Halal Rice Crispy Squares

Some of you are probably already wondering why rice crispy squares wouldn’t be halal in the first place. No? Perhaps by now most are aware that it’s all about the gelatin. The main ingredient in marshmallows is gelatin, which is produced from the chemical transformation of an animal product called collagen. Continue reading “Halal Rice Crispy Squares”

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30 Day Ramadan Photo Challenge!

 

During Ramadan, we like to prepare fancy feasts and desserts on a daily basis, ironically enough most of us like to think of Ramadan as the month of feasting rather than fasting! Since you’re all already going through the trouble of preparing wonderful cultural dishes each day we invite you to join us in our 30 Day Ramadan Photo Challenge!

Here’s how it works:

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Basic Dough Recipe {عجين}

This dough recipe is good for any Lebanese appetizer/pies that requires dough. Including but not limited to meat pies, spinach pies, cheese pies, za’atar pies and even pizza!

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DIY: Ice Globes | Outdoor Home Decor

This is the perfect winter activity for your kids and it takes no time at all! All you need is balloons, food coloring and water. Oh, and some kids perhaps, unless you want to do it for yourself, for fun. That’s cool too!

Continue reading “DIY: Ice Globes | Outdoor Home Decor”

12 easy ways to snack healthy!

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Being a student, or having a full time job (that includes stay at home moms!) can often mean a significant compromise in our eating habits, particularly our snacking habits…I know I become a sporadic grazer! If you’re anything like me, you love to snack while in lecture, while studying or reading a book, watching TV, replying to emails, or while doing just about anything else. Having healthy snacks in between your main meals does in fact help keep your metabolism consistent- which is a good thing for weight loss, but more importantly for weight maintenance. The problem is, snacking is a double edge sword. Snack right and you reap benefits, snack wrong on the other hand…and you definitely suffer the consequences, in inches- and inches don’t lie!

When you start munching on the wrong munchies, it’s time to pause and re-evaluate your diet!

I know it takes great brainpower to come up with different snacking idea’s each and every day. I also know how much effort it to prepare these snacks. Like I tell every one of my consults, no pain no gain! Snacking healthy does require commitment, and here are 12 easy ideas to get you started!

Tip: If you have children keep in mind that good food role-modeling is an important determinant of how a child’s eating habits and health will develop as they grow. Children love to snack, especially when they are going through growth spurts. Helping them develop healthy snacking habits from a young age by snacking healthy yourself is an important step to helping them build healthy lifelong eating habits.

1. Baby carrots and Dip
Calories: 35 calories/10 baby carrots, 70 calories/tbsp Ranch

Simple enough? I think so! Carrots are extremely low in calories and ranch is very reasonable calorie wise. If you want to cut more calories, buy the low fat ranch. Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, a precursor for vitamin A, which promotes healthy glowing skin, aids in cancer prevention, is an important contributor to good vision…and I could go on all day. Crunch away!

2. Apples/celery and peanut butter
Calories: 65 calories/apple, 5 calories/stick, 180 calories/2tbsp. Peanut Butter

One apple will contribute some vitamin C and dietary fiber to your diet. Celery on the other hand is way more impressive in my opinion; Did you know you expend more energy digesting celery than you gain eating it? This effectively makes celery negative calories. Don’t trip over yourself now as you run off to the grocery store to stalk up! (pun intended). Celery is also a source of Vitamin K, and as a bonus it is SUPER fun to fill up the middle cavity of celery sticks with peanut butter. Peanut butter is a different story when it comes to calories but it is jam packed with goodness. A whopping 12g of hearty unsaturated fats, 8 g of protein and a good amount of vitamin B6 and Magnesium. Now that’s what we nutritionists like to call nutrient-dense calories.

3. Crackers and cheese with grapes
Calories:
113 calories/1.5oz cheese, 60 calories/cup grapes

This is the kind of snack that most of us eat in our childhood. One serving of cheddar cheese (1.5 oz slice the size of your middle and index fingers together) equals around 113 calories of saturated fats, unsaturated fats and calcium. Crackers on the other hand can differ depending on type so make sure to check the box before you take a generous helping. Whole wheat/whole grain are definitely a more nutrient dense option and they can provide you with a few extra grams of fiber if you choose carefully! As for grapes they are about 60 calories/cup and oh so fun to eat. With numbers that low, make it 2 cups. Bring on the grapes.

