The Perfect Pot for Tadig!

December 20th, 2012

I am super excited to share with you a few posts on Persian kitchen gadgets!  While it is true Persian food does not really require that many gadgets, there are certainly utensils that can make one’s life much easier…so, if you love gadgets and like having enough time for a manicure, why not embrace them?

Scratched teflon saucepan…eggs loaded with PTFE acid anyone? 

If you are a foodie like me, you probably consider stores like Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma some of you favorite places. You may get all excited over a kitchen gadget that is made smartly and often think…”how did I not think of that?!” You have a drawer –or several in fact- in your kitchen full of super cool devices that make your life easier and that you love and adore. Well, welcome to my world! I might like gadgets just as much as jewelry…just don’t tell my husband I told you that!

Look how pretty this pot is! It cleans very well too.

Since I consider my beloved pots to be gadgets, today I am going to talk about the perfect pot for making Persian rice. After all, we all know that Persian rice is the most sought-after dish in the Persian world! In my video for making Persian Chelo I use a non-stick pot made by Calphalon. I love it because the Tadig (heavenly by-product of steaming the rice) does not stick to the bottom of the pot! Now, I am sure you have all heard of the dangers of using non-stick surfaces. So, I decided to do a little research because I was having a hard time departing from my beloved non-stick pots without a good enough reason.

You know these are going to be AMAZING! Watch my video and you will see how to make it!

Many non-stick pots in the market are made with a chemical called Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). This chemical has a famous trademark name: Teflon. This trademark actually belongs to DuPont and it is known for its non-stick properties. Sounds great, right? Well, not really. It happens that according to the EPA this chemical is considered to be “likely carcinogen.” What happens with PTFE is that when exposed to high temperatures, it expels gases that are extremely dangerous. There are plenty of studies out there and I will not bore you with numbers, but sadly no matter what coatings companies put over the PTFE their pots are made with, the possibility of it expelling the gases is always present.  I think I like my Tadig free of Polytetrafluoroethylene acid.  I was so sad when I called Calphalon and they told me my beloved pot was made of…you guessed it, PTFE and coated with a protective film that is already scratching away…good bye beloved pot!

All ready to steam my delicious (and healthy) rice…next time I am making it whole grain!

Not long ago I received on the mail a brand new pot. It is made by Imperial and coated with ceramic. It does not contain PTFE or PFOA (another dangerous acid). It was sent to me by www.gift-centre.com (yes, it is fun to be an author and get things sent to you to demo). However, many times I get things that are not necessarily amazing. Well, this pot IS amazing! I wanted to share it with you because this is my new Tadig making beloved pot! It contains no chemicals (yay!) and the Tadig comes out perfect! I have also used it to make popcorn and it is the best pot for making popcorn I have ever used. I highly recommend it and it is very reasonably priced compared to other ceramic-coated pots available at my favorite stores listed above.

 

Here is my rice steaming…the paper towel keeps the steam inside the pot. Make sure to keep it away from the flames.

Stay tuned for my next post about electric Persian rice makers, Kebab skewers, and so much more!…yep, they are also available at gift-center.com!

 

Love!

 

Reyna

 

Disclaimer: As you know, I do not advertise in my Blog. Hence, everything I share with you is from my honest experience and without any biases. I am not in the payroll of any of the companies I have mentioned above.

Take me out to the water!

September 25th, 2012

Tashlich must be one of my favorite (I know…I have lots of favorites) things to do between Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur.  Not only the kids get super excited to go to the lake/rive/ or in this year’s case the reservoir, but also I get to get rid of all the steal bread!

 

At the reservoir...such a beautiful and peaceful place...until you bring 5 boys along!

Fine, the real reason I love Tashlich is because after I do it I feel like I lost about 5 pounds…here we go again! However, this time I didn’t have to eat clean at all! All kidding aside, nothing feels better than charging a piece of bread with all the not-so-nice stuff (yep, sins) I have done during the year and literally detach myself from all that darkness while tossing it into the water for the fish to eat away…sounds kind of weird now that I think about it…I wonder what the other people standing next to us at the reservoir were thinking about us…oh well…

 

Here is my son reading the prayer before tossing the bread into the water

The truth is that Tashlich is the perfect time to think about those nasty things we have done and to “divorce” ourselves from them. We toss them in the water, in the form of bread, and hope the fish eat them. Fish do not have eyelids; hence they never close their eyes. I know this is going to sound even weirder, but this symbolizes how G-d is always in the look out for us; protecting us all the time.  Fish are also incredibly susceptible to fall pray of the net of the fisherman…just as we are susceptible to be caught in the net of judgment.  Tashlich makes us aware of our mistakes and rethink our deeds. Tahslich recharges my “be a good girl” batteries and gives me hope that I can always repent for the things that I have done wrong.

 

Hey! I caught this boy eating the bread!

Wishing you all a Gemar Chatima Tova and an easy and meaningful fast of Yom Kipppur!

 

Love!

 

Reyna

 

For more info on Tashlich visit HERE and HERE

 

Eatable Parsha creations! – Korach

June 21st, 2012

One of my boys loves making Parsha (week’s Torah portion) related creations that you can also eat…I know, who needs a piece of paper that will go to the garbage anyways…let’s make it eatable! We often serve these clever productions on our Shabbat table for dessert and the guests go nuts on them.

