Category Archives: RaqiSa Mediterranean Lifestyle

Lebni, A Timeless Tradition, by RaqiSa Living.

Lebni

This Holiday Season, bring good health and flavor to your table with a Timeless Mediterranean Tradition: Lebni.  Enjoyed in homes and restaurants, particularly in Lebanon and Greece, Lebni is a delicious, thick, and creamy yogurt with a sophisticated texture served as a spread or a dip.  As a dip, simply drizzle with olive oil and top with pomegranate seeds. This preparation is both visually beautiful and flavorful, adding just enough sweetness in each bite!  Serve with either pita chips or vegetables.

Remember, Lebni may also be enjoyed as a spread and is a classic breakfast or snack.  Simply spread on pita bread, add fresh tomato, cucumber, fresh mint, and a dash of *salt, and *olive oil (*optional) and voila!

As always we say, “Sah’tain”!  Which means, “To your Health”!

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Three Simple Ways to Use a Single Pomegranate, by RaqiSa Living.

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Fight Cold and Flu Season with the Powerful Properties in Pomegranates! Enjoy our Featured Recipe!

Pomegranates are in abundance, and what a wonderful winter addition this fruit is!  Pomegranates add visual and flavorful interest to our winter fruit options, and they are packed with powerful antioxidants to fight cancer and to boost our immunity.   In the Middle East, pomegranates are a kitchen staple. Children from a young age learn to de-seed these babies like a professional!  (And believe me, nothing makes this RaqiSa Momma more proud than to hear her kids request for, “More pomegranates, please”!)  In addition, pomegranate seeds are used frequently for decoration.  *See our “Baba-Ghanoush Recipe Photo.  So, bring this delicious tradition into your home and start with one single pomegranate and enjoy three simple ways to use the whole pomegranate, today!

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Start by de-seeding the pomegranate.  The easiest way is to cut it in quarters, and open the wedges, letting the seeds fall into a bowl.  It requires some finger work, but kids love it, so if you have kids, recruit them to help!  With the exception of a small handful, keep the rest of the seeds in a baggie and freeze them.

  1. Make pomegranate ice-cubes with fresh lemon.  For extra vitamin C, Squeeze the juice of one lemon and mix with water, then add the set aside pomegranate seeds into each ice cube with pieces of lemon. Enjoy in your favorite flavored or plain bubbly water or add flavor and nutrients in your hot or cold teas.  Speaking of teas…see #2.IMG_3850
  2. In the Middle East, we are known for not wasting our foods! That means, keep the Pomegranate Peels and Freeze them…because once you feel a cold coming on, pull out your peels and boil them to make a delicious tea!  Cover peels with ample water, bring the water to a boil, then reduce to low heat and cover – allow the peels to seep on low for approximately 4 minutes.  To serve, discard the peels, and pour the tea into a cup  and add the lemon and pomegranate ice cubes to cool the tea (and add nutrients). *Optional, add 1 tsp of honey.
  3. We love our yogurt in the Middle East.  It’s got so much to offer for  muscle, bone and gut health because it’s a probiotic, with protein, potassium, and calcium.  So try this recipe as a refreshing sunrise smoothie or a post workout recovery treat featuring the frozen pomegranates.  This smoothie packs a powerful nutrient dense punch. Simply add all the Ingredients into Your Blender and Blend!

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2 Tbls of vanilla yogurt

1/2 cup of non fat milk

3 ice cubes

1/2 of a banana (preferably frozen too)

1 Tbls of frozen pomegranates (plus more to dress the smoothie)

1 tsp of honey (plus more to drizzle on top)

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As always, we say, “Sah’tain”!  Which means “TO GOOD HEALTH”!

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RAQISA LIVING: Mediterranean Chicken and Rice Pilaf with Cinnamon

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Mediterranean Chicken and Rice Pilaf with Cinnamon

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Fall Flavors are easy to capture with many of the traditional Lebanese recipes because so many of the dishes include a cinnamon stick to round the flavors.  In my house growing up, this particular dish was a family favorite; particularly my brother loved this dish.  In fact, the first time I prepared this dish was for my brother when I went to visit him in his new home.  I had my mother write down the instructions, (which I have kept as a keepsake!), because I wanted to prepare the dish exactly the way he remembered.

