How To, Kitchen Whispers

Wrap the VG way

There are thousands of ways you can fill in a wrap. And with so many VG options for fillings, it would be really hard to get bored of preparing these.

I’ve posted here a picture of one of my favorites, and quite simple, combinations for a wrap; but there are so many other ingredients out there you can mix and match !!

Here is how I do it


1. First, I pick a Wrap

Here are some options:

  • Tortilla Wrap
  • Whole Wheat Tortilla
  • Taco Shells
  • Pita Bread
  • Lettuce Wrap
  • Rice paper Wrap

….

2. Then, a Protein

Here are some options:

  • Chickpeas (in Hummus form/whole peas/Mashed)
  • Beans (all kinds)
  • Lentils
  • Edamame
  • Minced Soy
  • Quinoa
  • Ready-to-eat VG Alternatives
  • Tofu (fried, baked…)
  • Tempeh
  • Seitan

You can also ‘cover’ the protein part by picking protein-rich fillings/Spreads.

3. I fill it up  

Here are some options:

  • Veggie Medley Raw (for example: cucumber, tomato, red pepper, lettuce, kale, olives, avocado…)
  • Veggie Medley Grilled (for example: sweet potato, zucchini, carrot, mushroom,  corn, asparagus, peas, beansprouts, broccoli, onion…)
  • Seeds (flax, chia, hemp, sunflower, pumkin, sesame etc.)
  • Bell peppers/onions Mix
  • Portobello Mushroom
  • Pickles
  • Greens (Rocket, Spinach, Kale, Purslane…)

4. I pick a Spread

Here are some options:

  • Guacamole
  • Hummus
  • Tahini
  • Hot Sauce
  • BBQ Sauce
  • VG Pesto Sauce
  • Sweet and Sour Sauce
  • Teriyaki Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Mashed Peas
  • Tomato Salsa
  • Maple Mustard
  • Pomegranate Molasses
  • Tabasco
  • Miso
  • Truffle Sauce
  • Garlic and VG Mayo
  • VG Cheese alternative

5. I Spice it Up

Here are some options:

Herbs:

  • Basil
  • Coriander
  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Fine Herbs
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Zaatar

Spices:

  • Summac
  • Salt
  • Pepper (Black/White)
  • Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon
  • Garlic/Onion powders


You can also add more crunch with some nori flakes, salted crisps, or even nuts !

The wrap in the picture is made of:

1. White Tortilla 

2. Hummus (as spread and Protein)

3. Cucumbers, Red Bell pepper, Black Olives, Parsley 

4. Olive Oil, Summac, Zaatar, Salt 

Another Combo I’m a fan of:

1. White Tortilla / Taco Shells

2. Mashed Beans

3. Raw : Diced Tomato, Corn, Shredded lettuce  OR Grilled: Bell pepper mix, onion, mushroom, corn  

4. Guacamole and/or Tabasco 

5. Salt, Paprika

6. Crushed VG Nacho Chips

One last combo:

1. Tortilla/Rice Paper

2. Fried Tofu 

3. Sauteed Green Onion, Mushroom, Beansprouts, Sesame Seeds, Raw Cucumber/Ginger 

4. Teriyaki/Soy Sauce 

5. Salt

6. Tempura Flakes 

What’s a combo you’re a fan of?

 

Kitchen Whispers, Lifestyle

Let’s talk about Soy

I thought I’d finally address the elephant in the room – aside from the almond milk controversy, I’ll do that when I have more energy.

You heard it, read it somewhere,  and certainly were warned by family and friends when you told them you consumed soy products. “Soy is dangerous: it contains estrogen, it will give you cancer, it will make you less “manly”” etc.

The real hassle in finding out the truth about soy was the information disseminated by soy producing companies, or, companies that are “threatened” by the rise of veganism.

Today I am sad to announce that the effects that soy has on our bodies are not completely sorted out just yet. But this is what you can find out if you ask nutritionists, and do some research online.

PS: This is not, in any way, medical/professional advice. I came up with this summary by reading reliable articles online, and by asking a couple nutritionists’ opinions. 


1. What are Phytoestrogens?

To use popular English, phytoestrogen is a chemical compound found in plants (yes, seeds and fruits – and even red wine –  contain them too, but in lower quantities) that mimic the naturally formed estrogen in our bodies. They are sometimes given as supplements, for healing purposes.

Phytoestrogen in soy contains isoflavones, which after a whole complex chemical reaction during digestion, return to the gut area in a different form, and either produce “metabolite equol” (I’ll call it A) or “O-DMA” (I’ll call it B).

It’s also been shown that 30%-50% of individuals are able to make that conversion to “A” (most of which are vegetarians or Asians), and it’s been hypothesized that the ability to do this is crucial in obtaining all the amazing effects of soy consumption.

The pros of phytoestrogen:

1. Some can lead to reduction of cell proliferation are a protein called PTK that is crucial in the development of cancer cells. So yes, they can have anti-cancerous properties.

2. In other weird chemical reactions, it can also be protecting nerve cells in the brain, and improve cardiovascular functions.

