Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hannibal crazy mud race in Lebanon!

So it's been a while since I last blogged, obviously, but I came across an event that I believe should not be missed. This event is mentally and physically challenging, mostly muddy, seems tough but most importantly, extremely fun!


Photo courtesy of hannibalrace.com
So according to the guys at Hannibalrace.com, a 'Hannibal warrior' is a leader, controls his sentiments, shows action, pushes his spirit and physique to their limits, and doesn't stop learning. I'm fine with all this, but I'm not quite sure about the "controls his sentiments" part because based on their YouTube video, I don't think anyone will control anything together! So long story short, I signed up for this crazy mud race that I am completely sure I will finish, not in one piece though.

Hannibal races are organized all over the globe. So for the first time, it's going to take place in Lebanon. They usually have different types of races, ranging from 7 km as the speed race, up to 18 km aka hell. On Sunday the 7th of September at 8 am, Zaarour Club- Lebanon will witness the cutest kind of those races, the 7 km mud race + 15 obstacles.

The challenges that we are going to face range from crawling, bag carrying, uphill running, wheel flipping to wall climbing.. you know the regular kind of stuff that we sure don't do everyday! There will be waves of 100 racers every half an hour to avoid racers' "traffic". You can either choose your wave when you buy your ticket or pick yours when you reach Zaarour club.

I personally passed by Decathlon store to get my ticket but you can actually buy it online from Virgin Ticketing and choose your wave.
  • I bought my pretty 35 USD voucher on which there's a code
  • Visited http://www.hannibalrace.com/>>'register' section
  • Typed in my code and registered my information in
  • And voila! I received an email with my BIB and ID numbers.
  • On the day of the race, all I gotta do is show up with my signed waiver + my ID + my printed email with the BIB and ID information (and of course, some clothes to change)
There will be transportation arranged from Dbaye to Zaarour and back, but details will be posted soon. And if you want to train in the coming 2 weeks, the warriors are working their butts off at Praia every Saturday at 6 pm [photos here]! All you gotta do is say the magic words "I am a Hannibal Warrior" and you're in for free.

Anyone over 18 can join the race, even if you are not an athlete! This is a fun race to push your limits, know your weaknesses and your strengths and what better way to do it than a muddy fun race!

More information:
Hannibal race website
Hannibal race Facebook page
Hannibal race event

Update: Any updates (transportation, meeting points, etc.) will be mentioned here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Paty's Pesto Pasta



I have grew fond of basil ever since I got my own organic plant from the Slow Food Beirut Earth Market and I have incorporated it more in my diet as it's pretty easy to cut some fresh leaves off and add them on a pizza slice, in a salad, in a pasta dish or in my zaatar sandwich! Nevertheless, 2 weeks back, Samson from work [photo below] came in with large amounts of basil he had planted in front of his office. Needless to say, the whole department gathered to take their share!

Nadera, Darine and Samson picking their basil plants to eat!
So Why Basil?

Basil has an amazing frangrance so having it around your house, balcony or garden is a definite plus. In fact, basil's generic name is Ocimum which means "smell" in Greek.

Basil is a plant low in calories, with almost no fat, rich in vitamin K as well as a good source of iron, calcium, vitamin A, magnesium and manganese. Because it's rich in antioxidants, mainly flavonoids, basil leaves have been found to provide protection for your body at the cellular level, protecting your chromosomes from radiation and oxidation. Moreover, basil volatile oils have anti-bacterial properties, thus restricting the growth of unwanted bacteria, even antobiotic resistant ones! Basil also has anti-inflammatory properties so it kinda acts like your natural advil or ibuprofen, even good for arthritis! Now I bet you never knew how awesome those basil leaves in your pesto dish were!

