Tag Archives: Lebanese foods

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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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: Grape Leaves Recipe – A Mother to Daughter Family Tradition

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Grape Leaves

Passed Down from Mother to Daughter

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Shown here in this picture is me, my daughter Lillie and my dearest sister Leila.  My mother would be here, except she is kind of busy up in heaven probably doing other amazing things as she did here on earth.  It’s tough to lose someone, to be sure.  But one of many great ways to honor her perfect memory is to pass down to my daughter her recipes and shared stories.  Between me and my sister Leila, my daughter has a pretty keen sense of exactly who my mother was.  And that’s a good thing.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I want to pass not just this recipe, but the shared experience that can be enjoyed when gathered to roll grape leaves.  You see, every good Lebanese girl learns to roll grape leaves.  It requires a patient cook with confident and steady hands.  The labor involved does not fall under my “fast, quick, and easy” recipes that I usually offer.  Rather, it is involved and time consuming.  But that’s okay.  It’s okay because you get to prepare something that almost everyone loves and when they do enjoy feasting, there is this great satisfaction the cook can enjoy when watching her table relish each bite.   I hope you will not just enjoy this recipe, but the process involved.  I hope that you will find loved ones in your life to either cook with or to serve as grape leaves seem to just need that right combination.

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Grape Leaves served with cooked carrots

adds color to the table and makes it a complete meal.

Serves 6. Cooking time: approx.: 1 or more (1/2) depending on how much rice you use. Test the tenderness of the grape leaf and the thoroughness of the rice before serving

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of natural butter
1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons of salt (depending on preference)
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 – 3/4 cup of rice (depending on carbohydrate preference)
1 lb. of fresh ground beef (or lamb or a mixture of both)
1/4 – 1/2 cup of water (depending on how much rice you use less water for less rice, etc.)
Additional Ingredients used in the directions:
3 cloves of crushed garlic
1/2 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon of dried mint

Directions
Sauté onions in the butter until soft. Mix onions and butter, salt, pepper and cinnamon into rice. Add the meat and water. Mix well. Note: *This meat mixture may be used as a stuffing for a variety of vegetables, not just for grape leaves.

Layer onto the bottom of your pot small baby carrots. Lightly salt the layer of carrots and squeeze some lemon. Roll your grape leaf, one by one. Lay your grape leaf with the rough side up and place a desired meat mixture (approx. 1 tablespoon or less) in the center. Fold the bottom of the leaf over the stuffing, then fold it in from each side to the middle. Roll tightly, forming a roll about 3 in long and 1/2-1 inch thick.Pack the rolls tightly, (open ends down) into fitted rows. Depending on the size pan you use, you may get 1 – 2 rows per jar of grape leaves. Sprinkle each layer with salt and lemon juice. The final layer sprinkle with 1tsp of mint, 3 cloves of crushed garlic, salt, and the remainder of the lemon. Cover with enough water to cover the grape leaves, place a heat resistant plate upside down over the grape leaves to prevent them from unraveling. Bring to a boil, reduce to low and let simmer until rice is cooked and grape leaves are soft.

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Happy Mother’s Day From RaqiSa Fitness!

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Watch for Mother-Daughter RaqiSa Fitness Events Coming this Month

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: 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”!

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!

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