|November 4, 2013||Posted by Nada under Recipes|
Good morning folks! It’s time for a new series on the blog *drum roll please*…
Meal Prep Monday! (at this point the imaginary crowd in my head oooh‘s and aaaah’s)
So I’m kind of cheating – I don’t actually do my meal prep on Mondays – but Meal Prep Saturday just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
I’m sure you’ll forgive me once you see how delightfully easy it is to make this recipe.
The idea behind this new series of posts is simple – quick, delicious and nutritious dishes that you can cook in bulk when you’re short on time.
Time is a luxury that I frankly, don’t have very much of anymore. Turns out being grown-up is pretty time consuming (despite the fact that I am unmarried and childless – much to my mother’s not-so-secret dismay). So upon realizing this I figured I have two options:
- I can mope about how I have no time anymore to do all of the things I used to love (ie. cooking, working out/running, yoga, reading, journalling) and spend any free moment feeling too absolutely sorry for myself
- I can acknowledge man up, organise my time and do something about it.
After many months of doing the former and a rejuvenating getaway trip – I chose the latter.
As part of my newfound bout of productivity I have started to do all of my cooking and meal prep on weekends. I make big batches of easy, healthy dishes along with some staples like grains, dry beans, steamed veggies and a couple of big leafy green salads to essentially live off during the week.
I also bought this awesome lunchbag which carries all my meals for the day. So convenient I can’t even begin to explain.
Enough mindless chatter – let’s get down to business with this week’s recipe.
Red Lentil, Split Pea and Butternut Squash Dal
- 1 cup of red lentils
- 1 cup of split peas (pre-soaked for two hours or overnight – not necessary but will significantly reduce cooking time)
- 1 large red onion, roughly chopped
- 1 medium tomato, roughly diced
- 2 large cloves of garlic, pressed or chopped
- 1 heaped cup of butternut squash, cubed
- 2 cups of organic vegetable stock (Kallo brand is my favourite)
- 2 cups of water
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped
- 2 tsps organic coconut oil OR vegetable stock
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Sweat onion and garlic in coconut oil (or a splash of veg stock for a low fat option, personally I love the flavour and richness coconut oil adds here) for a few minutes on medium heat until translucent, then add the tomatoes. Add the cumin and coriander and stir well – careful not to burn the spices.
- Add the lentils, split peas, squash, vegetable stock, water and spices. Bring to a boil then cover and let simmer on low heat for about 35 minutes, making sure to stir occasionally to avoid sticking (the lentils will form a creamy puree quite quickly which can burn if left unattended).
- When the split peas have cooked through and the whole mixture resembles a chunky soup – it’s done. Add fresh coriander on top and stir through. Serve with some brown rice or quinoa and savour!
The inspiration behind this Dal is down to one of our old interns in the office who was (as many others are) fascinated with my veganism. One day she brought in the most delicious lentil soup made by her grandmother which she offered me a taste of – and I have been craving it ever since.
The addition of split peas adds a wonderful texture, and of course a higher nutritional profile.
Not to mention a beautiful golden hue.
Fragrant, delicious and most importantly heartily filling even all on it’s own. The perfect companion to any lunchbox, if you ask me and several of my co-workers who exclaimed “What are you eating? It smells so good!”
What are your go-to work/school meals?
I’d love to see them! Share them with me via social media with the hashtag #OAVmealprepmonday.
Do you do a big prep or cook during the week?
|October 30, 2013||Posted by Nada under Travel|
Hello dear readers! As promised I’ve returned with part II of my trip recap. Hope you enjoy and feel free to leave your comments and/or questions at the end, I love hearing from you.