Of course, basil's health benefits are awesome, but an extra reason to adopt yourself one of those babies is how easy it is to grow! I got mine already planted (even easier) and all i do is show is some sun and drizzle it with water every other day now that the weather is a bit cooler. Keep in mind that basil plants love both heat and water. Now there are different ways to plant your basil plant: you can either get an already planted baby basil plant (just like I did) or you can get those black mature seeds you see in the photo below and plant them shallowly into the soil - constantly watering them. Another way would be growing your basil from cuttings: You can cut a 8-10 cm portion of the stem before it flowers, remove the leaves from the lower section, place it in a small cup of water and change its water daily until its roots emerge! Then just move it a small pot and water daily if the weather is really hot or every other day if it's slightly cooler.



Given that basil is mainly known for its use in pesto [and that I absolutely adore this easy yet so tasty combo], I decided to turn all my basil leaves into pesto sauce and refrigerate them. If you're not a fan of pesto, then a smart way to preserve basil leaves is to dry /freeze them  as whole leaves to preserve as much essential oils as possible. Then you can sprinkle them with your food, rice, salad, pasta, pizza, you name it! I have to admit though, drying is not the best option if you savor the taste and smell of this plant.

Time for Pesto!

Ingredients
To prepare 2 to 2.5 cups of pesto sauce, you will need:
  • 3 medium cloves of fresh garlic
  • 4 cups of lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup raw pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Method of Preparation

  • Separate all basil leaves from the stems
  • Wash them up from any soil residue
  • Remove any seriously injured or blemished leaves
  • Dry the wet leaves by spreading them on a clean piece of cloth and turning them over now and then to speed up the drying process
  • Put all the ingredients {basil leaves, garlic cloves, nuts, and salt} all together in your food processor and pulse till you get a coarse paste.
  • Drizzle the oil through the food processor's feeding tube while mixing, in order to get the oil completely blend in with the paste.  

Note that if you don't have a food processor at home and you'd like to prepare a quick fix, it's kind of easy! Just grind all those babies together manually [using a wooden garlic masher] and you'll get an even better texture than the food processor.

Storage
I stored my basil in 2 different ways
  • The first was using an ice cube tray. I first measured how much each cube is, mine turned out to be 2.5 tbsp > Once you place your paste in the tray, drizzle the surface with olive oil > Cover the tray and place the tray overnight in the freezer > The next day, just place all frozen cubes in an airtight container or plastic freezer bags and store in the freezer for up to 9 months! This is a great idea if you might be having 1-2 dishes of pesto instead of huge quantities, this way you'll defrost exactly the amount you need!
  • The other option is to freeze basil in small jars > Label > Store for up to 9-12 months
In case you don't plan to freeze, make sure to make smaller quantities as these are safely stored in the fridge for up to one week only.


Paty's Pesto Pasta is pretty easy to prepare. Get your pesto sauce, mix with some pasta and voila! If you're into cheese, combining it with some grated Parmesan cheese is recommended, but if you're vegan, it would be smart to sprinkle some nutritional yeast to get a somewhat cheesy taste! Garnish with whole fresh basil leaves and some whole raw pine nut seeds, and you've got a delicious winner here!





References:
World's Healthiest Foods
Medical News Today
Herb Society

Monday, October 14, 2013

Creamy Chocolate Mousse Pie for our Happy 3-Year Blog-aversay!


It's our blog's 3rd year anniversary today! And what better way than to celebrate this day with some luscious creamy chocolate mousse!

I'm a huge advocate of real whole food - the less processed crap, the better. In the same time, I try to avoid meats and dairy as much as I can, more like what a flexitarian would do. So you see, it's kind of hard not to fall in love with plant-powered cook books. Therefore, I recently got a new book by Dreena Burton called "Let them eat Vegan!". Now you might say how creative one can be with recipes based on plant food sources only, something my colleagues consistently nag about, but long story short, it is one of the most delicious cookbooks I have ever added to my library! Dreena has some surprisingly good gluten-free /meat-free/ dairy-free/ refined sugar-free deliciousness in this cook book and boy can't I wait to try her recipes one after the other! You don't really have to be a 100% vegan to actually enjoy the her recipes; you just have to have a sense of adventure, be open to uncommon food combinations and to let go of all the meats, dairy and refined sugar one meal at a time.

