! So just make sure you get fresh ones and you’re set.

Fruit art in my kitchen

Afternoon Kastana 🔥🌰🌰🌰🌰🔥

kastana

Whether directly from a chimney, a street vendor or even the oven, roasted kastana (arabic & greek for chestnuts) are guaranteed to transport you to cosy land, bringing back fond memories of prior times you gathered around a chimney with family and friends and most importantly they will warm you up!

As I’ve already discussed in a previous post about nuts, chestnuts are also a great source of fiber which lowers cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease. Kastana is a great option for an afternoon snack on a cold day and complements an afternoon tea very nicely.

While people often go for the marron glacé version during the holiday season, i’m not a fan from a nutrition perspective as they’re pumped with sugar (but I won’t deny that the marron glacé deserts can be quite delicious, so perhaps limit those unhealthy versions to very special occasions (e.g. over the holidays in a bûche de Noël / Yule log)). If you’re really looking to try a healthy variation from the classic roasted version, remember that chestnuts can be eaten raw – they will have a different texture (crunchier / harder) and the taste will be a bit stronger, but I find they make a great addition to a drink (warm or cold).

Of course, for the ultimate experience, you have to pop on this tune while you enjoy your kastana!

Go Nuts!

Nuts often get a bad rap for being high in calories but a handful of nuts is a fantastic crunchy and nutritious daily addition to your diet. Not only are they flavorful and filling but in fact, they make an excellent source of vegan protein and are high in fiber and other power nutrients such as phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and Omega-3. It’s currently harvest season for walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts and pecan and they are at their peak in taste and nutritious value, so squirrel some away and enrich your meals and snacks!

Here’s what I found in my local market in Chelsea today:

Go Nuts!

Walnuts’ power: Omega-3 fats  lower LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides and blood pressure

Hazelnuts’ power: Vitamin E  antioxidant properties associated with a stronger immunity and healthier skin and eyes

Chestnuts’ power: Fiber  lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease

Pecans’ power: Antioxidants  help protect our cells from damages such as cancer

The best way to enjoy nuts is to munch on them raw or to dry-roast them lightly in a pan for 3 to 5 minutes (no burning as it takes away from their nutrition value). Stay away from salted and flavored varieties!

Nuts are also a delightful add-on in so many recipes but here are some basic add-on tips:

  • Scrumptiously enjoy them in your breakfast by sprinkling some in your bowl of milk & cereal or cup of granola & yogurt
  • Make your salads more filling by adding a handful of nuts
  • Complement your steamed rice with some roasted or stir-fried nuts

So many ways to go nuts!

SPF💯

I’m skipping the sun ☀️ tanning 👙today and having fresh carrot juice to boost that beach skin glow ✨ Carrots are rich in beta carotene a yellow/orange pigment that gives warmth to skin color. Think cancer free + healthy and head to the juice bar!

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Halloween Mal-“BOO”-ffe

halloween

Thumbs up Whole Foods for this healthy halloween campaign!

halloween

Love it! ambitious + impactful

Halloween arrives this year as my daughter completes her transition from a toddler to a preschooler and therefore, unlike last year, I will have less control over her choices, and this time around her trick and treat experiences are much more likely to impact her eating habits… I will therefore want to make sure that this highly marketed and colorful occasion doesn’t turn into a celebration of unhealthy eating which risks creating a fascination with unhealthy sugary treats. Furthermore, as I’ve noticed at my NYC building last year with children racing to my door, Halloween literally becomes a competition of who hoards the most treats and therefore kids end up amassing loads of candy, which can last them for weeks or months! So, while I cannot control the neighborhood, I have plans to make the Halloween experience as wholesome as possible for my daughter and her friends by coordinating with a couple of moms and her school to create a fun event focusing on the pretend-play and the costume side of the event as well as line-up healthy replacements in Halloweeny disguise (i.e. themed packaging or presentation) to give them a chance to compete with the shiny packaging of the typical sugary and highly processed treats.

Below is my list of suggested replacements:

halloween

My clementines celebrating Halloween!

Cereal and granola bars

Trail mix, unsalted plain roasted peanuts or pumpkin seeds (careful with allergic trick-or-treaters)

Cheese strings or individually wrapped mini cheese shapes

Unsalted plain popcorn

Mini boxes of raisins

Unsalted plain pretzels

Unsalted crackers

Single serve boxes of ready-to-eat cereal

Individual juice boxes (100% juice)

Apple or pear sauce

Dark chocolate bites

Fruit strips

healthy treats

Healthier Goodies

london halloween

Handmade BOO!

Finally, what’s also important is that when the kids return home with their big bag of goodies (hopefully with more healthy than unhealthy stuff this year!) you should try to explain that while the treat wraps are colorful, those treats are not gift-wrapped toys! and they are not to be all opened and consumed in short order but rather they should be left in a “treasure box” and consumed as snacks and in moderation.

Slow Down! You’re Eating!

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.

photo 1-22

photo 2-19

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:

Eat Slow

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.

🇬🇧 London🌱 Greeneries🌱

When Mother Nature (or the City of London) gives you greenery absorb it with all your senses!

It’s lunchtime and you’re out and about on your urban routine with no time to stop and munch on a salad? Drink it!

Try to make some time, even if only 5-10 minutes each day, for a green spot pit stop where you can just look around and admire the beauty of nature’s simplicity in its rich details…

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