Here are the proud boys! We made Alef Bet cookies with the remaining dough spelling their names!

I don’t always have time to make these projects, but this week the nagging was such that I had to make time for it…so I guess nagging Mommy really works [just don't let my kids and husband know]. This week’s parsha is Korach.  There is lots of cool bloody and graphic stuff my boys would have loved to depicted in this week’s parsha…like the earth swallowing Korach and his followers…they wanted to make a bunt cake with Lego mini figures being swallowed in the hole of the cake…boys will be boys. Somehow I persuaded them to make cookies! Of course I promissed them they could have some cookie dough…that certainly helped to convince them.

Here it is, before placing it in the over to bake.

I decided to make Aaron’s rod out of cookie dough. In this week’s parsha his staff (rod) sprouted flowers and almonds. I got the idea from this wonderful Blog called Parsha Projects. We colored cookie dough to make the flowers, leaves and staff. We also added real almonds to complete the look. To make the cookie dough look like a wooden rod simply add the coloring but do not blend all the way.

Here is a closeup for you to see the details

I hope this inspires you to make something special with you kids this Shabbat!

Here is the finished product...looks a little flat but it still works!

Shabbat shalom!

Reyna

Clean Snacks: Never feel “hungry” again!

June 20th, 2012

If you are new to this post keep in mind it is a continuation to an effort we are making to lose 5 pounds for the summer! (see previous posts below)

 

 I have tried almost everything to lose weight in the past, Weight Watchers, starvation, crazy protein only diets, countless shakes, counting calories, Mediterranean diet …you name it! They all worked to a certain extent and then I would gain the weight again. It was very frustrating.  I was always hungry and I was always moody. With WW( one of the few experiments that kinda worked) I leaned everything was a number and when I would see a banana I would think “2 points.” I would splurge my points in pizza and starve the rest of the day because I had no more points…I was losing touch with myself. Unlike WW, all the other diets had no accountability so I dropped them all. How little did I know the one I have to give accountability for my eating is ME! Dieting, I found, was not going to be the solution for because that meant depriving my body from the food I loved. Deprivation leads to abuse.  I had abused enough.  Today I can say I have never felt so healthy, wholesome, and light in my life.

 

I slowly realized clean eating was not a “diet” and I learned it from people that were not trying to sell me food or a membership or anything. It makes total sense and it holds the healthiest most invigorating attitude. As you may know, I am a mother to 5 yummy boys, hence doing anything radical or unhealthy would be foolish because my family really needs me and I need my energy to be able to perform as the best mother I can be.

 

This is probably one of my favorite snacks!

One of my favorite things about eating clean is that I am never hungry. When you eat “clean” you do not wait until you are starving to eat. Considering you are eating every 2 to 3 hours that makes total sense. This is beneficial because when you are hungry you will reach for whatever if available to eat without thinking about it. Also, when we are hungry we get into a nasty mood and can’t even think straight, let alone get a good workout. Feeling hungry is not fun; trust me…I have fasted enough Yom Kippurs to know that first hand.

 

Clean eaters consume about 5 meals a day. Breakfast (extremely important) lunch and dinner plus a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. The meals are small but substantial and always combine a protein with a complex carb (see previous posts for food portions etc.)

 

I wanted to share with you my favorite clean snacks. I keep these snacks close at hand because I am always on the go and need to just “grab” something fast. If that is a cookie on the counter it will be that cookie…but if it is a healthy snack I will certainly make an effort to grab the healthy snack. These snacks make a meal and can be used for lunch or dinner as well. Some of these ideas were taken from Just the Rules by Tosca Reno.  Remember food portions are important but don’t use cups and tablespoons, try using your hands like the picture in previous posts.

 

Chummus and crudités

 

Sabra makes individual servings of 2 oz. each that are great to take on the go. Those are convenient, but my favorite is Trader Joes Chumus because it is preservative and Tehina free and taste incredibly home made.

 

Apple and a Handful of Almonds or unsalted nuts like cashews

 

So simple yet so satisfying and delicious!

Trader Joes carries these adorable little snacking apples that are sweet and crunchy at the same time. They also carry individually wrapped almonds and unsalted cashews that are the perfect portion for clean eaters.

 

Panir O’Gerdu (a fabulous Persian snack)

 

Two Persian cucumbers sliced with feta cheese and walnuts (add a small whole grain wrap or an Ezekiel wrap to make it into breakfast or dinner)

 

Protein Smoothie

 

Love my Vitamix! Besides whey, you can also get rice protein powder, Soy protein is not recommended for women.

My favorite is a scoop of vanilla protein powder, 4 oz water (or almond milk), half banana and a ton of ice…when mixed together it feels like you are eating ice cream! Purchase your kosher protein powders from www.koshervitamins.com, I am not involved with this site but I don’t know anywhere else you can get a good kosher protein powder isolate.

 

Persian Cucumbers and tuna

 

This is better than it looks! Funny enough this is what Osmel Sousa makes all the Miss Venezuela candidates eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I know it sounds crazy but I love opening a can of tuna and topping it with sliced cucumbers and a drizzle of limejuice. Yum!