Anyhoo, given that I am a chocolate fan, I picked the Raw Chocolate Dream Mousse Pie (page 245) to celebrate my 3rd year blog-aversay. It was good a choice. A really good one.

Ingredients

For the nutty crunchy crust
  • Almonds, raw - 1 cup
  • Walnuts, raw - 3/4 cup
  • Dates, pitted - 3/4 cup
  • Cocoa powder, raw and unsweetened - 2 tbsp
  • Salt - 1/4 tsp
  • Nutmeg, freshly ground - 1/4 tsp
  • Vanilla, pure extract - 1/2 tsp

For the smooth yum creamy filling
  • Avocados, ripe - 1 cup (equivalent to 1.5-2 medium avocados, they're in season now so go for it)
  • Cashew, raw and soaked one day ahead - 1/2 cup
  • Nut/ Rice milk - 1/2 cup
  • Dates, pitted - 1/2 cup
  • Honey/agave syrup - 1/4 cup
  • Cocoa powder, raw and unsweetened - 1/3 cup
  • Vanilla, pure extract - 1 tsp
  • Salt - 1/8 tsp

Method of preparation



For the crust, it all depends on your food processor. My mom's processor is huge and heavy duty so I pulsed all the ingredients together. However, if your food processor is a small cuty pie, start with pulsing the almonds into a fine crumbly texture and then add the rest of the ingredients. Keep on pulsing till you get a sticky mixture. You might need to stop once in a while to scrape the ingredients down and if the mixture does not hold together when pressed with your fingers, you might want to add in a date or two.
After getting the crumbly texture you desire, you can transfer the crust to a pie plate or small cups (you know, for portion control and because I'm messy when cutting pie). You gotta press them lightly with your fingers to get them to stick together, exactly like what you'd do to any kind of crust. Don't worry, they'll stick together just fine!



For the creamy mousse, place all the ingredients in the food processor and puree on a medium-high speed until you get a creamy texture. I had to stop, scrape down the puree and mix it up several times before I got the creamy texture I wanted.

After all was pulsed, I just poured the filling into my cups (or your pie plate) over the crusts. This recipe yielded 8 cups (servings) of creamy chocolate mousse pie, so I placed half in the fridge and half in the freezer for couple of hours, just to know which gave a tastier texture. My sister loved the fridge version while I adored the icy texture from the freezer, so turns out, both are just as good! I topped mine with pomegranates but you can add some fresh strawberries, kiwi, orange zest, cinnamon, cocoa powder, chili, mint, coconut flakes... whatever taste you crave for with chocolate!




So, it turned out to be a happy delicious creamy [of course chocolatey]
3-year Blog-aversary! 


Saturday, October 5, 2013

October is All About Increasing Breast Cancer Awareness in Lebanon!

October is all about increasing awareness for breast cancer.

October 5
Therefore, AUB and the Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation are organizing a Human Pink Ribbon at AUB's Green Field today - 5th of October at 4.30 pm sharp. This event is free of charge and aims to promote early detection, prevention and better treatment as well as to encourage more breast cancer research to increase cure rates! All you have to do is show up wearing pink and form a huge pink human ribbon! Check the event here.

October 7 till 12
One Wig Stand, a brilliant breast cancer awareness and support NGO that aims to decrease the disease's stigma, build a social support network for women with breast cancer and increase awareness on prevention and treatment, in collaboration with the smart Juice for Charity, a community project that aims to support different NGOs and charities one at a time by selling fresh orange juice, is organizing a whole week of drinking freshly squeezed orange juice at USJ to increase awareness for breast cancer!

October 25
AUB is also organizing another breast cancer awareness event on the 25th of October.
In collaboration with the International Breast Cancer and Nutrition (IBCN) from Purdue University, the Nutrition and Food Sciences Department at AUB is organizing a public lectures day in which dietitians and physicians will be gathered with women from the Lebanese population, students, dietitians, mothers, sisters, cancer patients, cancers survivors and their family members to discuss how nutrition can play a role in both prevention and treatment of breast cancer. The event is free of charge and all lectures will be given in the Arabic language with no scientific jargon! Lebanon was going to host the IBCN's International symposium on breast cancer on October 11 and 13th, but due to the lovely unstable political situation in the region, the symposium was relocated to France!

