Health Matters

Today, I urge you to step  back and take a moment to reflect on your health.

Are you taking care of yourself?
By taking care of yourself, I am not only asking whether you eat and drink well and generally avoid stepping in front of moving traffic.
My question is, are you really taking care of yourself?
Are you doing the things that will ultimately contribute to your body and mind being healthy and supporting you, allowing you to thrive and have a long and fruitful life?
Are you nurturing your body and soul with good food, exercise, meditation, human connection, and engaging in activities you are passionate about?

If not, please consider re-evaluating your priorities.

If you find yourself frequently stressed, overworked, tired, and dissatisfied, please know that it is in your hands to live the kind of life you love.
It might mean taking baby steps and getting there over a period of time, but any improvement is still improvement.  

Today, decide to take a 20 minute walk. Decide to eat a salad along with your meal. Decide to ditch the soda and drink some water instead. Decide to let go and realize that you cannot control every other driver out there on the road, so just enjoy the ride, enjoy the scenery, enjoy being alive.

Decide to live differently, and by doing so, know that you are making not only your own life better, but you are also giving more of yourself to your loved ones. You will be with them more fully, with more clarity, and hopefully, for a longer period of time.

If you’ve made it this far through this post, I urge you to let me know in the comments section below what small change you can make in your life in order to take care of yourself better.
Do you think you can take a yoga class every now and then? Maybe wake up half an hour earlier to get in some physical activity before the craziness of your day begins? Maybe you can take 20 minutes just to be by yourself, close your eyes, and focus on filling your body with breath? Or maybe you can swap out one of your weekly meat-based meals for a vegetable-based meal instead?

(Note: This is really relevant to me in my life right now, and would make me feel so much better to know I was able to make even one person consider doing something for their health.)

To your health!

Food in our house: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

So, if you’ve seen my food posts you’ll know that some of them are really fresh, health-conscious, meatless, and light. Other posts are- well, not so much.

It’s kinda like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in this kitchen sometimes.

Family:
“Mama! I want Drumstick Chicken!” (i.e. a whole rotisserie chicken that he can pull the drumsticks off of)
“Lulu! How about some lamb tonight? The one you made last time mmmm.”
“We have a new jar of hazelnut butterrrrrrrrr… Cookies?” (Accompanied by huge grin and a mountain of anticipation in father and son’s eyes).

Me:
“Salad!”
“Vegetables!”
“Meat? Nah. Asparagus!”
“Vegetarian? Vegan? Gluten-Free? Non-GMO? Low-fat? ALL OF THE ABOVE, BRING IT ON!”

Hopefully, it means more (vs. less) of you are interested in reading about the food we eat. Maybe I’ll try to stick to certain themes every now and then to be a bit more consistent.

For this post, we will explore the Food of Fools*:

Foul - Fava Bean Dip

Foul - Fava Bean Dip

Rice with broad beans and lamb

(*In Arabic, Fool means bean/beans)

The first dish (pronounced Fool) is a bean dip made of Fava beans. It is traditionally eaten in Egypt, but has been adopted all over the Middle East for its amazing taste and its ability to both satiate you as well as cause you to enter a waking state of food coma that’s accompanied by a perma-smile that stays plastered on your face until the moment your system is done “processing” it.
(A good thing, because your whole household will become very aware of your system, um, “processing” these beans, which is why you’ll want to all eat it together and share in the bean by-product loooove).

In our family, it’s the man of the house who’s responsible for this dish, and he wins the title of King Fool. Oh yes I did.

The secret to perfecting Fool is the topping, which is a mix of crushed hot chili peppers (we use serrano), crushed garlic, lemon juice, diced tomatoes, and olive oil.

The second dish, rice with broad beans and lamb, is a favorite of ours since I can pick out the rice and beans, and my husband and son can inhale the lamb. A truly versatile, multi-purpose dish.

Recipes! Read on..