 

Chopped vegetables (about 1 cup) with 1 cup cooked edamame pods

 

Feeling Italian or something…

 

This is SO delicious...just had it today for lunch...it works like that too!

2 slices of either Ryvita or Wasa crackers with 2 tablespoons goat cheese and sliced

tomato and/or greens

 

Rice Cake fix

 

Brown rice cakes with almond butter (or any nut butter) and a banana or you can spread the nut butter on a wrap and wrap around the banana.

 

If you have a little more time…

 

½ cup non-fat greek yogurt with ½ cup berries (strawberries, blue berries, you name it!) and a sprinkle of flax seed. (add unsweetened granola for a great breakfast)

 

Mock apple pie

 

Sliced apple with a sprinkle of cinnamon put in the microwave for 30 seconds and topped with low fat cottage cheese and flax seed. Feels like you are eating apple pie! Add a scoop of protein powder for the perfect after-workout meal.

 

Home made protein bars or bodybuilding protein bars…yum! Next time I will share a great recipe I “Persianized” from Jaime Eason (my favorite bodybuilding athlete)

 

Let me know how you are doing…how are you feeling? I know, even after one day of clean eating, I feel like a superstar! It was very hard today because I baked cookies with my kids, I did have a little cookie…yep, I am not perfect but at least I am honest!

 

Cheers!

 

Reyna

 

 

BREAKFAST TIME!

June 15th, 2012

If you are new to this post keep in mind it is a continuation to an effort we are making to lose 5 pounds for the summer! Now that you know what eating clean entails (see previous post HERE), let’s put it into practice and see what those clean meals consist of.  With that said, I cannot stress enough the importance of a multivitamin and also [if you are a woman] the daily intake of calcium. I take my multivitamin in the morning with breakfast and my calcium at night before bedtime. Check with your doctor to make sure this is the best for you as well.

 

Since I keep kosher I get my vitamins and protein powders at www.koshervitamins.com  (you can get them also at any Kosher vitamin store, it is just that I don’t live close to any store that would carry these)

 

Don't these look sublime? If you are eating clean make sure the bread is whole wheat or skip the bread all together.

Breakfast is a must! Remember people saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Well, it is totally true! You need to fuel your body to begin your day with the right attitude. The most popular breakfast for clean eaters is: Oats and egg whites! However, I do break my “fast” by drinking a tall glass of water with a little apple cider vinegar to prep my body before I venture with real food. So, that’s what I have almost every day. My gorgeous friend Michelle asked me…what about coffee?!! Well, you can certainly have your coffee, but to sweeten it use truvia or stevia and preferably almond milk, although low fat milk is fine as well.  Almond milk gives you the same benefits as regular milk minus the fat. Make sure to purchase unsweetened almond milk.  Check my facebook page to see more pics of my favorite healthy products.

Persians call morning eggs “Omelet.” I will share with you that recipe (made clean) and also my favorite oats. You may think this is a lot of food, but it really isn’t. If you calculate the actual calories you will not believe how low calorie this meal is and how satisfied you will feel.  Note this meal includes protein (egg whites), complex carbs (strawberries) and starchy complex carbs (oats). I only have the oats when I know I am getting a workout about an hour after breakfast…no workout=no oats.

 

Reyna Favorite Oats

 

¼ Oats (the real ones…not little packages full of sugar)

½ cup hot water

1 package of truvia or stevia-optional (yep, sugar is not going to help lose anything)

3 strawberries, sliced

1 T ground flax seed

1T wheat germ

1T bee pollen

cinnamon or cardamom to taste

 

Mix all ingredients, except strawberries and cinnamon, in a bowl and cover for about 5 minutes. Top with strawberries and cinnamon.

Yield: 1 serving

 

This are the oats I use along with the flax seed and wheat germ.

You are what you Eat:

 

SUGAR: Yep, that’s right. Sugar, as treat, is ok but should not be an every day thing. The reason why we crave sugar is because it is actually a drug. I know…it is fantastic and makes you happy and makes things yummy…and then, after a while you find yourself with this deep sluggish feel that leaves you sad and needing more. So, I keep it as my drug of choice Friday night for dessert along with a glass of wine…did you know alcohol is also sugar? That is the only time a week I allow myself to eat cake, in fact, Shabbat dinner to me is what clean eaters call my “cheat meal”.

Flax Seed, Wheat germ, bee pollen…make the perfect mix for a wonderful working body. Flax seed and wheat germ help tremendously with digestion and will make you as regular as you will ever be! Bee pollen (available in Whole Foods-no need for kosher symbol according to the Star K) protects me against allergies and it is also considered a superfood!

 

Keep these refrigerated. These are all super foods and keep your engine working nicely. Do not heat flax oil or fish oil. According to the Start K you do not need a kosher symbol on the bee pollen..

Persian Breakfast Omelet

 

½  small onion, finely sliced into half-circles

¼ teaspoon olive oil or coconut oil

¼ teaspoon turmeric

1 tomato, finely sliced into half-circles

 ½ cup eggwhites, whisked together

salt and pepper to taste

 

In a medium skillet, sauté onions in olive oil and turmeric over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and sauté for additional 5 minutes until soft. Combine eggs with salt and pepper. Pour over onion-tomato mixture and cook over medium/low heat, covered, for 10 minutes or until eggs set.