Nevertheless, check the event below and share it with all women who are interested to know how they can use nutrition and food, a potential risk factor for breast cancer if misused, in order to prevent and treat breast cancer!




If you are aware of more breast cancer awareness events in Lebanon this October, let me know and I'll update this post to have them all in one place!

** All photos have been extracted from the each NGO/event's social media pages.


Friday, October 4, 2013

If you're gonna run, run for a cause!


This marathon will be my 4th and throughout the 3 previous ones, I have ran on an individual title, meaning not part of any NGO. I have no idea why, it always seemed easier to register for and pick up the bibs, no attachements especially that I'm not in direct contact with any NGO.  However, given that there's only one week to go to register for the Beirut marathon, all what came to mind is don't run individually! I know many might have registered already, but for those who are waiting for the last minute, like me, make it count.

The whole point behind the marathon is to 'Run for Lebanon' and what better way than to run with an NGO that you believe is worthy of your run, moral support and financial contribution (I asked, NGOs get some kind of percentage from the fee, which is exactly the same if you're running individually so come on, why run alone?)

Therefore, here's a list of all the NGOs taking part in this marathon, such as the Lebanese Autism Society,  Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation, Lebanese Food bank, Myschoolpulse, One Wig Stand, Kunhadi, Brave Heart Fund, Embrace, Caritas, Teach a child and the list goes on! So check the link, learn about the NGOs and what they do and take your pick! If you're gonna run, run for a cause!
 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Genetically Modified Foods - Free Lebanon

Genetically modified foods are a hot topic now. They are found in many food products sold in the Lebanese market and have become quite controversial. What are GMOs? Are they healthy or do they increase the risk of diseases? In which foods are they found and what can we do about it... Many questions cross our minds when GMOs are involved!

This is why Christele from Health 'n' Horizons, Nour from Nourish Body and Mind and I have joined forces in creating a new movement, GMO Free Lebanon. The purpose behing this movement is to increase awareness about what GMOs are, where you can find them and how they pose risk to your health. This movement also aims to push for labeling of GMO-containing foods, as many countries give their people the right not take part in this humongous human experiment. In Lebanon, we want this right too!


So what are Genetically Modified Organisms?

Humans have been ‘modifying’ foods for more than 2000 years, merely by selective breeding in which plants with naturally higher resistance to fungus and harsh environmental conditions were preferred to yield more crops. However, in 1946, scientists discovered that DNA can be transferred between different organisms and consequently genetically modified foods came to life, hence the acronym GMO which stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. Other terms you might encounter are genetically engineered (GE) and genetically modified (GM) foods.
Photo credit
Genetic engineering allows scientists to cross species in laboratories in order to enhance certain traits not originally found in crops. So crops can have DNA traits from bacteria, viruses  and other plants or animals. For instance, a bacterial gene (from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt) is added to corn crops to make them resistant to certain insects. The insect dies within a few days after biting through the corn. Other crops are modified to carry their own their herbicide making them resistant to the spraying of the deadly chemicals which will kill every other weed or plant. These biotech crops are more commonly known as Roundup Ready as they are resistant to the herbicide Roundup. Both herbicide and GM crop are unsurprisingly produced by the same company, Monsanto. (You gotta become familiar with those names!) (2)
In 1994, the first genetically modified plants approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for marketing the in the USA was Flavr Savr, tomatoes with delayed ripening. However, in 1997 all Flavr Savr production was ceased yet the possibility of producing genetically modified foods literally genetically modified our current kitchens.

Are GMOs currently OK for consumption?

The USA and Europe (EU) have opposing positions regarding GMOs. While the US considers GMOs to be safe, the European Union recommends having organic and non-genetically modified foods instead as the health and environmental risks of GMOs outweigh the benefits. This is why the EU forces stricter regulations on growing GMO crops and requires their labeling on all genetically modified products (3).
Most news about GMOs and their effect on health are kept on low profile (fishy much?); however, few studies have increased our alarm buds and forced us to place a huge question mark over any genetically modified food.

