In line with my 6th blog anniversary celebrations, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with one of the leading hypermarkets in Bahrain- Lulu Hypermarket. They have generously offered their Organic products hampers to 3 of my blog readers. To win the 1/3 giveaway, all you need to do is to is leave a comment on this blog saying you are interested in participating and follow Lulu Hypermarket on Instagram – @luluhypermarket_bh
Lulu Hypermarket has a premium brand called Lulu “Good Life” which has a fantastic range of organic products that most of us do not how to use. During the course of the giveaway, I will be sharing some recipes using some of the products in the hamper so that it will be easy for all of you to use it in interesting ways.
This organic granola is in delicious clusters which will taste good with yogurt or milk. But my personal favourite way of having granola is in parfaits. And why not! It is low in calories, high in nutrition, fab in taste and looks sensational.
You know that feeling when everything is spinning out of control despite your best effort? We all go through our fair share of troubles in our personal and professional lives. Then you try harder to control it by switching gears, changing direction and honking constantly, yet the derailment is imminent. What do you do, when it is all flailing arms, despair and utter confusion?
I understood two simple things-Wait for the storm to pass and life goes on.
Come to think of it, there are so many struggles and choices we face everyday. The struggle of striking that work-life balance, of finding that balance between finding time for yourself versus rest of the world, choices relating to eating healthy etc.
Life of an entrepreneur is extremely demanding and I always find myself struggling to balance my time for everything. I feel I am rushing all the time and sometimes ( well, most of the time) it is quite overwhelming. Food choices suffer because of this rushed state of mind. Not to mention all the food tastings and restaurant reviews I have to do. I keep making resolutions about cutting down sugar, exercising and I find myself steering away from it quickly. I fall for what is convenient and NOT what is beneficial. The most worrying part is, I do not feel guilty anymore. I find some excuse or the other to justify my indulgence and complete lack of discipline. Eating at odd hours has become a norm and desserts are an every day affair. I have sort of developed an addiction to sugar which is very, very disturbing. When I do not get my fair share of sugar each day, I grow irritable and cranky. An immediate infusion of sugar in any form quickly transforms me from a maniac witch to a fairy godmother. The transformation post sugar, is remarkable.
One of my recent pictures was an eye-opener for me. I rarely spend time in front of the mirror to assess my deteriorating state. But it caught me off-guard when I saw a random picture of mine clicked my someone else. I could see how different I was in my head vis-a-vis for real. Hence, I knew I have to act fast before it was too late. Plus coming from a family with all kinds of medical history, doesn’t help.
So I have decided to officially end my hedonistic food lifestyle and really take a closer look at how I am going to transform it. I believe I need to do this not just for my sake but also for my daughter who is absorbing everything that she sees.
I have started gym schedule with a trainer that is more endurance focused. I also have a diet plan. Mind you, it is not for the weak of heart – this diet plan. It is quite extreme and I need to be on it for 6 weeks. Usually I don’t write about my exercise or diet here because I am insecure in my head about not keeping up with it. But this time, I am going to be confident about it and I have no qualms in sharing this diet with anyone who reads my blog.
My diet for each day shall be as follows:
Starting 15th of July, up until 30th of August, 2015 ( 6 weeks) with 6 small meals
Only 1 liter of water through out the day.
100 g chicken + 100 g rice + 50 g almonds
100 g chicken + a portion of vegetables
2 whole eggs + 50 g quinoa
2 whole eggs+vegetables
100 g chicken + 3 rice flakes + 50 g almond
100 g chicken + a portion of vegetables.
Work out – 1 hour 15 minutes with the trainer in the evening
After one of this diet, I will try and including some cardio in the morning along with training in the evening with the trainer.
I really, really hope to stick with this plan and see it through. It is a matter of 6 weeks and it will be huge test of my will power especially because I am so addicted to sugar.
Before I sign off on a healthy note, here’s the recipe of a delicious soya mince- peas stir fry which is wonderful with chappatis and even just by itself.
Well, I experienced it myself very recently. Vapiano in Bahrain City Center always looked promising but the previous two dining experiences at Vapiano were sub-par and less than delightful that I was quite sure I wouldn’t want to try them again. But with a little coaxing from Obai & Hill’s Zainab, I thought about giving Vapiano’s summer, fresh menu a try with a disclaimer that if I didn’t like it (again), I would refrain from doing a review on my blog.
On the scheduled day, my family and I stepped into Vapiano to sample their new menu. We were ushered in by a very friendly server who then educated us about all the new dishes and desserts. On her recommendations we settled for 1 starter, 2 main courses, 1 salad and a dessert. All this was to be accompanied by freshly squeezed orange. For the starters we ordered the Caprese that had cherry tomatoes with buffalo mozzerella on the bed of basil and rocket leaves. The cherry tomatoes were sweet and juicy and the rocket peppery as its supposed to be – all fresh and crunchy.
This was just the right antipasti to whet our appetite for the remaining courses to come. The hubby had ordered Estiva – a tender chicken breast pasta drenched in semi- dried tomato sauce, with a mild kick of ginger, mint and rocket . We specially asked our server to request the chef to cook the pasta a bit more than the “Vapiano” al dente. As per our request, the pasta was just perfectly done with succulent chicken pieces and flavoursome tomato sauce and herbs.
