Monthly Archives: March 2015

RaqiSa Fitness: Lighten Up for Spring! Turkey Kefta with Yogurt

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Despite the snow still on the ground here in New England, it’s time to get into Spring Training!  That means we need to lighten up our menu so we are more prepared to wear those shorts waiting to be pulled out with ease! Traditionally, Kefta is prepared with either lamb or beef – or a combo of both.  However, I have taken liberty to make this a little more heart healthy for those who steer away from red meat.  Mind you, this is amazing with ground beef.  In fact, I must confess, the recipe I have does not share the exact same ingredients, in particular, I add butter to my beef!  Delicious…but more calories and not so heart healthy!  However, as a fitness professional, I aim for good health! Mind you, while this is healthy, you can be assured that the combination of fresh ingredients really make this so special; you won’t lose in great taste.  In fact, my husband came home hungry after his workout while I was taking my pictures for this post and with the amazing smells waifed throughout the house…I had to slap his hands a couple of times from reaching for the Kefta to remind him to “wait” until I have finished posting!

To keep this fresh and lively, I serve this with a tasty yogurt and cucumber recipe.  The coolness from the yogurt when served with warm Turkey Kefta keeps it interesting.  To turn this into a family meal, I serve this with a salad, as well as other traditional additions such as pickled turnips and olives.  (Posted in this picture is a cabbage salad, which I will save for another post!) Another way to enjoying this is with hummus and sliced tomatoes and toasted Arabic bread – Delicious and nutritious!  Please note that I have offered the smaller portion in parenthesis, in case you have a smaller household or you are making this just for yourself to enjoy throughout the week.  *Also consider, if you like to prepare your weekly foods in advance, you can assemble the meat mixture and keep this is tin foil until you are ready to cook it as it cooks quickly!

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TURKEY KEFTA INGREDIENTS
2 lbs of Ground Turkey (1 lb)
1 cup of finely chopped parsley (1/2 C)
1/2 cup of finely chopped white onion (1/4 C)
1 finely chopped garlic (1/2)
1 tsp of cinnemon (1/2 tsp)
1 tsp of cayanne pepper (1/2 tsp)
1/4 tsp dried cilantro (1/8 tsp)
2 tsp of salt (1 tsp)
2 eggs (1 egg)
2/3 cup of plain bread crumbs (1/3 cup)

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DIRECTIONS

1. Combine meatball ingredients and mix well w/hands
2. Roll into golf ball size meatballs and place on a baking sheet.
3. Preheat oven broiler and place rack in the center
4. Broil meatballs for 5 minutes, flip them over and broil 2 minutes more.
YOGURT AND CUCUMBER WITH MINT 
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In a bowl, pound one fresh garlic with a little salt. Add 2 cups of yogurt. Add 2 tsp. of dried mint. Add 1/4 cup of a cucumber peeled and diced. Combine together. Add salt to taste.

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Yes, Spring is in the air and we are making shifts in our house with great anticipation of the the warm days ahead!  And yes, my darling husband finally got to enjoy the Turkey Kefta!  Truly, he was indeed served like a King.  Well, he is my King any way; and I am his Queen.  And as always, he was moaning a groaning in delight with each bite.  I am grateful to have someone so supportive and expressive…I think I’ll keep him.

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RaqiSa Fitness: Kicked Up Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

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Fresh, clean, lively, and spicy are my chosen adjectives to describe this delicious, fast and easy salad.  While it is true that the ingredients in this Mediterranean Quinoa Salad are close to that of the traditional Lebanese tabouli salad I grew up enjoying, you will never hear me say, nor will you read in writing that this salad is a “tabouli salad.”  Why?  Because I have too much respect for the labour of love involved in preparing a traditional Lebanese tabouli salad.  Each ingredient traditionally is chopped to perfection, and when assembled together, it takes an artistic eye to know the balance of parsley to cracked wheat. Hailed by my mother as the “Christmas” salad for the balance of green, red, and white hues; this salad doesn’t quite meet the criteria. In fact it is such an involved labour of love, that when I was single, I created “Tabouli Making Parties” with my girlfriends just to share the chopping time and the camaraderie in both preparation and serving.  On one occasion, my dear friend’s husband introduced to me for the first time ever, to serve a jalapeno pepper to individual tabouli portions.  I was quizzical at first. But, I had to try it.  It was such a surprising addition that it made the cut in this quinoa salad.