Few GMO side effects in animal studies (so far)
The results of a study conducted in 2012
on genetically modified corn-fed rats showed increased
organ damage and tumor risk (6)


. Increased risk of infertility (4) 
· Increased risk of stomach lining inflammation (4) and reduced digestive ability (5)
. Increased tumor risk (6)
· Increased liver, kidney pathologies (6,8) and toxicity and endocrine dysfunction (7,8)
· Increased death rates (6) as well as premature death (5)
. Increased allergen content in foods (5)

What foods have been genetically modified so far?
Around 70% of processed foods found in US markets have been genetically modified (1). There is currently no data in Lebanon regarding GMO distribution in the market. However, given that many well-known brands in the Lebanese market are imported from USA, Canada, Australia, India, Mexico, China… and given the fact that Lebanon does not force labeling of GMOs, we are unknowingly consuming GMO-containing products.

Plants
· Soybeans (oils, lecithin, baby formulas, baby food… )
· Corn (and corn products: High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), corn starch, corn flour, glucose, fructose found in sweets, soda, snacks, cakes, ketchup…)
· Canola/rapeseed oil
· Cotton and cottonseeds (oils)
· Sugar beets (could be labeled as ‘natural sugar’)
· Moreover, given that genetically modified crops (wheat, soy, corn) are fed to animals, especially cattle, these in return pass GMOs to milk, dairy, labne, cheese, and meats
· Papaya
· Zucchini/ squash
Animals
· No GM animals have been approved for use, however, salmon was near FDA approval in December 2012  

So why GMO Free Lebanon?
We started GMO Free Lebanon as we found a lack of awareness among the Lebanese about what GMOs are, their health risks and their wide availability in the Lebanese market. 
>> Our goals are:
- To increase awareness and education about genetically modified foods
- To push for labeling of all products in the Lebanese market. We have the right to know what is in our food and we have the right to say NO to taking part in mass experimental trials. Without labeling, how can one trace the source of allergy, intolerance, sensitivity, illness or disease? And “where is the scientific evidence showing that GM plants/food are toxicologically safe?” (10)
- Demand banning of GMO foods when they are proven unsafe. GMOs are insufficiently evaluated. Longer and more detailed tests need to be done to protect human and animal health as well as our planet (11).
So what can you do to protect your health and help out our cause?
- Like and share our Facebook page which will be a common platform for sharing evidence-based research and practical tips and tricks to help you make informed choices (even if you do not live in Lebanon, approving labeling/banning in one country will help raise global awareness towards the health risks and environmental side effects of growing and consuming GMOs).
-Know where GMOs are found and try to avoid them:

·       Read labels carefully to detect ‘possible’ genetically modified ingredients
·       Buy products that are certified as 100% organic or labeled as non-GMO
·       Choose 100% Grass-fed beef (as corn fed ones are having GMO corn for a diet!)
·       Try as much as possible to avoid processed foods and cook at home, from scratch 
·       Grow your own garden if you have the space.   

Last but not least, stay posted to the GMO Free Lebanon facebook page as we will push for labeling and we will expose genetically modified foods in Lebanon!

References and related articles
(12) Ornl.gov

Monday, July 8, 2013

Breastfeeding during Ramadan - Guest Post

Every year around the time of the blessed month of Ramadan there are many moms on our Facebook support group “Breastfeeding in Lebanon” asking if they could fast and still have enough milk for their babies. The answer is not simple as every mom/baby is different, but I hope this article will be helpful and reassuring to everyone!
 
Can a breastfeeding mom decide NOT to fast?
Fasting is obligatory for all able-bodied adults, however, there are some exceptions. Allah, The Most High says:
((And whosoever is sick or is upon a journey, then the period is made up from other days...)) [Sourah Al-Baqarah: 185]
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are included here and are allowed not to fast during that time if they feel it may negatively affect baby’s health! They may compensate for the missed fasting at a later time when they are no longer pregnant or breastfeeding. They may also pay some expiation for not fasting instead (please consult a scholar or a book of fiqh for exact guidelines).
 
