Park Bulvar in Sahil

Park Bulvar in Sahil

It’s the last day of the Novruz holiday, so after cleaning up my classroom and preparing for tomorrow, I headed off to Park Bulvar. It’s my mecca mall in this city. One of my simple pleasures is brisk walking along the tree-lined Bulvar and having lunch or dinner at the top floor’s food court. International choices abound from Japanese to Russian to Chinese to Sbarro, which is American-Italian.

But my fave food vendor is Sultan’s, which serves salads, kebabs, Azeri main courses and desserts. The food is healthy. The food is delicious. But the reason I keep coming back is because of the servers’ friendliness, smiles and flexibility. The man who I think is the supervisor can also communicate in basic English. The older I get and the more I travel, the more I appreciate excellent customer service because I tend to frequent places that I like, and it always makes me happy when I have a positive and friendly transaction. I will refrain from commenting on the opposite 🙂 But let it suffice to say for now, that in Baku you get an equal amount of positive and negative customer service, of people who genuinely care about other people and love their job, so I tend to cling on and only visit places where I sense a happy vibe.

Salad bar at Sultan's

Salad bar at Sultan’s

Sultan’s salad bar offers plenty of healthy eats. They have the usual lettuce and cucumber, but they also have red beets, cucumber pickles, jalapenos, a variety of beans, red cabbage, and my mystery leaf, which I will tell you about later.

I usually order the chicken kebab and couscous, but today I asked if I could change my couscous into salad. The supervisor was very flexible. Most restaurants stick to the prescribed menu, but he gave me half a salad and the kebab for 5 manat – a very reasonable price for a meal in Baku.

Chicken kebab and half a salad from Sultan's at Park Bulvar

Chicken kebab and half a salad from Sultan’s at Park Bulvar

And just to back track a bit, yesterday, I found a green grocer and I bought this mystery leaf that I love! It’s a bit spicy and I love how it tickles my tongue! But I’ve never seen this leaf before.

76_petrushka

Today, I asked Sultan’s servers about it and they said it was “petrushka”. So I looked it up and apparently, “petrushka” is the word for parsley in Russian 🙂 I can see how it’s similar to the parsley we have in the Philippines and the ones I’ve tried in the States. They look similar and they taste similar but they are different. Petrushka is definitely worth trying!

After eating lunch, I explored the new grocery store at the Park Bulvar’s basement. It’s called Bazar Store and it’s a popular chain in Baku. I wanted to see if they sold kefir and this is what I ended up buying–

74_salmon kefir and a glass

The kefir is deeeliiicious! This brand (I will not yet attempt to decode the Russian name :)) tastes exactly like lassi. It’s 95 quepic, but I don’t mind because it’s a good investment on my health. The salmon is 4.20 manat for 100 grams. I have yet to try it. And I know that you’re probably wondering why there’s a glass there. Believe or not, the usual grocery store I go to, doesn’t sell glasses in boxes so I’ve never bought from them because I tend to break glasses. When I first arrived, I bought six pieces and only one is left! I was able to find six chic small glasses – I wasn’t too fond of the the tall glass designs – for 2.15 manat. Considering that I didn’t buy them from Sederek mall, I would say it’s a steal.

I’m definitely coming back to the Bazar Store, even if it’s just for the kefir. But yes, I did see a reasonably price Russian caviar which I want to try during one of my cheat days.

Advertisements

Not that I’ve been lax. No, I haven’t. I’ve been walking for at least 30 minutes a day and eating salads. But, of course, along with salads, there’s been yummy-salty-moldy Azeri cheese and this Tiramisu ice cream I discovered at Park Bulvar. Then there’s the SCRUMPtious cheesecake at the Baku Roasting Company and the local nutty-tasting beer – Xirdalan. Literally quenches your thirst!

So today, I’m taking a step towards shaving the fat off my diet, and curbing my sugar and caffeine addiction.

And I’m launching my Healthy Eat regiment with kefir!

Jala kefir from Citimart in Sahil, Baku.

Jala kefir from Citimart in Sahil, Baku.

Kefir has been touted in the international community as a health drink, good for your digestion because it’s of full of bacteria and enzymes. I decided to find a bottle at Citimart, Sahil and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s 75 quepic for the Jala brand and it is filling! I consider it a meal in itself.

71_kefir

The texture is very similar to India’s lassi. The taste, well, it’s a little sour, or let’s put it this way, it’s like slightly moldy cheese in semi-watery yoghurt form. I know that I’m not making this sound appealing to many of you, but I really do like moldy cheese and the lassi-like texture. I loooved it! And I’m thinking of making kefir a regular afternoon snack. For more information on what kefir is and it’s nutritional value, please visit http://www.kefir.net.

I’ve also decided to replace some of my winter staple food choices with healthier options. Here’s a peek at my list–

1. I love Jala’s 100% sugar-free juice. Especially the peach and pineapple flavors. I’m not 100% sure if it’s sugar-free, but it is good. It’s now been replaced with bottled water flavored with fresh lemon slices.

2. Speaking of water, I’ve taken to qazli, sparkling water, ever since I arrived in Baku. I love the kick and it has no calories. But it bloats me. Again replaced with bottled water flavored with fresh lemon slices.