My daughter who is notorious for shunning restaurant food was content with her bread and butter. She particularly enjoyed the fresh orange juice with her simple grub. As for me, I had ordered a barbecued chicken pizza which was sumptuous to say the least. It was quite a large portion unexpectedly and so we had the rest of it in a take away bag.
All the wonderful food was balanced by a very citrus-y , sunshine salad adorned by pistachio called the insalata di arance e noci. To my mind, it feels like summer on my plate with juicy orange fillets, pistachios, lamb’s lettuce and chicory. The flavours were heightened by a very light walnut and orange dressing. This was the highlight of my meal at Vapiano and it would be something that I would keep going back to Vapiano for many times over.
The close of the meal was marked by the unavoidable chocolate dessert called the Cioccolata e espresso which is Vapiano’s own homestyle chocolate espresso mousse, cantuccini (literally translates as coffee bread or popularly known as biscotti) refined with grape juice and sweet amarena cherries.
Feeling happily sedated after such a wholesome meal, we thanked our hostess for the day and returned home with the lingering memories of the summer food at Vapiano. Thank you Vapiano for a wonderful experience that was so fresh and delicious that I don’t think I can have enough of it this summer!!.
*This is a sponsored post but the opinions expressed all solely mine.
It was just the last weekend, when we were out and about in the city, we decided to hop into a new, snazzy looking restaurant in town called, Vapiano- quintessentially Italian, with its busy-ness, the cheer, colour, the drama and aroma of sizzling olive oil and basil in the air. There was no way, one wouldn’t stop and take a look at what’s the noise all about. The ambiance was the deal -sealer in our case.
Located at the City Center Mall, the inviting, homely decor is likely to attract many food lovers like us. To see that the modus operandi of this Italian restaurant was unlike most others that we had been too, intrigued us further. The first thing that came to our notice was the head board which was a chalk board with a sketch of Sophia Loren and one of her famous quotes that went,
“ Everything you see, I owe to Spaghetti”
(I almost laughed out loud when I read that. She can’t be serious!!)
Right below the chalk board, we spotted a line of busy chefs in bright red aprons working their chef knives and skillets and dishing out delicious looking pasta. We were completely enamored. On entering we were handed over a charge card each which we were to use when we ordered our meal. The place was jam packed which served as an indicator that the people of Bahrain were starved for a new place to try. We found a seat with great difficulty and sort of shared it with another family.
We then went over to the chefs to order our meal. The menu wasn’t exhaustive but still had enough options to hold anybody’s interest to try out something they hadn’t before. I was thrilled to bits to know that they had wholemeal pasta as an option.
I ordered for a whole meal spaghetti with pesto (basil pesto, olive oil and pine nuts) and Insalata Mista ( small) which was a bowl of mixed lettuce cherry tomatoes and carrots, and small bottle of coco cola.
We were allowed to stand on the other side of the counter and had the previlege to see the chef prepare my dish. The ingredients looked fresh and everything seemed oh-so-posh. But the moment I had a forkful of pasta, I realized the pasta was totally under cooked to the point of being raw. It just tasted terrible and I am not exaggerating. Personally, I pride myself for developing tastes for any kind of food, however unpalatable, quite quickly. But this pasta was something else. Under cooked and the flavours all over the place; this was probably the worst pasta dish I had ever had. I didn’t go beyond a few forkful and left it untouched.
For the bowl of fresh salad was such a life -saver. The ingredients were fresh and having opted for a safer choice for salad dressing ( ceaser), I didn’t have to leave the restaurant completely starving.
The husband ordered a penne in pesto with some bruschetta ( toasted bread, tomatoes, garlic & olive oil) and a bottle of coco cola.
Unfazed by my pasta disaster, my hubby was quite optimistic about his. In all his excitement he sprinkled plenty of pepper and added flavored olive oil, and had a mouthful of pasta. His was as under cooked!! We were stumped! Was this the new way of cooking pasta?? I hope not, cause it tastes horrible. If this is what authentic Italian is all about then it is definitely not for us.
And our friend ordered, Fusilli in Pomodoro e Spinaci (Pasta in Tomato sauce & Spinach) with a bottle of coco cola
The food looked so good, but tasted just the opposite.
Even my friend’s dish was equally ‘meh’.
But the bruschetta was a quite good.
We didn’t dare order for dessert and quickly paid our bill which came to around 17.8 BHD which was too much for a crappy meal like that.
Once again, I was reminded, that all that glitters is not always gold!
This would be my first and the last visit to Vapiano!
For the verdict:
Food = 1/5
Ambiance – 3/5
Service – 3/5
I would skip giving Vapiano an overall rating because it was such a horrible experience and hence I see no point in doing so.