4. Yogurt and all bran buds with strawberries
Calories:
150 calories/cup low fat yogurt, 80 calories/0.33 cup all bran buds, 25 calories/0.5 cup strawberries

The snack industry seems to be all about yogurt these days. Probiotics are definitely the benefit of snacking on yogurt, they provide healthy gut flora and promote regularity. Aside from that, yogurt will provide you with calcium, vitamin D, healthy fats and even protein (12 g/cup); for all the goodness it contains, these calories are well worth it. All-Bran buds, what some would call ‘bird food’, are actually an extremely high source of dietary fiber, the highest I’ve seen in a food BY FAR! 1/3 cup will provide you with half your required intake of fiber for the day. I bet you those numbers are going to make you reconsider? No? Just give it a try. Topping your yogurt and all bran buds with strawberries will add a splash of color, make for a pretty instagram worthy photo and of course add a little vitamin C and antioxidents to the mix.

5. Pretzels and Labne
Calories:
125 calories/20 pretzels, 60 calories/2tbsp. labne

Pretzels are one of those snacks that nobody seems to ever crave, but once you put a bowl out everyone enjoys them. They do tend to be a better snacking option since they are baked and not fried. Calories can differ depending on the brand so make sure to check the bag. Pretzels can contribute some B-vitamins, Iron and fiber to your diet, but overall their best feature is that they are generally fat-free. Labne is a delicious dipping option, it is high in calcium and vitamin D, so the calories can be guilt free.

6. Cucumbers, zaatar and labne
Calories:
8 calories/0.5 cup cucumbers, 60 calories/2tbsp. labne, 10 calories/tbsp. zaatar

Cucumbers are juicy, fresh and who doesn’t love them? Did I mention the calorie count is practically negligent and they are made up of 95% water? If you are like me and just aren’t a ‘water person’, try eating vegetables that will hydrate you instead! Again, dip your cucumbers into labne and for that extra zing, roll it into dry zaatar…trust me, you won’t regret packing this snack to school.

7. shredded carrots with lemon juice
Calories:
45 calories/1 cup shredded carrots, 3 calories/tbsp lemon juice

I think at this point I already discussed how absolutely wonderful carrots are for the soul…and health! Grate them (I use my food processor to do this), squeeze some lemon juice on top, and garnish them with a dash of cumin. Voila! Get this, 1 cup of shredded carrots is only 45 calories. Take that in. The lemon juice calories are not even worth counting, but the vitamin C is! Each tablespoon of lemon juice will also give you around 15% of your daily requirement for vitamin C.

8. Dried fruits and nuts eaten with plain yogurt on the side
Calories:
150 calories/cup low fat yogurt, 200 calories/0.33 cup whole almonds or whole walnuts

Dried fruits are an excellent source of fiber, depending on the type, they can provide a few grams for just a small handful. Nuts, are also a great addition to any diet, they are also high in fiber, high in unsaturated fats including omega 3’s, high in Vitamin E and depending on the kind they can be high in minerals such as calcium (Almonds) or Magnesium (Almonds and Walnuts). That said, there is some bad news when it comes to eating nuts, they are hefty in their calorie count so don’t go overboard here. A nice handful of two of mixed nuts and dried fruit should do for the day. Need I talk about the goodness of yogurt again?

9. Fresh salted Snow peas
Calories:
100 calories/cup

As simple as that. 1 cup of these gives you about 100 calories as well as some vitamin A, C, K, protein and B vitamins. Add a dash of salt and crunch on these for a healthy alternative.

10. Baba ghanouj and baked pita chips
Calories:
200 calories/0.5 cup baba ghanouj

I just love Baba Ghanouj! The best part is, the canned version is surprisingly good making this snack literally as easy as 1-2-3. Baba Ghanouj will give you jam packed goodness of Manganese, Folate, Vitamin K and B vitamins from the eggplant and of course vitamin E from any the sesame seed oil used. I make my own baked pita chips too to spare myself the excess sodium and fat found in store bought ones! Here is the 411- Simply brush some pita with a tiny bit of olive oil and put it in the counter top grill for a minute or two. While you’re waiting, open the can of Baba Ghanouj and pour it into a plate. Dip and eat, and thank me later.