Yield: 1 serving

 

My favorite egg whites! They are pasteurized which means you can even eat them raw if you wish...I cannot get myself to do that even to save my life!

You are what you Eat:

Olive oil and Coconut Oil: The time to get rid of the corn and vegetable oil in your kitchen has arrived. You cannot compare them to the health benefits of olive oil and much less to coconut oil. Coconut oil is one of the most incredible oils readily available and with hechsher (kosher symbol). Worried about fat? Well, your engine needs fat to run just like a car needs oil to run. Just make sure you feed it with the best lube available. Oils like coconut, avocado, olive, flaxseed (you had this with your oats already), grapeseed oil and canola oil are fantastic. These fats actually keep you lean and boost your metabolism.

 

Next post will be dedicated to lunches and dinner. We will then tackle healthy snacks. If you are going to do your grocery shopping this weekend remember to download your healthy shopping list from Tosca Reno’s website HERE.

 

SHABBAT SHALOM!! Cheat meal is tongith YAY!

Reyna

 

 

CLEAN EATS RULES

June 15th, 2012

Reyna’s rules of thumb:

  • Pair lean proteins and complex carbs every two to three hours eating 5 meals a day.
  • Pay close attention to portions (see illustration below).
  • Only use starchy complex carbs when you need energy for exercise.
  • Eat two fruits a day.
  • No sugar or alcohol. Only once a week on your “cheat” meal.
  • Drink 3 litters of water every day (add some lemon juice for flavor).
  • Begin your day with a tall glass of water with a little apple cider vinegar.
  • Maximum of 2 tablespoons of fat a day (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado)
  • Stop eating 2 to 3 hours before bed.
  • Exercise every day for at least 15 minutes.

 

Tosca Reno (Author of The Clean Eating Diet) recommends various coolers (to take to work etc) I work from home so I don’t use a cooler, but I can certainly see the benefits of bringing your food to work. Not only you will save money but also you will not reach for the office chips and sugary drinks.

 

There are so many cute and functional lunch boxes in the market! I love the bamboo cutlery!

 

The following is a comprehensive list of meals in my day. Notice I change the amount of food I intake depending on whether I am planning to exercise that day. I keep my starchy complex carbs around my exercise because I need the extra calories (energy). Please, note I exercise every day with a rest day on Saturdays. The only days where I really challenge myself to the max are the days I exercise with my personal trainer: Robin Bates. That is Mondays and Fridays. The other days I use my videos and/or exercise websites and only push myself about 15 minutes a day (more if I have time). I do not have a gym membership and always work out at home.

 

Eating Schedule 

 

7:30am: Breakfast (lean protein, complex carbs from fruit and starchy complex carb)

EXERCISE

10:30am: Mid-morning snack (lean protein, complex carbs from fruit and starchy complex carb)

1:30pm: Lunch (lean protein, complex carb from vegetable)

4:30pm: Afternoon snack (lean protein, complex carb from fruit or veggie)

8pm: Dinner (lean protein, complex carb from vegetable)

 

This seems like a lot of food, right? Well, look below and learn portion sizes and you will realize these are mini meals that just keep you satisfied but not stuffed.

 

Lear your portion sizes! This will be crucial for you. This picture was taken from The Eat Clean Diet by Tosca Reno

 

If I don’t exercise (Saturdays because it is Shabbat) I simply have starchy complex carbs only at lunchtime (when we eat Challah). I don’t over do the Challah because my treat (cheat) meal is Friday night, not Saturday lunch. Friday night I eat everything I want and have a glorious glass of wine! I look forward to this meal the whole week!

I love these collapsible bottles, they are super convenient!

The following are samples of the different food categories:

 

Lean Protein: Fish (tilapia, salmon, tuna), white turkey, extra-lean beef, chicken breast, veal, bison, quinoa, tofu, almonds etc.

Starchy Complex Carbs: whole wheat rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta, oats, banana etc.

Complex carbs from fruits and vegetables: apples, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, etc.

Healthy Fats: olive oil, avocado, almonds, flax seed etc.

 

There is a fabulous grocery list you can print out HERE from Tosca Reno’s website. I will share with you breakfast, morning stack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner suggestions soon. She also has a lot of very good information and inspirational stories you will find helpful.

 

This inspirational quote is from BodyRock.tv facebook page

I hope this will help you getting the building blocks for your new way of eating. I am so proud you have come this far and I am super excited to hear how good you will feel next week! Stick around for menu ideas coming very soon!

PS: If you want my cookbook you can get it here in my Blog of my website. There are only a few copies left and I am not sure when I will print again, so if you want it get it before I run out. Thank you for your support!

Best!

 

Reyna

 

 

Goal: To lose 5 pounds!

June 13th, 2012


I am super excited to hear so many of you are in this with me and we will make it happen together. I will be posting weekly tips, recipes (yes, Persian and middle Easter clean recipes, and inspiration to get us through.) As you know, I have lost weight in the past and I have it (with the help of professionals) down to a science. If you stick with my suggestions you will not only lose weight that will stay off but also feel like you have never felt before! Your energy levels will be amazing and your focus too. I cannot wait to hear from all of you! This week will be prep week where you learn how to eat clean and next Monday is a new beginning!