3. They are good anti-inflammatory chemicals, and good antioxidants.

The cons of phytoestrogen:

Since they mimic estrogen, they can block estrogen receptors (ERs) and lead to hormonal imbalances. They are considered endocrine disruptors and can cause imbalances in lactation, reproductive cycles, sexual  behavior, timing of puberty…

However, and with the studies around this, these effects are not conclusive yet, and are still in the “could” category; these effects were found in animals in the 1940’s, and thought to be generated by phytoestrogen, but it turned out, a few years later, that they were actually due to another chemical called coumestrol.

There are two receptors estrogen might block, and it blocks them differently. I do not want to bore you with the chemical details of this, but you can read more on the link I’ve attached below.

The conclusion is, that it is very “Selective” in the ER (estrogen receptive) it blocks, and thus is compared to a breast cancer drug that can be agonist in the uterus and bone, but, antagonist in the breast.

Agonist: it binds to receptor and activates a reaction
Antagonist: it blocks the action of the agonist and results in a reverse reaction

Even though I still don’t get exactly what this means as an amateur, it is clear and enough for me to understand that it can have different effects in different parts/circumstances of the body.

Whether it binds to one block or the other (ERα or ERβ) changes the result completely. And it highly depends on circumstance, and a bunch of conditions, to determine the result yielded by phytoestrogen.

2. What does this mean ?

The conditional benefits of Soy 

On top of all this confusion, while Soy has shown to yield extremely beneficial effects in bodies, studies are still inconclusive, because of the critical role dose, genes, dietary composition and other factors play

Indeed, the benefits of soy and phytoestrogens in general varied greatly across epidemiological studies.

For example, the benefits of phytoestrogens related to menopause were much more present in Asian countries than in Western ones.

Other benefits such as helping out with good bone density, turned out to depend on whether equol production occurred. Also, the extent to which Soy led to lower cholesterol, highly depended on the amount of soy consumed.

To quote one of the articles I read (and I reference below),

“determining if phytoestrogens increase or reduce the risk of developing breast cancer has proven to be one of the most challenging human health impacts to address.”

While it is known that by blocking the ERs, exposure to estrogen increases chances of getting breast cancer, the studies on the considerably lower cancer rates in Asia say the opposite is true.

This is where it gets most complicated; the study results vary greatly across ethnicity.

3. So can I eat soy?

It is well concluded that a moderate intake of soy leads to a lot of pros and cons (similarly to caffeine, alcohol, etc.)

Despite the “cons”, soy remains a great source of protein, free of cholesterol, and packed with amazing nutrients.

Moderation is key here. Soy and phytoestrogens are NOT poison, but they are also not “superfoods” that we can just include 24/7 in our diet.

If you consume soy in your diet, just be aware of the potential risks associated with phytoestrogens, and make choices accordingly:

For example: 
If the milk in my fridge is Soy-based, then I make the conscious effort of avoiding soy in other forms during meals. 
If I had minced soy in my food for the week, I replace soy-milk with Oat, and avoid soy Yoghurt. 


People suffering from heart disease, high cholesterol, and other specific cases, ARE still encouraged to include soy in their diets, and there’s nothing to worry about if consumed moderately.

So my conclusion is, soy is A-Ok.

In a proper plant-based/vegan diet, there is not ONE component that we abuse of, unlike dairy and animal products in other diets; there are so many ingredients to have fun with, we accidentally consume a “moderate” amount of everything.

However, we shouldn’t depend on Soy to cure our diseases, and make us live forever; its benefits highly rely on our genes, ethnicity, and overall diet.

that being said, we shouldn’t “rely” on soy to make us healthy. It is just another sprinkle on top of the amazing benefits of a vegan diet.


Here is one of the articles I read to help writing this

How To, Kitchen Whispers

Cook Rice

While I highly encourage you to read the instructions on the packet, this is the way I cook my rice:

  1. Rinse it and strain it
  2. Add half a tbsp of olive oil in a pot
  3. On medium heat, add rice to oil and let it fry for 3-4 min. Keep mixing
  4. Add water: for each cup of rice, I add 2.5 cups of water
  5. Bring to boil, then cover and let it simmer on very low heat

The rice should be cooked and water completely evaporated after 18 – 20 min!

Once done, I usually add cinnamon to the rice while still warm.

People cook their rice differently, and I’ve read recipes that use way less/more water than I do. But this is how I’ve always done it, and it works like a charm!

How To, Kitchen Whispers

Dice and Fry an Onion

If you’re new to the kitchen, you might be wondering how to get really small bits of onions without spending an hour crying, cursing, and messing up the kitchen table.

This is how I take my revenge on the demon that is an onion **dries tears**


Part 1: Dicing 

Step 1: Peel and Cut the onion in half.

photo_2020-02-01_18-43-47

Step 2: Wash each half in really cold water thoroughly

Step 3: Start with one half by cutting longitudinally

photo_2020-02-01_18-43-46
Place your index finger strategically! It prevents the cut slices from sliding away. For some recipes, this is all you need to do! (You’ll get half-moon slices)

Step 4: Cut across.

photo_2020-02-01_18-43-49

photo_2020-02-01_18-43-50
Make sure you’re holding on tight with your non-cutting hand

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5: Place in pan/pot, re-wash the second half in ice cold water and repeat!