Funny enough, after my mother had passed and when my sisters and I gathered to cook together this very dish for our brother at a family gathering, we ALL had a different version of the same recipe our mother had taught us!  (Good thing I kept the instructions she shared with me as my proof!)  But the TRUTH was…my mother was a free spirit by nature and could create the same recipe and alter it slightly each time – sometimes it was merely depending on what she had in the house.  Nonetheless, her dishes were always delicious.  Two notable options which can be added to this dish are either garbanzo beans (and-or) ground beef (or lamb).  Garbanzo beans are a nice addition, and many add ground beef, but I like to keep it simple with the chicken, because I usually prepare another meat dish along side this when I have guests.

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In summation:  This is a versatile dish and it is always a hit as an introduction to Lebanese cuisine.  Many are surprised by the simple ingredients and the comforting flavors. Just last weekend I prepared this for my American cousin who requested this dish specifically.  What a beautiful evening we shared around the table, feeling Fall in the air, walking in nature, and filling our bodies with good nutrition.  So may you enjoy this recipe toward good health…and remember as I always say, “Sah’tain!”

Recipe and Instructions:

Step ONE:  Boil one Whole Chicken with two cinnamon sticks, one small red onion quartered, 1/2 of a lemon, 2 cloves of garlic, whole, 2 tsp of salt.  Once the chicken is thoroughly cooked and cooled, de-bone the chicken separating the white and dark meat (merely as a preference) into a bowl with the onion and garlic and cinnamon sticks, (discard the lemon).  Cover the chicken, onion, and garlic with some of the broth to keep the chicken moist.  (Note: Reheat if needed just before serving – be sure to drain the broth before serving)

IMG_2757Step TWO:  Prepare two cups of rice using the remaining chicken broth.  Add 2 tablespoon of butter, 1 1/2  teaspoons of salt, 1 cinnamon stick.

Step THREE:  Meanwhile, toast in 1 tablespoon of butter a generous handful of each: slivered almonds and pine nuts.  Toast on med-low, set aside.

Step FOUR:  Once rice is done, assemble together on a platter the rice,   topped with the chicken, onion, and garlic.  Finally top the dish with the toasted nuts.  Decorate platter with the cinnamon sticks before serving.  Add additional salt to taste.

NOTE:  This dish is traditionally served with yogurt.  You may enjoy it with plain yogurt or try this delicious Yogurt Recipe:  In a bowl, pound one fresh garlic clove 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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RaqiSa Living: Chilled Mediterranean Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions

lentils and rice

M’Judra Byda

A Traditional Lebanese Vegetarian Dish 

Summer grilling is always fun – but as summer drags on, you just might be all grilled out.  To inspire the inner chef in you, I bring to you a versatile dish that in actuality can be served either hot or cold.  A family tradition in most Lebanese homes, this lentil and rice dish is served with a crisp, fresh salad.  (Refer to my “Kicked Up Mediterranean Quinoa Salad” post for my tasty lemon and mint dressing which compliments this dish nicely).

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Ingredients: 3 1/2 Cups of Water, 3/4 Cups of Dried Lentils, 1/2 Cup of Rice,  1 Medium Onion, 1/4 cup (plus 1 TBS) of Olive Oil, 1 TBS Butter,  1 TSP Salt. (Serves Approx. 4)

Instructions: Sauté in 1/4 cups of olive oil 1/2 of the medium (chopped) onion until softened.  Meanwhile, boil 3 1/2 cups of water with 3/4 cups of dried lentils until the lentils are softened (approx. 10 minutes).  Add the sautéed onions with the olive oil, 1/2 cup of rice, and 1 TSP of Salt.  Bring to a boil and stir gently.  Reduce heat to low and cover tightly and cook until the rice is cooked through.  Sauté the other 1/2 of the onion in 1 TBLS of olive and 1 TBLS of butter until caramelized. (*Note, I personally use either a sweet white or red onion, depending on preference)  Serve in a dish and top with the caramelized onions.

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Final thought.  I like this dish because it’s economical.  Think about it…It’s a basic beans and rice dish…AND YET, it is regal enough to be served to the Queen of England herself, (okay in my humble opinion anyway); AND it is heart healthy to appeal to the health and fitness enthusiast.  So please, from my home to your home…Enjoy this (and all our dishes), toward good health, “Sah’tain”!