 

FIRST things first: write down your goal. You can do whatever you set your mind to do and accomplishing it feels amazing.  Get a small journal (or even in your smart phone) write down your goal and commit to it.

 

Here is my goal:

I have an important event coming up in about 3 weeks (I will disclose what it is as we get closer to the date…yikes!) and I will lose 5 pounds of fat to feel healthy, slim, fit and also because I want my clothes from last summer to fit otherwise I will have to shop for a new wardrobe and that is not happening and my husband will flip and I better stop here!

 

As you can see, we all have different goals and reasons to want to get in better shape, but trust me when I tell you no matter how “skinny” you are; the goal of feeling healthy and fit is always an important one. So, I chose 5 pounds because I think any woman out there would not mind losing 5 pounds, of fat that is!

 

SECOND: get rid of the junk. I know I have been keeping it in my night table (yep, that last bag of Trader Joes “parve” chocolate chips) I also get triggered by salty snacks like chips and all that delightful bad-for-you transfat-loaded-yet-delicious-junk.  Stop eating your kid’s leftover chicken nuggets or having dinner with them and then with your husband [personal note here.] I am not going to put obstacles in front of my goal as far as I have the power to remove them. I do have self-control but trust me, I also sometimes give in and feel so frustrated about it after the fact…sounds familiar right?

THIRD: Go grocery shopping for clean foods. You will eat what you have handy and if that is potato chips this will not work. I will be posting my menu and grocery list for next week this week so you can get ready. The rule-of-thumb is shopping in the perimeter of the store where most of the healthy items can be found.  I will take as many pictures of my food as possible and give you suggestions if you are a vegetarian as well.

 

FOURTH: get your loved ones to help you. Enlist all the people around you and make sure they know your goal. Have them help you with motivation and encouragement.  Stay away from “friends” that bring you down or tell you…here you go at it again; what makes you think this time it will work? Those are certainly not friends.  Instead of going to get ice cream, got get a mani-pedi or go rock climbing, do not allow anyone to sabotage your initiative.  Enroll your husband or wife on your goal…you never know…she/he might even join you! Let your kids know about it, when they see you reaching for the last piece of pizza they will remind you about your goal, publicly and without apology. Yep, the fear of public humiliation really works sometimes!

 

LASTExercise! It was hard for me to actually write the “!” sign after that word. I have been exercising with a personal trainer, Robin Bates, for over 2 years two times a week (and on my own the other days) and I honestly still kinda HATE it! Robin is amazing (you can reach her on her facebook page) but I try to find every single excuse to not exercise [which is why I need her]. Even as I am writing this post I am all dressed ready to work out and wishing something will come up and I will not have time at the end to do it! However, ladies, without exercise you will see no lasting results. Yes, you can starve for a week and lose those pounds in a very unhealthy manner. I have done that too. That’s what’s called “skinny fat” because when we do that we lose fat and muscle too. The last 5 pounds are the hardest to lose, so you need to help your body and metabolism with exercise. I am not talking spending an hour at the gym, I am talking about 15 minutes a day getting your heart rate up and challenging your body a bit. If you made time to read this post or brush your teeth, you have time for exercise…even if you hate it like me. I will provide you with my exercise tools and you will not believe how easy is to get your body stronger and fit.

I am so incredibly excited to have you join me in this journey!  I will post the rest of the week everything you need to know to be ready to start on Monday. Get as many friends as possible excited about this because doing it together really helps. I am ready…how about you?!!

 

YIKES!!!

 

Reyna

 

Disclaimer: The information provided reflects Reyna Simnegar’s personal experience and is not intended to replace medical advice. Its best to consult with a doctor before starting any nutritional or exercise routine and find out if these ideas are appropriate for you.

Two Persian Weddings and one GORGEOUS gown!

June 7th, 2012

There is a saying… when it rains, it pours! Well, in my case that happened with wedding invitations. And these weddings were a “must-go-or-bust” kind of weddings. One was family and the other was a very close friend. Both on the same night; both at the same time…all the way to LA LA land!

So, staying true to my vain Venezuelan upbringing, I set out to look for a gown that could really do something special…a Kidush Hashem.  Now, for those of you that don’t know what that means (in this context) a gown that does a Kidush Hashem is something really hard to find. It has to be modest, it has to be stunning, it has to make other women think: Holy Moly! She is not showing cleavage yet she looks amazing!  (If you read carefully you will realize the ultimate irony –which you have always known if you are a woman: women, in general, don’t dress up for men, they dress up for other women! After all, we all know that most men –unless metro or gay- could care less if your dress is embedded with diamonds or made of burlap wrap.)

Here is the dress! You cannot see it very well, but the details are so amazing! It was so well made you could wear it inside-out!

 

I went to every single store you can imagine; from little boutiques to large expensive chain stores…I could not find my Tznius (modest) dress anywhere (you guessed it, I don’t live in Brooklyn.)  You are probably wondering, why does it have to be a modest dress? Well ladies, as you read before, I was raised in Venezuela. If you are familiar at all with Latin American culture, you know by now, that in the Latin world clothing is just an option. I grew up showing more than I left to the imagination. Ladies, do you know what feels great? When you are talking to a man and he is actually looking at your eyes and not anywhere else (yes, I know you get what I mean). Covering up certain parts of my body has transformed my life and changed the way I look at my self-worth and certainly the way other men see me as well. The only guy that’s getting the privileged is my husband, and ladies that is the ultimate aphrodisiac if you ask me (I know I am going to get in huge trouble with this Post…I know).