On my way to Nepal I had wondered what the food would be like – I knew I wouldn’t have any problem finding vegan grub or even communicating my dietary needs thanks to my copy of Vegan Passport (highly recommend this book to any vegan travellers!) so I was mostly excited to experience the flavours, textures and colours of Nepali cuisine. On my first night there, I arrived far too late to venture into the tourist district of Thamel for a bite to eat, so I settled for some room service, which funnily enough turned out to be one of the tastiest meals I had the entire trip! Dal and wholewheat plain roti. Terrible photograph, but it was delicious I promise. Excellently spiced and seasoned and heartily filling. The perfect light dinner before I was knocked out with exhaustion. What I was really looking forward to however, was the all vegetarian fare I had read about at Sadhana. Having already been reassured via e-mail that my vegan dietary needs would be met to – I couldn’t wait to have my tastebuds dazzled by fresh, wholesome, plant-based South Asian cuisine for 10 days. And they were. Above is a picture of a typical lunch: Sauteed green beans with fennel seeds, nepali squash in a spiced tomato sauce, brown rice, dal baht (read: broth-y lentil soup), curried potatoes, and what I gathered was a mix of sauteed marrow and other local greens. Super simple, but It was my favourite little dishes the whole time there – I almost always had seconds of it. Prior to mealtimes, we all recited the Bhojan Mantra – a prayer intended to cleanse the food of all impurities. As Bipin, our program leader always said, “If we have pure food, we can have a pure mind.” Breakfasts were by far the most awaited mealtimes at Sadhana – after a long morning of meditation, Neti cleansing, Yoga, and hiking – we were positively ravenous. This was by far my favourite breakfast – masala spiced semolina porridge, made with dried fruits and nuts, topped with banana slices, freshly shaved coconut and a cherry. Although mine was dairy-free it tasted divine – almost decadently creamy enough to be a dessert!
Another favourite was pureed bananas (in lieu of buffalo yogurt), topped with chopped apples, dried fruits, nuts and coconut – seasoned with a pinch of cinnamon. It may sound like baby food – but I gladly lapped up this all-raw breakfast. Another new-t0-me culinary delight, was momo’s. Momo’s are traditional Nepalese dumplings – often stuffed with pork or chicken and fried as street food. Not these momo’s. Durga, one of the co-founders and resident momo connosieur at Sadhana, showed us how to make the all vegan stuffing consisting of green beans, onions, cabbage, carrots, textured vegetable protein (they called it Tofu, but it definitely wasn’t), and a truly hefty dose of seasoning. She demonstrated a few ways of stuffing and closing the dumplings, which looked like beautiful little mini baguettes. And then we got to work.
I have no proper photos of the end result, but they were out of this world. Steamed and doused with a chutney sauce, served alongside some hearty potato and bean based soup. Enjoyed at a candle lit dinner outside on the balcony. One of the best nights at Sadhana for sure. Now, although Part of the 10-day program at Sadhana Yoga Centre includes a 3 day fast followed by a gastro-intestinal flush – most of us chose to ignore that bridge until we had to cross it. But come day 7 we were faced with a brutal reality.
Okay, maybe I’m being a little bit dramatic. The whole idea of the gastro-intestinal cleansing is to purify your entire digestive system and get rid of accumulated toxins. The fast program looks like this:
|1st Day of fasting||:||6 Apples (2 for Breakfast, 2 for Lunch, 2 for Dinner), 3 cups of Honey & Lemon water with each meal and unlimited amount of water & herbal teas.|
|2nd Day of fasting||:||3 Apples (1 for Breakfast, 1 for Lunch, 1 for Dinner), 3 cups of Honey & Lemon water with each meal and unlimited amount of water & herbal teas.|
|3rd Day of fasting||:||3 cups of Lemon and Honey water (1 for Breakfast, 1 for Lunch, 1 for Dinner) and unlimited amount water & herbal teas.|
|4th Day||:||Gastro-intestinal flushing then broth, lentil soup, and khichadi for dinner. (yogic food, baby food).|
Since I don’t have honey, I was often given extra apples, and during the last day I pre-requested some pressed apple juice (since we were also to be completely silent on the final day of fasting). Overall the fast was quite challenging, even for a seasoned Ramadan faster like myself. On the last day I found myself getting a little bit light headed during the yoga sessions, but a little sea salt and warm water did the trick.
Then came the long awaited cleansing day.
We gathered around in the courtyard after morning meditation and Durga explained to us the process.
The first step is to drink 2 glasses of warm salty water as quickly as possible. Then,we were asked to perform 6 simple asanas, 8 times each, as well as 3 additional movements. The aim of all the movements is to massage the stomach, and help the water to run down the various channels and to activate bowel movement.
And so we did. It was pretty nerve wracking at first – downing all that salt water and jumping around like an idiot, unsure if it was going to work or not, but I did as I was told and kept going through the exercises, and drinking more water.
I think I drank about 12 cups of salt water before it started to work, but many others were done a lot earlier – I think my anxiety was definitely a bit of a mental block to the process. All in all, the flushing was a pleasant experience, but quite exhausting. We spent the rest of the day resting and lounging about, eagerly awaiting our Kitchadi – lentils, mungbeans, rice and ghee cooked down to a creamy baby-food consistency. I of course had mine sans clarified butter, but the whole idea is to have food that’s easily digested and that will lubricate the intestines so to speak.