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.

Make it Mediterranean

Arabic Pizza

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My father was in the United States Navy when he met my mom in Beirut, Lebanon.  They fell in love and traveled the world together raising five children.  We were all born in a different country:  USA, Scotland, Lebanon (the twins), and Spain (me).  Imagine how busy my mother was alone and on foreign land!  So, my mother, loyal to the diet of her homeland, had to be creative as the food resources differed with each location.  She ultimately mastered quick and easy methods in effort to prepare her traditional recipes with a spin.  In summation, this recipe was created in response to her unpredictable life and is a slight break from tradition, but it still captures the authentic flavors.  It’s a super easy family friendly recipe.

The cute story:  When mother’s mother in law (my American Grandmother) was served this for the first time, she insisted that there ought to be cheese on it.  My mother has a charm about her and was able to convince her that the fresh lemon really draws out the flavors and urged her to try it as is…She won her over and the whole family embraced her cooking beautifully in no time!

Note:  I know many may prefer a poultry.  I have never tried it other than with beef, lamb, or a combo of the two.  If you do try it with a poultry, let me know how it is!

ARABIC PIZZA

Ingredients:
1 lb. of ground beef
1/2 cup of finely chopped onion
1 can of (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (drain juice)
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tbls of olive oil

Directions:
Combine all the ingredients and mix well with hands.
Pat meat mixture to cover a 10” wrap (or a tortilla) and place on a baking sheet
Pre-heat oven broiler and place rack in center
Broil pizza for 4 minutes or until meat is cooked to your preference.
Drain excess water carefully

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Serve with Fresh Squeezed Lemon, Tomato, and Pickle. Wrap Tightly – Enjoy!
*Add additional cayenne pepper or salt to your taste on individual pizzas.

Enjoy with a delicious heart healthy salad of your choice!

Sahtain!  Enjoy this toward good health!

RaqiSa Fitness:  We believe strong and healthy is beautiful!

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The Ugly Truth: My Personal Story about How I Learned the 80/20 Rule.

No matter how you slice it, it's the 80/20 rule.  How much we eat really does matter.  Here I reveal "the ugly truth" about how I learned this lesson the hard way.
No matter how you slice it, it’s the 80/20 rule. How much we eat really does matter. Here I reveal “the ugly truth” about how I learned this lesson the hard way.  Plus, enjoy an easy family favorite recipe:  Americanized Arabic Pizza!

I am going to have a heart to heart with you in this blog. You will learn things about me I have shared with only a select few. With this information, I hope to bring you closer to the possibility that you too can enjoy a certain freedom as you move toward good health and fitness…because, true be told, I am not all proud of this story.

In some respects, I am very fortunate, because I have always enjoyed working out. I think I was born with a rare interest in fitness. In fact, my sister Leila will tell you that I was born “buff.” Admittedly, there are a couple of pictures of me as a three-year old with pretty ripped arms and legs that I seemed to have earned just from “playing.” Unfortunately, my relationship with food is not so impressive.  You see, despite being “set up for success” with loving and supportive parents, I naively fell into the “comparison trap” as a teenager. So as the magazine age of the über thin super model rose, I morphed my once healthy idea of beauty to something über unrealistic…especially for my fit, full-figured, body type.

Maybe you can relate to some of my story.

To achieve this morphed image, I dabbled with crazy fad diets. I invented restrictive methods such as eating all my calories for breakfast and nothing else the rest of the day…only to lose steam come 3:00 pm during softball practice when I needed the energy most. How stupid. But there is more. A couple of the girls on the team thought that if we wore this wet suit contraption that was advertised on TV during practice then we could “sweat off” our excess fat. So, I spent my hard-earned money from my first paying job to buy this ridiculous wet suit thing so I could sweat off my fat, (which I didn’t even have looking back!).