Here is my Persian Prince!

To be honest, covering up is not easy at all. I use to love the negative attention I would get, not to mention how beautiful the non-modest gowns are nowadays. However, every single day I struggle with tzniut (modesty) I wake up to a new meaning of why I am doing this and how much it means to my marriage and my spiritual growth.  I know it works; I just need to stick with it. I take steps back, I take steps forward, I hesitate but ultimately it is not about perfection, it is all about direction.

Rabbi Ba'alhaness married our friends last Sunday night and almost 15 years ago married us too! It was so wonderful to see him at the wedding. He is such a special man.

Now please, don’t even start thinking I am judging anyone here. I am only focusing on my personal quest. The beauty of Judaism is that nobody is forcing this on anyone (If that is not the way you feel, you need to get help) and there is room for all us in the wagon whether we are showing or not. To me, venturing into the laws of modesty should be a personal and private choice and it ranges from the length of a skirt to the even the way we talk.

Here is the groom (Chatan) looking under his bride's (Kallah) veil to make sure he does not get cheated like Yaakov got cheated when his father-in-law switched Rachel for Leah . This is a beautiful Jewish custom and makes for a great picture of this happy couple!

Just like Cinderella, I was sent a fairy godmother, only she came from…. Italy! Well, kind of. Do you know how Facebook lets you know absolutely everything everyone is doing? Well, one of my friends clicked on a Facebook page with the name of Lev Collection. So, naturally, I clicked on it as well.  I could not believe it! The website was filled with gorgeous tznius gowns. I called the owner immediately and the sweetest most irresistible young lady came on the other line: Carolina Yaghoubzadeh. She was from Milan; yes, her Italian accent is absolutely adorable, and boy did she know fashion and modesty! I was in heaven. Carolina was incredibly patient with me and made me the most stunning dress I have worn to this day. I was so lucky because the dress arrived on Friday and the wedding was on Sunday! I have no words to thank Carolina for making me feel really like royalty and for doing such a Kidush Hashem with her lovely collection of modest gowns and dresses.  There is no question I will be coming back to her over and over again! Carolina Herrera, you might be Venezuelan and super famous, but you better watch out!

The groom is placing the wedding band on the index finger of the right hand after reciting the blessing: "Behold you are sanctified unto me with this ring according to the law of Moses and the people of Israel". According to Jewish law, weddings must not utilize a double ring ceremony in which rings are exchanged. The bride can gift the groom a ring after the formal ceremony.

Persian Jewish weddings are just incredibly amazing events. First, the amount of food is overwhelming. As guests arrive they are greeted with Sushi stations, Mexican stations, fruit station, Kebab stations, Chinese station…you name it! The Ketuba (marriage contract) is signed with two witnesses and often involves only close family members. The wedding ceremony is very different than that of our Ashkenazy brothers. There is no bedeken (although this is one of my favorite parts) where the bride greets the guests. She is actually first seen as she walks down the isle and is met by her husband to be. He lifts her veil (to make sure he is not played a trick like it happened with Yaakov marrying Leah instead of Rachel) and then escorts her to the Chuppa (wedding canopy).  Under the Chuppa the Rabbi makes all the blessings. The ring is placed in the index finger, the Ketuba (marriage contract) is read and the seven blessings are recited.  The wedding ends with the groom smashing a glass to remember there can be no complete happiness as long as we have no temple in Jerusalem.

Persians have the custom to serve wedding guests fresh fruits, sweets and tea between the ceremony and dinner.

After the ceremony a lavish meal takes place and dancing with the bride and groom are a priority. Every night, during the first week after the wedding, the bride and groom are invited to dinners to celebrate their union. These dinners are called Sheva Brachot. A Jewish wedding is filled with emotion, beauty, meaning and commitment. There is nothing more sacred that a bride and groom becoming one under the wedding canopy! Mazel Tov to the lovely couples and may Hashem always bless you with much health, happiness, livelihood and pride from each other!

 

This wedding's colors were "white on white" and it was truly spectacular!

If you want to see more pics, visit my facebook page and “like” me, thanks!

With love!

Reyna

I love fruit carvings...how about you?

 

 

 

 

Clean Eating a la Persian!

May 23rd, 2012

This post was first published by my friend Yosef Silver who runs a fantastic Blog called This American Bite. You will love his super fresh approach! I wanted to re-publish because many people requested before and after pictures of me. So, here it is! I hope you will find it inspirational and make Shavuot a healthy and wholesome holiday! Make sure to have your slice of cheesecake…hey, it is filled with good old protein after all! Also, many of you are asking for more copies of Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride. It is out of print, but I have some copies left. Please email me at KosherPersianFood@gmail.com and I will let you know how to get it. Thank you for your support and I hope to be able to re-print very soon!