Will fasting affect milk supply?
And even though Muslim breastfeeding moms are allowed not to fast, many women still


Photo credit: Kidsmug.net
prefer not to skip this blessed time or at least not to miss too many days. So they naturally worry if their baby will have enough milk during fasting and if the milk will still have all the necessary nutrition (if it will be “good” and fat for the baby).


Breastfeeding studies have shown that fasting during the daylight hours of Ramadan does not affect mom’s milk supply but very strong dehydration (not having enough water in the body) may do so. That is why breastfeeding women during fasting may want to drink as much fluids as possible at night to compensate for the day time dehydration.
Mothers may also decide to stay on a “safe side” and drink water even if fasting. As Kelly Bonyata, a known lactation consultant, mentions in her article: “Some mothers have found that drinking water on fast days is more of a need during the first six months when baby is exclusively breastfed (not taking any food or drink other than breastmilk); once baby is older and taking other foods, it may be feasible to neither eat nor drink during the fast.” (Reference: Kellymom.com - great resource for many more links on fasting and breastfeeding!)
 
What to keep an eye on?
Every mom and baby is different, and while it may be absolutely fine for one mom to fast and exclusively breastfeed at the same time, it may be a real challenge for another one. That is why it’s important to check on the following signs on whether everything is going well.
 
Signs of dehydration in mother:
1)    Headache or other pain;
2)    Dark yellow strong smelling urine;
3)    Mother feels very weak;
4)    Extreme thirst.
Signs that milk supply may be negatively affected:
5)    Number of wet and dirty diapers of the baby has suddenly decreased.
6)    Baby seems unusually unhappy and fussy. May cry at the breast and even refuse it completely.
7)    Baby seems hungry all the time and wants to breastfeed non-stop (frequent breastfeeding will actually help the mother increase her supply in the best and fastest way! So baby should be always allowed to breastfeed as often and as long as he wants!)
8)    Baby stopped gaining weight or even started to lose some.

** If any of these signs are present the mother may need to re-consider her decision to fast till later time, as her and her baby’s health may be under risk!
 
Tips for fasting and breastfeeding
Stacey Greaves-Favors, experienced La Leche League Leader and breastfeeding counselor, recommends the following:
1)    Pay attention to what you eat during the evening and pre-dawn hours: have a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables; high fiber and complex carbohydrates are more filling; limit sweets.
2)     Drink, drink, drink when you can! Water is the best, fresh fruit/vegetable juices are also good, but sugary and caffeinated drinks should be avoided or limited.
3)    Eat a meal in addition to suhoor and iftar (never miss suhoor when fasting and breastfeeding!)
4)    Get plenty of rest. An afternoon nap is a great idea. Try also to do most of the work in the morning and relax more in the evening hours.(Reference: Saudilife.net)
5)    Watch your body and your baby for any signs of problems.

Good luck ladies! And don’t let anyone push you to make a decision to fast or not! This is your and only your decision. Think of everything carefully, weight risks and benefits of each decision and remember that you are the best expert to your baby’s health and you will be able to make the right decision for yourself and your baby!

 
 
Nadiya Dragan El-Chiti is a breastfeeding counselor and lecturer. She is a graduate from the University of Maine, Orono (USA), with Master’s Degree in Communication and a certificate from World Vision in coordination with WHO for accomplishing an intensive training in “Exclusive Breastfeeding”.  Mrs. Nadiya  gives seminars and private consultations on breastfeeding essentials, managing work and breastfeeding as well as starting solids and breastfeeding. She also provides personal support and assistance to mothers who already gave birth and are facing challenges in breastfeeding. You can contact Mrs. Nadiya by facebook, Breastfeeding in Lebanon, by mail at bfassistancelb@gmail.com or by phone, 961 71 924481.

** This post was originally published in Moms and To Be magazine, issue 54.