The whole experience at Sadhana was nothing short of magical.
I left feeling re-energised, relaxed and completely at peace. I had worked through a lot of the issues that had been leaving me feeling drained, and generally unsatisfied with life as of late, and felt confident about stepping back into the real world with somewhat of a “plan”.
I met a lot of wonderful, beautiful people – whom I’ll miss terribly, but I’m happy regardless to have shared with them and have been a part of all of their respective journeys.
Until next time, friends!
|October 16, 2013||Posted by Nada under Travel, Uncategorized|
Imagine waking up in a place so breathtakingly picturesque, that you felt as though you were engulfed in a postcard.
A place where the sounds of trees rustling, birds and crickets chirping and the gentle breeze form a soothing soundtrack of sorts.
A place where the air is crisp, spiked by the almost intoxicating aroma of incense and spices wafting upwards.
You might find yourself, at the Sadhana Yoga Centre, in Pokhara, Nepal.
At least, that’s where I stayed for 10 beautiful days last month. The experience was unlike anything I’ve ever encountered before. It was – in a word – rejuvenating.
Funnily enough, I didn’t get around to planning this trip till about a couple of days before I left. I had originally planned a two week long stint in India (a place that has been on my travel hit list for as long as I can remember) however was forced to reschedule it to later this year. So there I was, with two whole weeks off of work, with absolutely nothing planned. I freaked out for about 5 minutes, then I stopped feeling sorry for myself, got online and started researching potential last minute destinations one of which was Nepal, at the recommendation of my father who had been to Kathmandu a few months prior.
In the process I stumbled across Sadhana Yoga Centre – a yoga and detox retreat located in the heart of the mountains in Pokhara, Nepal’s second biggest city, favoured by trekkers and backpackers due to its close proximity to the Annapurna mountain range. It took about 10 minutes on their website and Facebook page for me to be absolutely sold – their 10-day yoga holiday package sounded exactly what I needed, and as luck would have it, the scheduled dates worked perfectly with my leave.
So I did it. I packed a bag (should’ve been a backpack, in retrospect – a word to the wise), booked a flight and hopped on a plane a mere two days later, not knowing what to expect or what I was getting myself into. After two flights and a considerable 6 hour delay in India due to weather conditions, I arrived in Kathmandu. I got some sustenance and sleep at a nearby hotel and headed to Pokhara early the next morning.
The domestic plane was definitely the smallest I have ever been in. It was positively tiny seating only 16 people and was so narrow, passengers and attendants had to duck down to make it through the aisles. The take-off was less than smooth, and I managed to distract myself from the fact that I could hear the engine whirring right behind my head by ogling the view of the himalayas peeking up beyond the clouds.
A car ride through the town of Lakeside and a strenuous mountain climb later (on account of my unnecessarily heavy luggage), I arrived at the center. It took me a while to take in the view – I stood on the rooftop balcony and just marveled at the little stretch of heaven that lay before me; it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
On the first night we had an orientation session with the founders of the centre, Yogi Asanga and his lovely wife Durga. He explained in detail what we would be doing for the next 10 days; an intensive Hatha yoga course, daily meditation sessions, other activities as well as our 3 day fast and gastrointestinal flush which came towards the end of the ten days – but more on that later.
Our days at the centre generally looked like this:
For some the early start was a hard to stomach at first, but I relished it – and found myself looking forward to the daily wake up call administered via loud brass bells, ashram-style.
Having never tried meditation at all before, I was a little intimidated and disoriented going in. At first I felt restless, my joints rang with pain, and I thought that my efforts to clear my head would forever be futile. After the first few days I slowly began to get the hang of it, and even looked forward to the afternoon meditation session which was by far one of my favourite activities of the whole trip. It’s an incredible sensation that I can’t even describe – just the feeling of letting everything go, focusing on your breath and really becoming one with your being – it’s phenomenal. I walked away on a natural high every single time without fail.
After our morning tea break we did a daily Neti session, AKA nasal cleansing. It basically entails cleansing the nasal passages by way of warm salt water being passed through one nostril and out the other. A series of rather comical (and messy-gross, I know!) breathing exercises ensue to dry your nose. As unpleasant as it may sound, it worked wonders for me, especially since I got a cold my second day there.
Afterwards we had our 90-minute morning yoga, outside in the courtyard.
Followed by a nature hike in the surrounding mountains,
Where we often stopped to take photos.
and then came breakfast long last.
In the afternoon there was always some free time, much of which for me was spent reading (I read 5 books during my trip all together) and journalling, much of the time in the silent lounge or balcony on the top floor.