Foul/Fool Fava Bean Dip:
(This is based on my observations, but King Fool will have to be the one to correct any inaccuracies)

Ingredients:
1 can (approximately 15 oz.) of Fava Beans (you can get these at your local Middle Eastern or Persian store)
1 hot peppers (we use serrano, you can also use jalapeno)
2  cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon - 1 lemon (we love us some lemons, so the more the merrier!)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 tomato, diced

Directions:
Prepare topping:
Seed the peppers, then slice them and place into a mortar, if you have one. (Otherwise you can dice really really finely and put in a small bowl).
Add the garlic and salt, and grind until you get a paste. Mix the lemon juice in with the paste.
Empty contents of Fava bean can into a deep skillet or saucepan.
Heat beans over medium-high heat.
When beans have been heated through, scoop out onto a plate and use your spoon to create a trench about 1/2 inch away from the edge of the plate – the trench will catch the oil/lemon juice/etc.
Assemble the tomatoes around the middle of the plate, leaving some space in the middle for the topping.
Pour the topping onto the middle of the plate, then drizzle the olive oil on top and around the rest of the plate.

Voila! You can use little pieces of pita or your favorite bread to scoop the beans out and enjoy!

Rice with broad beans and lamb

Ingredients:

About 3 pounds of lamb, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes/pieces
1 bag of frozen broad beans (can find in Middle Eastern/Persian stores)
2 cups of basmati rice
4-5 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1.5 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1.5 teaspoons allspice
1 Tablespoon olive oil

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the lamb pieces and spices, stirring frequently until the lamb starts to brown.
Add the broad beans, stirring until they start to soften.
Pour 3 cups (or until beans and lamb are covered) of water on top of the lamb and beans, and bring to a boil.
Lower heat to medium, cover the pot, and simmer the beans and lamb for 20 minutes.
Add the rice to the lamb, beans, and water, and add just enough water to cover all the ingredients in the pot. Once everything comes back to boiling again, cover the pot and simmer for another 20 minutes, or until water has evaporated and rice is tender.

We LOVE eating this dish with a really fresh side salad or with plain greek yogurt.

My evolving relationship with Costco

Costco craziness
Photo credit: nytimes.com

Deep down in the depths of my heart, I possess a fear that you may call irrational, illogical, unwarranted. But it is there. And it is real.

Friends, I have Costco-phobia. The mass production, the generic nature of the products, the temptation to over-consume and over-waste, and the SIZE OF THOSE CARTS! You could fit a family of four in one of those, people!

For the longest time, I avoided shopping at Costco. I was fortunate enough to be able to afford shopping at the smaller, frou-frou shops and promised myself I would never be one of THOSE people I used to see walking out of Costco with 1 or 2 carts filled to the brim.

That was 2 children, a better economy, and many naive, inexperienced brain cells ago.

When our first son was about 1.5 or 2 years old, we ventured into our first Southern California Costco. My husband had to push me to keep walking IN, TOWARDS the aisles of merchandise, and away from the exit. As of that first visit, we weren’t yet convinced that we consumed enough to warrant shopping for things in such large quantities.

It was months before we went back to Costco for a 2nd visit, this time the reported savings on diapers and baby wipes being the main motivator. We felt so smart and pleased with ourselves as we walked up to the checkout counter, 2 items in hand (cart), the only ones checking out with less than $100 of stuff.

We became Costco members that year, and figured we’d probably only need to go for some basic essentials. We didn’t even have room in our teeny tiny apartment to STORE the bed of toilet paper that Costco sells, so in many ways, the decision was pretty much made for us to stick to only a couple of items per visit.

Then our son started eating actual food. And then we moved to a bigger apartment, with more storage space.

It started with toilet paper and laundry detergent. Innocent. Our boy didn’t even LIKE milk, so there was no way we were buying the crate of 3 huge milk containers just so we could throw out more than half of it!

Now, approximately 4 years later, I have become one of those people. I am the one pushing a FULL cart with 2 kids in the front and treasures of food and non-food related finds in its belly.

I don’t even recognize myself any more.

This post is mostly in jest, but in all seriousness, I would like to say the following:

Yes, I still fear the large quantities and the aisles of mass-produced, non-customized merchandise. But I am thankful, too.

Thankful that I have a family to provide for.
Thankful that my husband and I are ABLE to provide for our family.
Thankful that we can save a few dollars by buying things in quantities that I might not be comfortable with.
Thankful that we have been really good at only consuming what we need, avoiding waste, and resisting the temptation to buy and consume more just because it is available.

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