11. Peppers and Hummus
Calories:
30 calories/cup peppers

The more I write, the more I can’t decide which snack is my favorite. Most people wouldn’t think to pair hummus with peppers, when it is in fact delicious, and nutritious! Plus, peppers are just beautiful to look at. As for hummus, see our post on 10 reasons to eat more chickpeas to learn about just how nutritious they are.

12. Cherry tomatoes and feta cheese
Calories:
30 calories/cup tomatoes, 100 calories/0.25 cup feta cheese, 10 calories/tbsp. zaatar

Last but most definitely not least, cherry tomaties, feta cheese, and a sprinkle of oregano or mint…or both! This is a flavorful combination, it is pretty to look at and yes, it is nutritious. Tomatoes contain cancer fighting compounds called Lycopene. Cheeses tend to be higher in calories, but to be fair, this snack needs only a small mount of feta cheese to provide the necessary flavor! Feta cheese will also add calcium and vitamin D to your diet.

Food & Nutrition 101: Micronutrients

As a follow-up to our post on micro-nutrients, it’s only fair if we also discuss micro-nutrients, they are just as important after all!

Although they don’t provide us with food energy (calories) micro-nutrients are nutrients that we need to facilitate all types of physiological functions within our bodies. They help with all the biochemical reactions that take place within us, effortlessly. Functions such as muscle movement, heart beats, breathing, digestion, vision, nerve impulses and the list goes on, it’s endless really! Not only do micro-nutrients ensure healthy body function, but they also play a large part in beauty. Yes, yes, it’s true. Want strong healthy nails? shiny hair? radiant skin? sparkly eyes? Having a healthy intake of all of the micro-nutrients will help you achieve optimal health and radiance in no time. After all, our bodies are walking, talking, breathing miracles.

So, first things first. Lets break down the micro-nutrients into manageable categories.  There are two types of micro-nutrients and they are:

1. Vitamins- 13 main types discovered to date

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
  • Vitamin B5
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
  • Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
  • Vitamin B12 (Cobalmins)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

2.  Minerals
-Major Minerals

  • Phosphorous
  • Potassium
  • Sulfur
  • Sodium
  • Chlorine
  • Magnesium

-Trace Minerals

  • Iron
  • Cobalt
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Molybdenum
  • Iodine
  • Selenium

It is important to include adequate amounts of all of these vitamins and minerals in your diet to maintain good health. Micro-nutrient deficiencies often lead to many diseases, fortunately for us most are not common in developed countries. Since there are so many micro-nutrients I will be making a separate post for each category so we can go more in depth about basic functions and food sources of each of these essential life supporting nutrients. Hopefully this will help you all avoid information overload. Stay tuned!

For dietary reference intakes (DRI) of vitamins and minerals please visit:
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/alt_formats/hpfb-dgpsa/pdf/nutrition/dri_tables-eng.pdf

How to: make and use Henna hair dye

Henna is one of our many family secrets! Growing up our grandma used to always henna dye her hair rather than opting for chemical dyes, and this left her with fiery red-orange hair! Today, we still carry on her tradition, because natural is the way to go. Why add unnecessary chemicals when you don’t have to? If you’ve never died your hair using Henna, give it a shot just this once and perhaps you’ll change your mind!

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Stuffed Zucchini – Kousa Mihshi {كوسة محشي}

Kousa Mihshi is stuffed zucchini, and is a regular among Lebanese cuisine. Although it looks complicated, making this nutritious meal is actually very simple! We’re sure you’ll master this dish in no time. Zuchini is low in calories, a good source of fiber which helps lower cholesterol, a source of vitamin A and C and a high source of manganese. Zuchini is also known to contain phytonutrients and antioxidents that have been shown to help in the prevention of certain types of cancers and in maintaining prostate health!

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Kashta {قشطة}

Kashta is a basic filling for desserts that come from the Arabic world. If you do live in the Middle East you could buy this cream ready made from a local grocer, or even canned! The canned version is a thinner, and doesn’t at all resemble the good stuff. Home made is always the best way, and this recipe can be made super fast and stores well in the fridge.
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