With Thanksgiving being celebrated in most American homes, I felt the excitement rub off on me after I visited some food blogs. All the talk of good food pushed me into baking something spectacular. In the lieu of such delicious circumstances, the Fresh From the Oven November Challenge couldn’t have come up with a more appropriate challenge. Sarah of Maison Cupcakes challenged us to make the very popular Italian Panettone. This bread is eggy, ever so slightly sweet and full of buttery goodness. I added plenty of black raisins, chocolate chips and candied fruit in all my excitement. I even bought a special tumbler like mould to bake my Panettone since I couldn’t get hold of the traditional Panettone mould anywhere.
When I had a first look at the instructions, I felt intimidated beyond measure. I read it couple of times and it seemed like I could break it down into parts and implement it. This recipe required the dough to rise 4 times for an average 2 hours atleast. The baking time was broken down to 10 +40 minutes. All this was quite overwhelming considering my nascent approach towards bread making and the first mistake I committed was to follow the instructions blindly without tallying it with the ingredients list. In my haste I completely forgot to add the vanilla essence, citrus zest and two egg yolks as prescribed by the ingredient list. Unfortunately, the instructions fell short too. The part where the 2 egg yolks+citrus zest+ vanilla essence were to be added weren’t mentioned at all. I read it once, twice and thrice but my mind was more pre-occupied by the number of rises than taking note of whether all the ingredients have been incorporated or not. Ignorant, I continued in my pursuit of baking the Panettone. The results were less than impressive for obvious reasons. My dough did not rise at all inspite of the tediously long time I provided it. From that instant on, I was skeptical about the output. But I went ahead with it nevertheless and in the end I had a very ugly-looking but a delicious Panettone. Pardon me for the hideous pictures as my Panettone wasn’t an inspiring subject for photography.
Sarah was kind enough to add the missing instruction later but it was way too late for me to rectify. My Panettone was fabulously tasty but lacked the texture of the traditional Panettone.
Recipe for Panettone
Serves 1 large loaf
7g sachet dried yeast
400g strong white bread flour
75g caster sugar
2 large free range eggs plus 2 egg yolks at room temperature
3 tablespoons lukewarm water
half teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest of one unwaxed orange and one unwaxed lemon
half teaspoon salt
175g softened unsalted butter
75g sultanas (I made up the weight with raisins too)
50g candied orange, diced or finely chopped
50g dark chocolate chips (or more fruit)
40g unsalted butter to finish
Makes enough to fill a 15cm tall cake tin or panettone mould. Bear this in mind if improvising with smaller round tins.
1. Mix 125g of the weighed flour with the yeast and sugar in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer and make a well in the centre. Mix the two whole eggs with the water and pour into the well. Stir in the egg yolks, vanilla and grated zest using your hand or dough hook. Gradually work in 175g flour plus the salt to make a soft sticky dough. ( I completely missed out this step because the original post missed it out too, but I should have checked and read well).
2. Using your hands or a dough hook, mix the flour into the liquid to make a smooth thick batter. Sprinkled a little of the remaining weighed flour over the top of the batter to prevent a skin forming then leave in a warm place for around an hour or until the batter is very bubbly.
3. Next add the softened butter and work in with your fingers or the dough hook on a slow speed. Beat until the butter is incorporated with no streaks.
4. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead thoroughly by hand for ten minutes (or use the dough hook for 3-4 minutes) working in the remainder of the weighed flour to make a satiny soft pliable non-sticky dough. Depending on the flour, you may not need it all or you may need a little more. (Mine was fine).
5. Cover the bowl with cling film (I used a tea towel as well, mainly because it feels “rustic”) and leave to rise at room temperature until doubled in size, probably 2 to 2.5 hours. Don’t leave in a very warm place as the butter will melt.
6. Next uncover the dough and punch down to deflate. Cover again and let it double in size again (1 to 1.5 hours although I left mine 2 whilst we had Sunday lunch).
7. Meanwhile combine the sultanas with the chopped peel and chocolate chips. Stir in a teaspoon of flour to stop it clumping in the dough.
8. Prepare the tin by lining with parchment paper. The paper should extend 5cm higher than the height of the tin.
9. Punch down the risen dough again and turn onto a floured surface; sprinkle the fruit and chocolate mixture on top and work into the dough gently until evenly distributed.
10. Shape the dough into a ball and gently drop into the prepared tin. Cut a cross into the top. Lay a sheet of cling-film loosely over the top of the tin and leave for another hour or so until doubled in size again.
11. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 200c / 400f / gas 6. When ready to bake, melt 15g of the butter for finishing and brush it over the risen dough. Put a knob of butter in the centre of the cross.
12. Bake for 10 minutes or until just starting to colour, then brush again with melted butter. Reduce the temperature to 180c / 350f / gas 4 and bake for a further 40 minutes until a good golden brown and a skewer inserted to the centre comes out clean. (My loaf was going very brown after 30 mins and I had to cover with foil to stop it burning).
13. Remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack. Allow to cool for a few minutes before teasing it out of the tin. If your crust is fragile allow to cool further before removing from tin.
14. Cool completely before slicing.
This experience has been an enlightening one and I understand more than ever why only bread makers are called ‘ Artisans’ and no other branch of baking is revered so much. I have learnt a lot from this experience and wish to make the Panettone once again and see how I fare.