Then it got uglier. I dabbled with bulimia. The worst part for me with bulimia was that it went against my personal commitment to follow Christ…You see, me and God we were (still are) tight. I always talked to God. So when I would throw up, well, I felt  guilty because I knew better….I’d push out the rationals thoughts such as, “how is doing this, honoring the body I was given?” Mind you, I kept talking to God…only, with each conversation I had a lot of explaining to do…I never blamed God or felt abandoned…I just kept praying and seeking throughout my awkward conversations. Seems that God knew my heart and answered my prayers with two significant women: my mother and Wenda. My mother had this gift of encouragement. She never really knew about my bulimia till after the fact…(and let me tell you, I was so ashamed to tell her). But she was fully aware that I struggled with a negative body image and so she constantly reinforced a positive body image saying repeatedly that I was beautiful and perfectly healthy. My figure was like “Sophia Loren” she’d say with her sweet Lebanese accent. “Why be so skinny, anyway?  This is not healthy…and you are gorgeous!” She was the “good cop.” Wenda, well, she was the “bad cop.” Wenda was my childhood best friend and she was tough. She called me out on my bulimia many times. One time she turned off the water so I couldn’t flush the toilet and forced me to confess! I am grateful to have had such support, because with it, I became even more determined to stop.

First step, I began to educate myself. One of the books that really helped me during this time was a book called, “Diet’s Don’t Work,” by Dr. Bob Schwartz. This book helped me move away from the whole “diet” cycle. I imagine we all have that one book that helped us get past a “hump.” This book was mine. Next, I began to study about fitness and exercise. And, the truth be told, a large part of why I even went into the fitness industry as a group exercise instructor (besides loving fitness) was because I wanted to pay it forward. I wanted to be like my mom and tell my students what they probably needed to hear, “You are gorgeous and healthy.” I wanted to be like Wenda and challenge my students…maybe hold them accountable…the solution being fitness.  I wanted to encourage my students to learn to enjoy cooking healthy recipes. I desired, in earnest, to be the one with the microphone sharing the good news of health! Today, with RaqiSa Fitness, this is the mission; this is the message.

But the story is not over.

CRISIS POINT: PUTTING MY MESSAGE INTO PRACTICE

Everything was going pretty well until I became pregnant with my first child and I gained 40 lbs of extra weight, even though I worked out daily. I was fit. Sure. I was fit and fat. I suppose, subconsciously, I thought I could compete with what I ate through exercise.  You see, before that, I really never was over weight. And I was managing my weight smoothly with healthy eating and working out. But with pregnancy all bets were off – the only thing that seemed to make me feel better were: food, sleep, and exercise. In that order. I can remember when my daughter was born, I went for my 6 week appointment and was weighed. Right there and then I realized exactly HOW MUCH weight I put on. I came home, stood in the kitchen and panicked. So, I started a conversation with myself, “Okay. You have 40 lbs of weight to get off. You’ve never had to lose this much. I want it off fast, but healthy. How do I do it?” For a split second bulimia crossed my mind and I felt this fear sweep over me. “No, you’re just going to have to do this.” I told myself. I remembered to keep my priorities straight:  I gave God thanks daily for my baby and my health. I desperately wanted to be a good role model for my daughter like my mother was for me.

Meanwhile, I returned to teaching my classes two days a week. To be honest, when I looked at myself in the mirror, I didn’t recognize myself. On top of it, there were a couple of other women who also just had babies…but didn’t gain weight at all. I felt embarrassed and frustrated with myself. As I was teaching my class, I was also coaching myself. I told myself to just hang in there, to not be hard on myself. I pushed out the negative thoughts. I ate reasonably and weighed myself weekly.

It took me nine months, but I finally arrived to the last 10 lbs. I was at a plateau and tired of being my own coach. I needed someone to help ME. I was also physically tired from being a sleep deprived new mother. By this time, I had stopped breast-feeding, so, I decided that I would try Jenny Craig because the food was prepared; and I needed something easy. I loved it. I loved it because it was a no-brainer, the food was pre-portioned and seeing the portion sizes really helped me. The calories were pre-measure and this was helpful. I learned a lot of methods to “add volume” with “free vegetables” to various foods as well. I was able to lose the weight, but guess what? The day I returned to my svelte pre-pregnancy weight, I found out I was pregnant with my son!!!!! And YES, I gained weight AGAIN!  This time I didn’t panic. I knew that I could get it off myself; and if I needed additional support, I would go on Jenny Craig again, (which I did).