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Fast forward many years, many jobs, a husband and two children later.  Today I need fast, healthy, and easy.  So, I created this salad to cut the time and with a modern…casual spin.  While I personally can eat a whole bowl, (which I did), it is technically “two” servings.  I also do not use all the dressing for this portion, just to watch my calorie in take, but one could if they really enjoy the flavors…Okay, I used most of the dressing.  In all seriousness, the instructions are to simply assemble all the ingredients together and add the delicious salad dressing.  Serve chilled and enjoy each and every bite.  Prepare to feel alive and energetic.  In fact – it’s the perfect incentive to exercise!

P.S.  I promise, I will share with you my mother’s Lebanese Tabouli recipe, but for now, enjoy this toward good health!

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DRESSING INGREDIENTS: 3 oz of olive oil, Juice of one lemon, 1 crushed garlic clove, 2 pinches of dried mint, salt to taste. *Stir together.
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INGREDIENTS: 1 C of cooked and cooled quinoa, 1 cup of finely chopped parsley, 2 tomatoes finely chopped, 1 Tbs of chopped fresh mint, 1/2 of a small white onion chopped, 1 Jalapeño sliced and served on the side, Salt to taste. *Combine with dressing and fold all the ingredients together.

RaqiSa Fitness: Freshly Prepared Baba Ghannouj

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It may seem impossible with a busy work week; or perhaps it’s the last thing on your priority list, but preparing your own foods is always the healthiest option.  To start off, try keeping in your pantry Mediterranean staples to help inspire the impulsive chef you may be.  As taught by my mother, a good Lebanese woman, (or man), will always keep in their pantry:  Olive oil, Tahina, Garlic, Lemon, fresh, as well as dried mint.

Want popcorn?  Make it with olive oil!  Need an instant salad dressing?  Mix olive oil, lemon, garlic, and dried mint.  Any vegetable dish always tastes better with olive oil drizzled.  In fact, you may be surprised by the bright flavors in grilled zucchini drizzled with olive oil and topped with fresh mint!  But for this blog, the spotlight is on the EGGPLANT prepared as a simple (and fast) recipe you can enjoy called: Baba Ghannouj.  This versatile dip can be served as a delicious snack in between meals, or is worthy enough to serve as an hors d’oeurvre.  Having a “meatless Monday”? –  Enjoy baba ghannouj as a spread for your wraps!

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BABA GHANNOUJ INGREDIENTS:  

2 Medium Eggplants

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

5 Tbsp Tahina

2 Cloves of Garlic crushed into a paste

Juice of One Lemon

Salt to taste.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place the eggplants into a hot oven for approximately 15 – 20 minutes, (or until the eggplant is completely soft). Allow to cool.  Remove the skin carefully, while holding the stem.  Discard the stem. Place into a food processor as shown below.   Add the 1 Tbsp of Olive Oil and 5 Tbsp of Tahina, and squeeze the juice of one medium lemon.  Blend until creamy.  Prepare a garlic paste by adding a little salt to the garlic before crushing.  (As shown in picture, I squeezed a bit a lemon first to hold it together.)  Combine in a dish all the ingredients and mix well.  Add additional salt to taste and place in a serving dish. Drizzle 1 Tbsp of olive oil before serving.

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Place softened and Peeled Eggplant into the Food Processor
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Add a little salt and a touch of lemon before you begin to crush the garlic into a paste.
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Place your fresh and chilled Baba Ghannouj in a serving dish. Drizzle additional olive oil; for color, add delicious pomegranates with additional lemon wedges. Traditionally, Baba Ghannouj is served with fresh vegetables. To enjoy this as a vegetarian wrap, simply spread baba ghannouj with sliced tomato and cucumbers on a wrap!

RaQuisa SM_Logo_2c-JPEG 2.11.2014 copyIn Summation:  Making your foods with a Mediterranean spin is actually easier than expected.  I am a busy mother and a wife; and I work just like the rest of the world, but I delight in knowing that I am also the self proclaimed nutritionist in the house who aims to serve only the best for my family.  It’s funny.  Before I sat to write these final thoughts, I served my husband the pictured dish with the fresh vegetables.  And do you know what I just heard my husband say as I type this?  “Mmmm.  I love eating healthy foods…Healthy foods made by you.  Mmm, the garlic in it is good too. Mmmm.”  Now that’s what I like to hear!   I will tell him what I always say… “Sahtain”! – Which means “may it be toward good health”!