A little over a year ago, a few months before my cookbook was published, I realized that part of the PR campaign for the book was going to require me to take lots of pictures and to be in national television. Now, growing up in Venezuela (the land of Miss Venezuela and the country with most Miss Universes) I was raised well aware of aesthetics.  Making a cookbook requires lots of recipe testing and trust me I did more than just tasting! I ATE galore! Not to mention the eating parties I would have after photo shoots…Gosh those were delicious! Now, to be honest, I had never had a weigh problem in my life. I had 5 children, but always managed to loose the “baby fat”. For some time I was in denial, but it didn’t take long to realize I had gained some weight…and I didn’t have a baby…I had gained almost 30 pounds making this cookbook!

BEFORE

I found myself unable to stop eating…constant recipe testing can do that to you! I was hungry all the time. I honestly think I forgot what being hungry felt like…kind of pathetic knowing how many children are in the world aware of what hunger means all too well. I had lost touch with myself. I was unhealthy and I felt gross. There was no way I was going to be in national television looking like that. We all know TV makes you look 10 pounds heavier! I honestly started to panic and I am (I guess) too vain to just go with the flow and be all “Adel” about it.

I started going to a nutritionist. She introduced me to fascinating concepts and I learned what hunger meant again…real hunger. I learned to be in touch with my body’s needs and wants. I also started exercising a lot and my trainer introduced me to a concept called “Clean Eating.” It is the way that athletes and body builders eat, but more than that, it is a wonderful way to live a healthy life style and to stay slim, young and energetic. And who doesn’t want that?

AFTER

 

My first reaction was…there is no way I am giving up my Tadig, I don’t care of “Clean” that food is! If you are familiar with Persian food you know Tadig is equivalent to oxygen to Persians. It is the bottom crunchy part of the rice and it is made totally on purpose. There was no way I was about to give up Persian food. Hey! I am the cookbook’s author…can you image? Persian Cookbook author does not eat Persian food! Ridiculous! Well, guess what? There was no need…Persian food is so healthy in so many ways I can still make my Tadig and eat it too!

 

Clean Eating is wonderful because it keeps your metabolism running at the speed of light! You eat small meals more often, about 5 to 6 a day, making your blood-sugar levels stable and keeping hunger pangs at bay. Eating Clean means eating lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats every day and at almost every meal. It also means making exercise part of your everyday life. Dieting, I found, was not going to be the solution for me because that meant depriving my body from the food I loved. Deprivation leads to abuse.  I had abused enough.  Today I can say I have never felt so healthy, wholesome, and light in my life.

 

I am sharing with you my family’s favorite Chorosh (Persian Stew), which I have “cleaned” for you. Also, you can enjoy fabulous whole grain Persian rice and healthy Tadig! You can also mix warm Persian rice with Greek yogurt, salt and pepper in honor of Shavuot…I know, it sounds repulsive but it is unbelievable. In fact, if you don’t like it, package it and send it to me!

 

I hope you enjoy these variations and continue to embrace a healthy lifestyle!

Reyna

Chorosh Sabsi

 

Herb Stew with Dehydrated Limes

Chorosh Sabsi

 

This stew is pure goodness! The meat of choice should be lean. Bison is a very lean meat, but unfortunately it is hard to find. Veal is a fine choice as well. All those greens will do wonders for your body! Make sure to get your portions right. Your protein (in this case meat) should be about the size of a deck of cards while your complex cabs (the vegetables) should be two handfuls. You get plenty of that in this stew. The beans, if you chose to use them, will also be an additional source of protein. In fact, if you are a vegetarian, you can either replace the meat for seitan or you can exclude it all together and double the kidney beans. Sour grapes are really hard to find, so don’t worry if you can’t add them…the lime is the one that does the magic!

 

Tricks of the trade

Keep in mind that Shirazis do not add red kidney beans, while Tehranis do. I personally add them for a splash of color! Also, the dehydrated limes give it a great taste and authentic look, but you can get away with not adding them too. If all you have available are ground dehydrated limes, use 1 tablespoon instead. You can order dehydrated limes online from sadaf.com under lemon omani.

 

1 large onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, pressed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds stew meat (bison or veal preferable)

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 bunches parsley

2 bunches cilantro

1 leek, chopped

½ bunch mint

½ cup spinach (optional)

2 stalks celery, finely diced

½ cup lime or lemon juice or the juice of 3 limes/lemons

3 cups water

5 whole dehydrated limes (lemon omani), pierced

1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

¼ cup gureh (sour grapes) (optional)

  1. In a 6-quart saucepan, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion starts to become translucent (about 1 minute). Add the meat; cover and cook until meat no longer looks red, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper.
  2. Grind fresh herbs in a food processor.
  3. Add to the saucepan ground fresh herbs, celery, lime juice, water, dehydrated limes, kidney beans, and gureh, if using. Bring to a boil; then simmer, covered, for 1½ hours or until meat is tender. Serve hot in a casserole dish over Basmati rice.

Yield: 8-10 servings

 

Kateh

 

Whole Grain Persian Sticky Rice

Kateh

 

Kateh is embedded in every Persian child’s taste buds. It is the easiest and fastest way to make Persian rice. In this case I am using whole grain Basmati rice. Whole grain rice is the best type of rice you can put into your body because it has not been stripped from its shell and goodness. It can take a little longer to cook, but it is totally worth it!

Kateh is very tasty and its tadig is heavenly; the longer you steam this rice, the crunchier and yummier the tadig will be. If you don’t want to use rice, you can actually make this recipe using Quinoa which is a great substitute and it is, incredibly enough, a complete protein! Not only you get your “carbisfaction” but also a boost of protein killing two birds with one stone. And, by the way, Quinoa Tadig rocks!