In the afternoons we got into the habit of doing Karma Yoga – which basically means being one with your actions, or your work. The whole concept at Sadhana is to spend time focusing on the work itself, to do something positive for others and to work selflessly, without the expectation of renumeration. The chores would be simple – gardening, organizing photo albums, watering plants – but my favourite activity was of course, helping out in the kitchen.
On this particular day we were learning how to make Momo’s. But more on that later.
After Karma yoga we had yet another tea break on the rooftop (complete with popcorn – a Nepali tradition of having sweet masala tea with salty popcorn), followed by chanting or Bhakti yoga.
Chanting is basically devotional singing. Each day we would sing three different bhuddist Mantras, some accompanied by drums other instruments. At Sadhana it’s regarded as another form of meditation, so the singing is done in a meditative pose, with your eyes closed. The repetition of the mantras is said to uplift you towards your higher self. It was actually a lot of fun and very cathartic – at the end you could truly feel the vibrations passing through your body.
After chanting came another session of yoga, followed by a hearty dinner. We always ended with Trataka – candle meditation and breathing exercises, the perfect thing to conclude a long day.
That’s all for now – I’ll be back soon with part II of my recap where I’ll tell you more about, yep you guessed it, the delicious food.
|September 9, 2013||Posted by Nada under Recipes|
Ahoy dear readers! I hope you’ve all been keeping well and that you will once again forgive my extended hiatus. The truth is, as of late(much like John Cage from Ally McBeal – great show) I find myself troubled. This morning, a dear friend of mine reminded that I may find some comfort and solace in cooking and/or blogging.
So I did just that. I came home and whipped up a delicious raw meal – marinated kale salad with miso sesame dressing accompanied by some zucchini pasta and raw marinara sauce with oodles of avocado and nooch. Something about the simplicity of preparing a raw meal uplifted me – it was almost an analogy for real life – a message telling me to stop overcomplicating things. Or maybe it was just a superior batch of marinara sauce. Either way, it worked.
So now on to part two – I come to you today with a recipe that I actually concocted accidentally one fateful afternoon during Ramadan. I was busy cooking up a storm for an order and put some quinoa on to simmer for my tabbouleh. 10 minutes turned into an hour and I returned to find my pre-soaked and sprouted quinoa horrifically overcooked – I was crushed as I sighed and looked around for a spatula to empty out the pot – when I had an epiphany. The texture of the quinoa was rather gummy and almost paste like – and the little “tails/strands” of the grains looked slightly reminiscent of chicken shreds. Normally, neither of these characteristics would be precursors to inspiring a dish in my books – but with the spirit of Ramadan all around me I had a brainwave and decided to try my hand at a traditional Bahraini/Khaleeji specialty called Mathrooba.
Typically served alongside Harees and other dishes during Ramadan, Mathrooba (or Madrooba) has the consistency of baby food and is mainly comprised of chicken, Jareesh (cracked wheat), onions, tomatoes and a plethora of spices and oil or ghee. That in mind, I set out to create a version that was just as rich in flavour and fragrance as the original, but infinitely more nutritious
- 1 cup of dry quinoa
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 2.5 cups of organic vegetable stock (I use the Kallo brand – it’s delicious)
- 4 large tomatoes – roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2-3 large onions – roughly chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 a green chili (increase to 1 or 2 if you’re feeling spicier)
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1 heaped tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp of organic coconut oil
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
(Since I made this accidentally, what I did was chuck everything in the pan and just let it cook down until I achieved the right consistency. But that hardly a recipe makes – so the next time I made it according to the instructions below. Full disclosure – both tasted the same so feel free to go the easy route.)
- In a pot add the quinoa and 2 cups of vegetable stock – bring to a boil then let simmer on low heat until cooked and fluffy.
- Sautee the onions, garlic, chilli in the coconut oil for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and spices and stir occasionally on medium heat until cooked down. Feel free to add a splash of water or stock if things dry up a little.
- Add the quinoa and lentils along with enough stock or water to roughly cover and let simmer on a low heat for another 15-20 minutes until everything is cooked through and the mixture starts to assume a paste-like texture.
- Adjust seasonings – I added a touch more cinnamon and curry powder along with salt and pepper to taste right at the end.
- Garnish with chopped tomatoes or grilled onions if desired, an a smidgen of olive oil to glisten.