To be sure, I got the weight off and learned many lessons along the way. The first being, “no matter how hard we work out…if we are not mindful of what we put in our mouths, we will gain weight.” Ultimately we need to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food.  Let me be clear that this is by no means a promo for Jenny Craig.  It was simply an option I chose for convenience as a new mother.  My beautiful sister Leila lost over 100 lbs on Weight Watchers and I am inclined to believe this is the best solution for long-term weight loss.  With RaqiSa Fitness, I promote life-style and cooking.  Because the best way to gain control of what we put in our mouths is to fall in love with cooking delicious foods as we measure our portions.

Below, I hope that you will try this delicious and easy Americanized Arabic Pizza; and I hope that you will be mindful of having   the proper serving with a healthy salad to honor your personal portion size meant for your body.  In addition, if you are seeking support, my sister Leila leads a Facebook group called, “Biohacking Glamazons for Weight loss and Well being.”  Request to be added to the group.  Leila also embraces the RaqiSa Message; after all, we shared the same precious mother!

As far as my personal story goes. Well, I hope the parts that will resonate most are to:

1) Learn to love yourself as you educate yourself on health and fitness;
2) Learn to coach yourself;
3) Learn to control your portions;
4) Learn to seek additional support when needed.

So, in my house, when I need to lose some extra weight, my daughter and son have learned to say that “mommy is going on a LIVE-IT…not a DIE – IT.” I explain carefully that I am grateful to be healthy and that good eating actually FEELS better…I feel more ALIVE! I try to let my kids see me enjoy the foods we always eat, but with a portion size that is catered toward weight loss. I try to limit eating out and I try to cook at home. And yes, I still love finding support from friends or professionals who can coach me through as needed.

In summation: It’s the 80/20 rule. What we put in our mouth does matter. Working out is so important because our bodies were MEANT to move and we were designed to have muscle balance to function in life. In addition, exercise lifts our spirits!  RaqiSa Fitness offers fun, flirty, results based solutions to help motivate you to move!  It is my hope that you will learn to enjoy exercise not as a punishment to “lose weight,” but as joy. And if you happen to be full-figured like me…Well, start to believe what my mother said, “You’re Gorgeous!  You look like Sophia Loren!” ….Hey, why not?

What’s for dinner?  Americanized Arabic Pizza!  

Enjoy this fast and easy family friendly recipe in your home today!

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ARABIC PIZZA
1 lb. of ground beef
1/2 cup of finely chopped onion
1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes (drain excess juice)
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tbls of olive oil

Combine all the ingredients and mix well with hands.
Pat meat mixture to cover a 10” wrap (or tortilla) and place on a baking sheet
Preheat oven broiler and place rack in center
Broil pizza for 4 minutes or until meat is cooked to your preference.
Place Individual Pizza on a Plate and Drain excess liquid carefully.

Serve with Fresh Squeezed Lemon, Tomato, Pickle and Wrap Tightly. Enjoy!
*Add additional cayenne pepper or salt to your taste on individual pizzas.

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Make it Mediterranean: Reclaim Your Health with This Recipe.

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Happy New Year!

Momma’s Lebanese healing soup. When I was a single woman, I would come home to see my mother on the weekends; she would have a large pot of this special soup just for me to enjoy through the weekend. After years of teaching me to eat healthy, she had finally arrived – I was fully on board her “health train” and I whole heartedly ate this soup, guilt free. Sometimes she would add Garbanzo beans or potatoes. She was a free spirit like that. I adored most how she oozed her love, and “health facts” into each delicious recipe. I can still hear her say, “The bone marrow has the most nutrients, this is why we use the beef bone marrow!”

I speak every bit to me as to you, when I say that between Halloween and the New Year, surely, treats have passed our way and our system has been compromised.  Together, we may need to gently cleanse our system toward optimal health. Please, enjoy this soup – I recommend one to two days, with at least 2 pieces of your favorite fruit, and a generous handful of your favorite nuts. Drink plenty of delicious water. One of my favorite ways to drink water is to make lemon and mint ice cubes. Adding these ice cubes not only makes your drink look desirable, but chewing the lemon and the mint, once the ice-cube is melted, is a delicious treat. And yes, my mother would tell you to eat the lemon peel too because of the nutrients! “Sah-tain!” May you enjoy this toward good health!