 

Tricks of the trade

Be sure to use a nonstick saucepan so the delicious tadig doesn’t stick! When you invert the pan over your serving platter, the tadig will come out of your nonstick pan just like a cake topping.

6 cups water

3 cups whole grain Basmati rice, checked and rinsed

2 tablespoons grape seed oil

1 tablespoon salt

 

  1. Add water, rice, oil, and salt to a 6-quart nonstick saucepan. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until water begins to evaporate (15-20 minutes –rice should be al dente).
  3. With a spoon, shape the rice into a pyramid. Cover tightly, placing two paper towels (one on top of the other) or a clean dishtowel between the lid and the pot. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least 45 minutes.
  4. Turn the rice out onto a flat serving platter by inverting the pot, as you would invert a cake pan—or simply eat it directly from the pot!

 

Yield: 6 servings

 

Javaher Polo-Jeweled Rice

November 17th, 2011

Are you into jewelry? If you have my cookbook and look at the pictures you soon realize I love the bling. I don’t know how it all started, all I know is that my ears were pierced the day I was born (a Latin American custom) and ever since then I could not stop collecting and admiring all things that glitter.

 

What is it with women and the obsession with something that shines? Do you have any idea how many times I have told my husband we need to buy a piece of jewelry for my future daughters in law? My oldest child is only 10 years old! I figured I would look after it until he marries. Or keep it as an investment in case of rainy days…it is all excuses…even if a thunderstorm hits you can’t separate the bling from the girl.

In fact, it is brought down that the Jewish women would not give up their jewelry to build the golden calf and as a result we were rewarded with a holiday of our own that takes place every single month: Rosh Chodesh (the holiday of the New Moon). Yes, you guessed it, in this holiday a lady is to be treated like a princess. Not only that, it is also brought down men should buy clothes and jewelry for their wives on the Jewish Festivals. Ladies, what can I say? it’s good to be a Jewess!

This week’s Torah portion is Chayei Sarah (The life of Sarah). I love this week’s Torah portion because it is so incredibly romantic. It contains the first-ever recoded “love-at-first-sight” story between Rebecca and Isaac. It also contains the proof that there is no way out for men when it comes to getting us jewelry. Isaac showered Rebecca with presents and within the presents was, of course, the bling! My husband always tells me that for men spending so much money on tiny glittery adornments makes no sense. Nonetheless, he is convinced that somehow there is nothing like a velvet box with a little glitter inside to make a girl happy; and when that girl is his wife, well, that is indeed priceless!

 

I hope you enjoy this amazing Persian rice…of course this week it had to be Javaher Polo…Jeweled Rice! Nushejan!

Jeweled Rice

Javaher Polo

 

Persian women, in general, love jewelry. Therefore, when I realized there was a rice recipe with the word “Jeweled” in its name, it didn’t surprise me at all! This rice really looks like a gastronomic jewelry box! It contains little edible rubies (barberries), shiny edible emeralds (pistachios), and miniature edible onyx (currant raisins). It is a gorgeous display of color and tastes. The good thing about it is that you can use a mixture of anything you might have on hand to make your rice look as gorgeous as the Empress’s crown!

Tricks of the trade

I often make this rice when I have leftover toppings in the fridge! It looks as if I labored for hours, but in fact everything was already made!

You can use potatoes for the tadig, or you can also use some of the rice before mixing it with the toppings.

To make the rice

3 cups basmati rice, checked and rinsed

8 cups water

2 tablespoon salt

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

½ cup canola oil

To make rice topping

The following are good choices for Javaher Polo

Yellow split peas (boiled until tender), fried currant raisins, fried barberries, pistachios, fried slivered almonds

or

fried Barberries, caramelized orange peel, slivered carrots, caramelized onions

To steam and make tadig

canola oil

2 tablespoons water

¼ teaspoon turmeric and/or saffron powder

3 potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch rounds

To make the rice

  1. Fill a 6-quart nonstick saucepan with 8 cups water; add oil, salt, and turmeric. Cover and bring to a brisk boil over high heat.
  2. When turmeric water boils, add rice and continue cooking, uncovered, over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. After 3–5 minutes, use a slotted spoon to scoop some grains from the water. Break one grain in half to make sure it is “al dente”. Turn off heat and pour rice into colander to drain. Set aside.

 

To steam and make tadig

  1. Place the empty 6-quart saucepan back onto the stovetop over medium heat. Add ¼-inch canola oil and 2 tablespoons water. Add turmeric and/or saffron powder. Stir together.
  2. Add sliced potatoes in a single layer. Add drained rice and shape it into a pyramid. Cover the pot and cook for 5–7 minutes until rice begins to steam. Uncover and place 2 paper towels (one on top of the other) over the rice. The ends will extend outside the pot. Replace the lid tightly.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and tilt the lid until ready to serve.
  4. In the meantime, prepare your choice of garnishes listed above.
  5. Serve on a shallow platter, mounding the rice into a pyramid and garnishing with all toppings of your choice. You can mix them into the rice or lay them in separate stripes over the rice.

 

 

 

Yield: 8 servings