I’ve said this before whenever I tackle traditional Khaleeji dishes – this is hardly an authentic representation since I’ve never made the “real” deal. That said, anyone who tried it gave it their seal of approval – including my skeptical father and some (local) guests we had over for Iftar who confirmed it tasted like a “lentil-y” mathrooba so I’m fairly confident I got the flavours down pat!
Personally – I loved it. I could not stop eating this stuff, seriously.The rich tomato flavours compliment the fragrant spices and the hint of chili is just perfect. The overcooked quinoa pairs well with red lentils that cook down into a a distinctively creamy texture. In short – my most succesful foray into Khaleeji vegan cuisine yet.
If you’re not up to trying the recipe just yet, I hope you’ll be inspired to create something out of a cooking mishap like I did – you may be pleasantly surprised with the results!
Until next time folks.
|July 20, 2013||Posted by Nada under Health and Wellness|
While I previously wrote about some of my top tips for fasting in Ramadan here, there is one quite important aspect which I ceased to touch on that is particularly pertinent during an extremely hot and humid summer: hydration.
Not only does the hot weather make it more difficult – but the long summer days means that our window of opportunity for food and water from sunset to sunrise is significantly shortened. Therefore it’s extremely vital to be more mindful of getting enough water and high-quality nourishment to sustain our fasts.
So without further ado, here are my top tips for staying hydrated while you fast:
1. Track Your Water Intake
Keep a labeled water bottle to track your water intake and refill it as necessary to make sure you’re getting the H2O you need. This will help keep you accountable and eliminates the risk of accidental dehydration.
2. Eat Fruits and Vegetables with High Water Content
That means leafy greens, cucumbers, celery, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage among others. Ideal high water fruits include apples, pears, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon and citrus fruits like grapefruit and orange. Including a wide range of water-rich fruits and veggies in your Iftar and Suhoor meals can go a long way to keep you hydrated. Here’s a handy PDF guide to help you out.
If you’d like to tick off some veggies on that list without chowing down on a salad – do what I do and break your fast with a green juice. I make a blend that contains cucumber, celery, lettuce, spinach, parsley, lemon and a green apple along with some ginger – it’s delicious, packed with concentrated nutrients and super hydrating.
Alternatively, have a green smoothie before your suhoor meal – my current favourite recipe is a blend of spinach, pineapple, blueberries and coconut water with a splash of coconut water Kefir for some healthy probiotic bacteria.
3. Coconut Water. Drink it.
I can’t get enough of this stuff – and with good reason too! Coconut water is one of nature’s most refreshing and hydrating drinks. It’s also naturally isotonic and packed with electrolytes, making it a great post-workout drink. And if that weren’t enough, it’s loaded with vital nutrients such as B-complex vitamins, amino acids, vitamin C and minerals such as potassium, manganese, and magnesium. Long story short – drink up. Just make sure you get pure coconut water – none of the thai imported cans packed with sugar and preservatives.
I try my best to use fresh thai young coconuts, but my favourite two packaged brands are Biona Organic (Bahrain readers – you can find this at the Bio Natural Nutrition store opposite Geant in Bahrain Mall) and the Organic Foods and Cafe’s own brand.
4. Add a Pinch of Sea Salt to Your Drinking Water
I know I know – you’re thinking “what?”, but trust me, this little known fact is a Godsend. I picked it up from holistic health coach and wellness expert Muneera Obaidli during her Healthy Fasting Workshop last week, and I must say I’m thoroughly impressed/fascinated. Muneera explained that sea salt contains over 84 minerals and nutrients, and that by adding a pinch to your drinking water, it can help administer these minerals and nutrients as well as quench your thirst for longer because the mineral content will retain more of the water within your body. Another attendee at the workshop asked about water retention which is commonly caused by overusing table salt, and she explained that the two have completely opposite effects and that table salt should of course be avoided at all costs.
The real question is – does it work? I’m glad to say it does – I woke up yesterday and today feeling a little peckish – but not the slightest bit thirsty, when usually I’m clamouring for a glass of water the second I get up.
5. Tone Down the Cardio
I’m definitely an advocate of staying active during Ramadan, but you have to be realistic and accept the fact that your body may not be able to keep up with your training and exercise the same way it does on a normal day. If you’re planning a workout that does include cardio, reduce the intensity (HIIT or interval training is not advised) or the duration or both. Also be mindful of your timing – plan your workout either right before Iftar or fit it in afterwards. Working out early in the day will only deplete your energy and leave you feeling exhausted and dehydrated if you can’t refuel because you’re fasting.
And that’s a wrap! What are your favourite ways to combat the hot weather/dehydration when fasting?