Momma’s Healing Soup Ingredients:

10 cups of Water

1 cup of Beef Broth (optional)

1 Beef Marrow Bone

1 12 oz can of tomato paste

1 Cinnamon stick

1 Small Onion Chopped

2 Cups of cut Green Beans

2 Cups of Chopped Cabbage

2 Cups of Chopped Celery

2 Cups of Chopped Broccoli Florets

1 Cup of Chopped Carrots

1 Cup of Chopped Yellow Squash

Add Salt and Pepper to Taste.

Directions: Simply put all the ingredients together in a large pot, on high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat.  Cover, and cook until all the vegetables are tender.

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An Ancient Solution To Our Modern Day Problems

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I TRULY MARVEL. We are beautifully and wonderfully made. Consider this: each muscle is designed in delicate order to serve a purpose so we may function daily “doing life” with ease and precision. Seriously, let this sink in for a moment. Each muscle in your precious body has a purpose. But there is more. We were not only designed with a delicate balance of muscle, but our bodies are capable of moving lyrically through space and time because we are beautifully divided into upper and lower extremities; our hips and arms can abduct and adduct; our trunk can rotate, flex, and extend!  Why?  Because we are designed with the ability to move in three brilliant planes of motion, properly known as: The Saggital Plane (movement forward and backward), The Frontal Plane (movement side to side), and The Transverse Plane (movement that is rotational). But there is a catch. If we neglect these beautiful muscles, in due time they will begin to weaken or become inflexible and we risk injury…or with an aging body…we risk a serious fall. And, if we don’t train all three planes of motion, injury may ensue.

AN ANCIENT SOLUTION TO OUR MODERN DAY PROBLEMS. It occurred to me during one of my fitness workshops, as we were studying movement patterns, and the many benefits that come with “multi-planar training,” that the women who gathered in the ancient dance of the Middle East,  knew something about our need to achieve and preserve optimal health and fitness for function. While there are limited resources, and there is much debate on the true origins, oral history suggests this ancient dance was a practice originally shared with women as a means to ease child-birth.  Only later was it coined “Belly Dance” because of the cool belly tricks observed by Westerners.  Indeed, belly dance is a non-impact, weight-bearing, multi-planar, workout.  Envision if you will: Belly Dance is primarily a torso-driven dance, with an emphasis on articulations, mostly through the hips, (i.e. hip twists, slides, and figure eights to name a few). Add any one of these articulations to a lateral travel or a forward or backward walk (or even a lunge) and guess what? You have multi-planar movement!

Let me be clear, I didn’t make this dance up. No, it’s as ancient as it comes; but it was passed down to me at a very early age as a part of my culture. RaqiSa embraces this age-old dance, and strives to revive this “girl power” practice into the here and now, because in addition to the many health benefits, it’s good for the soul.  Belly Dance notoriously promotes a positive body image for women of all ages and all sizes.  While the RaqiSa choreography is fun & flirty, the training is a series of intense, results based formats, which will tone, sculpt, and stretch your muscles. Each workout is uniquely designed to demystify belly dance and speed the learning curve, so that you can enjoy the many benefits that come with belly dance.

IN SUMMATION.  Your motivation to stay fit may be because you want to look good. Sure, we all like that as an added benefit. But truth be told, there should be an expectation – an urgency on our part to prioritizes fitness simply because we ought to be balanced and fit so that we may “do life” physically with ease.  So why not train like the women who gathered in dance?  Belly Dancing works the body as a unit, connecting all the parts at once, relying on deep stabilizer muscles to maintain precision.  Oh…and it’s a lot of fun.

Realize your body’s potential to achieve a higher standard.  Because if we don’t train or condition our muscles evenly and on many planes, then we are doing our bodies a disservice.  So go ahead!  Marvel at how beautifully you were designed.  Walk in front of the mirror and dance around and say, “Wow!  It’s me moving in 3-D – and I’m amazing!”

RaqiSa 2015 Workouts are in production.  So please stay tuned for these RaqiSa signature formats:  Belly Barre, Belly Ball, and Belly Dance.  Be sure to LIKE us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more updates.