🍋 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.

🍊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

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!

In-Season Basket

Inspired by my daughter’s drama on how cold it is these days…

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…I just dropped in my basket all the key ingredients for a magical soup for tonight to ease our transition into Winter…

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For a truly in-season basket, inside-out, you can pick up Chanel’s latest basket before heading to the grocery store! 😜

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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.

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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.