Part 2: Frying

A good onion fry depends on three things:

  1. The right amount of oil: The key here is to use the right amount of oil. The way to know is by noticing whether the onion pieces are sizzling, or seem dry. For a medium onion, 1 tbsp of oil should suffice!
  2. The right spices: my basic combination for frying an onion includes: garlic powder, all ground spice, and cinnamon.
  3. The right heat: if you’re looking for burnt-on-the-edges, crusty onions, fry them on medium to high heat while mixing with a wood spoon. If you’re using your onions in a dish, better to keep on low heat, keep mixing, until translucent.

 

Kitchen Whispers

LE gone VE: a guide for Lebanese Vegans-to-be.

⚠️DISCLAIMER ⚠️
if you eat homemade Lebanese food, there’s 100% chance this post will hurt your inner-whiner. It will also greatly hurt the precious disputes you’re having with the person cooking at home by decreasing them greatly.
Side effects might manifest in Arab relatives being more accepting of your diet.


I am never as shocked as when a person of Lebanese descent/living in a Lebanese culture tells me they won’t go vegan because the food is too expensive.

I think that especially because we’re Lebanese/familiar with Lebanese cuisine, we’re already 1000 steps ahead of non-Arab Vegans, health and budget wise!

Our culture has been using and experimenting with different kinds of (very cheap) beans, greens, vegetables and sauces in such a diverse and wonderful way.

We play around with: Tahini, Pomegranate Molasses, Karoub Molasses, Rose Water, Orange Blossom, Sesame seeds, Zaatar, Summac, Hummus, Vine Leaves, Lentils, Kidney Beans, Chickpeas, Okra, Courgettes, Cauliflower, Pumpkin, Potato, Mint, Bulgur, Couscous, Nalta Jute, Anise, Bay Leaves, Cumin, Turmeric, Rosemary, Parsley, Coriander etc…. more than anyone in the entire world! Our taste buds are acquainted with all these beautiful plants, and just the thought of any of them teleports us right back home.

Not convinced? I’ve compiled a list of Lebanese stews and dishes that are already vegan, and others that can easily be turned Vegan:

Lebanese Vegan Dishes
**Mana’ish doughs don’t usually contain any dairy. However, I’ve been to a few bakeries where they do add milk powder. Do inquire about this before ordering your man’oushe! Also, our traditional pita bread IS VEGAN. BUT watch out for the ball-like bread served in Lebanese Restaurants; some do contain milk.

I am sure you can add at least 2-3 additional recipes to my list, as we’ve all grown in different households, and it is in our culture to tweak and play around with recipes.

What I am going to share though, is how to transform the dishes on the right of the table to a full, vegan meal. (Stay tuned as I might share the entire recipe for some)

Type A – Red Beans Stew (فاصوليا), Peas and Rice Stew (بزلّا ورز), and Arnabyye (ارنبية):

In my opinion, these dishes do not need any tweaking to provide you with a full nutritious meal, except removing the meat element. Why? Because the beans, peas, and chickpeas in them contain protein, fiber, fat, magnesium, and iron (simple google search).

However, and if you wish to add even more protein to them, then you can opt for my Type B technique (I wouldn’t recommend this taste-wise except for the peas and carrots stew).

My little trick: I add Cauliflower to the Arnabyye. When I’m in Lebanon, I replace the meat with Pumpkin Kebbe. Check out my Recipe for this here!

Type B – Spinach Stew (سبانغ ورز) and Molokhyye (مولوخية):

When we make the Spinach Stew at home, I eat the same dish, except that I fry my onions with Brown Minced Soy* instead of meat, and add it to the dish!

The same goes for Mlokhyye, although I prefer it without any soy. You can also experiment with adding Chickpeas to it!

*Stay tuned for a blog post on where I get my minced soy from, and how I prepare it!

Type C – Courgettes and Laban (كوسا ولبن) and Sfouf (صفوف):

I’m placing these two together, because they both require a dairy equivalent. For the Courgettes Stew, I make my own “Laban” out of Soy Yogurt, Lemon Juice, and Salt. Concerning the Sfouf cakes, all you need is to replace butter (if you use it) with vegetable butter, and milk (if you use it) with plant milk!

As for the meat in the Courgettes recipe, here are the alternatives I propose for the filling:

  • Same mix as regular, but instead of meat minced soy (Follow Type B) or Lentils
  • No meat, no rice, but with Quinoa and Mushroom
  • No meat, no rice, but with Quinoa and Carrots

Stay tuned for my own Courgettes and Laban Stew Recipe !


With the hope that this post is alleviating a lot of weight from your shoulders and the ones living with you, let me know if you use any of these techniques, tweak them, hate them or love them !