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!

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.

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!

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.


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!