Sumac and Lebanese Cuisine

Sumac is the berries of a shrub that mainly grows in the Mediterranean area. It is well known in all regions and harvested from almost all the mountains of Lebanon.

The sumac hangs on the branches of the shrub as clusters of dark red balls.

Sumac is harvested during the month of August, they are harvested during this season and then they are sun dried, the drying process can take several days up to weeks, when the sumac is completely dried; it is then grounded into a coarse powder. The main purpose of drying the sumac is to be able to use it during winter times.

The grounded sumac has a strong astringent acidic taste, where it’s used as a seasoning and a souring flavouring agent in the Lebanese cuisine, mainly in the “meza”. For example, the traditional Lebanese salad “fattouch” is characteristically served with sumac sprinkled on top. Traditionally, it was used with fried eggs, kabab, in stuffing { Fatayer ex. Fatayer Sulik}, and the famous Lebanese thyme mankoushe, others also add it to the tabboule salad.

Moreover, it is can be used as a substitute for lemon juice in salad dressing, and can also be added to meat and chicken marinades.

Sumac has considerable amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, some antioxidants (such as Tanin), and around 140Kcal per 100g. Some say it’s used as a herbal remedy for urinary disorders (yet I still don’t have any scientific evidence).

Rosemary… known as “2ikleel el Jabal”…

Today’s dish was Beef with Rosemary and Garlic…
mmm… it looked, smelled, and tasted delicious… Looking ever green with its small needle shaped leaves, rosemary was first sautéed with garlic and olive oil, and lastly seated on top of the dish for garnishing…

Rosemary… known as “2ikleel el Jabal” in my country…

Rosemary is a herb having evergreen needle-like leaves and a distinctive woody smell with a bitter and astringent taste. It is widely know in the Mediterranean region.

It is used as fresh or dried frequently in the traditional Mediterranean cuisine specifically in barbecuing.

It is added to oil bottles during storage to flavor the oil. It also helps retard rancidity (oxygen damage of oils that lead to change of odour, taste, and safety), thus improved oil’s shelf life.

Rosemary contains anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-fungal and anti-septic, disease preventing and health promoting compounds…

How to use:

Wash fresh leaves in cold running water or rinse for few minutes or use it dry; added it in the final steps of your cooking to preserve the distinctive fragrance and flavor…

Sa7tein…

Open Sesame…

Sesame is a flowering plant… its seeds are rich in oil. The seeds are further processes to give sesame oil or stone grinded to give sesame paste know as Tahini…

Seeds, oils or pastes are greatly used in cooking… especially in the Lebanese cuisine…Seeds usually sprinkled on breads and pastries, while oils and tahini are usually used in appetizers such as the “Hommos” or in dishes such as the “Kebbe Karnabiyeh”…

Nutritional Benefits:

Sesame is rich in minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium…) and in vitamin E, thiamin, healthy proteins and dietary fibers. It contains some phyto-nutrients such as omega-6 fatty acids and flavonoid anti-oxidants and it’s also a rich source of poly-unsaturated fatty acids…

Sesame helps prevent high blood pressure, protect the liver from oxidative damage
(sesamin and sesamolin) and helps strengthen the heart and the nervous system (Vitamin E).

1 tablespoon of sesame (~10g) = 52 Calories.

Mango, Lunch and Picky Children…

My colleague “Mango” invited me for lunch…

She has 3 little kids… 1.5 years… 3 years and 5 years of age…

The lunch was great… the food was delicious …
But, “Mango” was frustrated… continously shouting at her kids to eat their food…

You have picky children??? here it goes….

It’s normal to have your children picky with food…

Children between 1 and 3 years of age nudge at their food and this is normal due to growth and development reasons.

They may eat only fruits on Monday and only vegetables on Tuesday. Such eating habits are normal. Thus, it’s important to expect the child to eat well one day and eat nothing the next day.

Children from 1 to 3 years need approximately around 1000 – 1300 Kcal per day. But they might not eat this amount every day.

Accordingly, it is always recommended that children have a balanced diet over the week, not over a single day.

Here are some tips to encourage eating:

1) Give the food some playful names, names that the child is familiar with, for example:

Apples: Moons
Avocado: Boats
Banana: Wheels
Broccoli: Trees

2) Young children love dipping foods. Let them dip slices of apples, colored bell pepper pieces, carrots, broccoli in sauces
for examples:

Cream cheese
Fruit juice
Guacamole
Peanut butter
Pureed fruits or vegetables
Yogurt

3) Show them how to use a knife, a spoon etc. to spread cheese, labneh, peanut butter, fruit concentrates, vegetable concentrate onto toast, or bread; children love playing and spreading their food. The more they play with the unappealing food the more they’ll get to like it.

4) Let them help you prepare the food. Let them cut their sandwiches, vegetables, pizzas, fruits etc. into various shapes using children cookie cutters.

5) Plant a garden with your child: let the children help take care of the vegetables, fruits etc… wash and prepare them.

Important Remarks:

– Breakfast, lunch, and dinner have NO meaning to a child. If your Child wants to eat pizza in the morning or fruit and cereal in the evening let him/her go with it.
– Keep food servings small. A young child’s stomach is approximately the size of his fist.
– A hungry child is NOT a happy kid. Thus, be strict when possible, a hungry child will cry yet, when there’s nothing available he/she will end up eating (so don’t worry).
– A child taste preference depends on exposure. Children will prefer sweet tastes, salty taste, bitter taste etc. depending on what they were mostly exposed to during their first years of life. Thus try as much as possible to expose them to the healthy tastes and keep them away from the sweeties (Don’t add sugars/salts etc. to the food).
– Eat all together, children eat better when they see their parents eating.

Pineapples, Bromelain and Induced Labor…

In a coffee shop…
Sitting with my cousin “Pineapple”…

“Pineapple”
I’m pregnant…

“Blue Strawberry”
Oh that’s great… what month???

“Pineapple”
2 months… I always feel like eating juicy fruits and sweets… but I heard that pineapples are bad… is it true??? Is it safe to eat pineapples during pregnancy???

Pineapples are fruits that are rich in vitamins (mainly VC), minerals, and fibers; they support the digestive system, and act as diuretics. They can be eaten raw, processed, canned, and used in cooking as fruit pieces or as juices…

Raw pineapples contain an enzyme named Bromelain, this enzyme breaks down protein. That’s why raw pineapples are widely used in meat marinades to soften and tenderize meats…

On the other hand, raw pineapples can affect the preparation of protein foods such as gelatin-based foods like Jello. That’s why when preparing Jello, it’s always recommended to use canned/processed pineapples; because canning and processing degrade the Bromelain enzyme making it ineffective…

Pineapples are delicious, healthy and nutritious…

But is it SAFE during Pregnancy???

Due to the presence of the Bromelain enzyme, consumption of LARGE amounts (~ 6-7 fruits) of RAW pineapples/pineapple juices during pregnancy can lead to diarrhea, and may possibly soften the cervix, leading to uterine contractions that in turn induce labor. Thus, it’s advisable to eat a moderate amount of pineapples during pregnancy, especially during early stages…

Pineapples have small amounts of Bromelain that can be safe in moderate amounts. In some cases; pineapples are used as a remedy, specifically in late labored women to induce the labor…

Limit the intake especially during your first months but, keep in mind, the DOSE differentiates between a remedy and a poison…

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