3. Jacob’s 3-in-1 latte, I feel sad to say goodbye to you. (Sniff sniff.) You have kept me awake for the past nine months! But alas, this will be replaced by sugarless teas.

4. Goodbye ice-cream and paklava. Hello, fresh apples and oranges.

5. Instead of white bread, I’ve found tasty rye bread at Citimart. More on this rare find in another blog entry!

So this is my brief list. I think it’s a good start. Of course, Saturday or Sunday will be my cheat day so I have more gastronomic adventures to look forward to!

How about you? Are you upgrading your diet this spring?

Don’t you love happy accidents? This morning, I woke up with no plan to visit the Durshet Village. A field trip site visit, travel stories exchanged with Ayush, and my love for taking photos led me to this village where I met Raibai.

She’s more than 100 years old, and the fact that she has lived that long and is happy, made me reflect on my high-maintenance lifestyle. In the Durset village, they wake up to a lovely view every morning. They eat organic veggies and exercise as they transport water from the community faucet to their home. They take siestas and live happily with family.

In my world, having a gorgeous view, eating organic veggies and taking a siesta costs a fortune. In their world, it is almost free.

The world is an amazing place, but it is also ironic.

More on this happy accident in a future post.

I’m easing my way back into the physical health trail by choosing healthier entrees (with the occasional cheat) and doing light exercises such as walking and pilates. I’ve also been logging my eating and exercise activities in Twitter. (I just love using those hashtags!)

Looks like tomorrow I’ll be hopping over to Nature’s Basket and buying quinoa and lettuce. Nature’s Basket is the only place I know of in Mumbai that sells both.

How do you keep yourself on the health trail?

2 Corinthians 9:6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

Prayer and fasting ended a couple of days ago. An “aha!” moment was during Sunday service when Pastor Kevin talked about planting a seed, which bears fruit, and in turn, produces more seed. It was a very encouraging message because I know that just as long as I plant seeds that are led by the Holy Spirit, they will grow, flourish and multiply. This also helps me focus and say “no” to doing things that aren’t aligned to planting seeds.

Here are five seeds I’d like to plant, and five hopes I’d like to reap:

Seed 1: Praying to God and meditating on bible verses.
What I hope to reap: A deeper relationship with God.

Seed 2: Spending quality time with B.
What I hope to reap: A deeper and more joyful relationship with honey 🙂

Seed 3: Writing, taking photographs, blogging, giving constructive feedback on blogs and learning HTML.
What I hope to reap: Inspiring, uplifting others and improving my craft.

Seed 4: Eating healthy and exercising.
What I hope to reap: Good health!

Seed 5: Tithing, saving and exploring investing.
What I hope to reap: Financial abundance.

How about you? What seeds would you like to plant this year? What do you hope to reap? Would love to hear from you!

Grilled Tilapia from the Philippines

Tilapia is a popular fish in the Philippines. In high school, after our day ended, I would hang out in my best friend Claire’s home. We devoured deep fried tilapia, which we ate with our hands, dipped into a Silver Swan and Datu Puti mixture as we chased away the saltiness with spoonfuls of hot steaming white rice. We never thought of tilapia as health food. It was the food of the common Filipino. It was the fish we grilled on the beach and ate in sidewalk carinderias, which littered the traffic-filled streets of our metropolis.

Imagine my surprise when years later, as I flipped on my TV to watch Oprah, I saw Dr. Oz, Oprah’s sidekick doctor and expert on health and food, tout tilapia as a miracle fish. According to Livestrong.Com, tilapia is rich high quality protein, low in fat and a good source of vitamins.

Louie, a regular contributor to Healthy Eats, would like to share his Lemon Pepper Tilapia recipe! I really wish WordPress had a virtual taste button so I could try these. Perhaps next time I visit, Louie will grill some of these for me and B, and bake us cheesecake :-D.

From Louie's facebook status update on July 14: Todays menu via the garden and friends. Tomato soup (Thanks Sacha) with Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (Thanks Simon and Garfunkel). Maple Glazed Lemon Squash (Thanks Sacha), Cucumber/Scallion/carrot Salad, grilled Green Squash / Eggplant Sandwich on fresh Sun dried tomato/Parmigiana cheese bread (Thanks Laurie for my French bread pan, I really like it), and lemon pepper grilled talipia (Thanks fish farmers)

This recipe serves 6-8 people.

Ingredients:
8 tilapia fillets
2 lemons
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
fresh dill weed
fresh ground pepper
salt

For the marinade:
Zest and juice 2 lemons. Add the juice to 1 cup of water and the EVOO. Whisk the mixture. Lay the tilapia fillets in a flat pan and add the marinade. Do not cover the pan. Lightly salt and sprinkle dill weed and lemon zest on top of fillets. Grind fresh pepper over fillets. Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Grilling:
I use disposable grill covers but fish baskets can be used too.

Lightly oil grill basket and lay fillets on it.

Grill for about six minutes, flip basket, and grill for six more.

Serve and devour! Yum!

I stumbled upon The World’s Healthiest Foods (TWHF) website, while doing research for my entries. It became a useful resource for me because the author, George Mateljan, and his team have done extensive scientific research on different types of food and are able to articulate why these are good for our health.

The website has a list of 130 foods and some recipes that go with these. Here is a summary of their criteria for choosing the 130:

1. Their nutrient dense, which means that the level of nutrients is high in relationship to the number of calories the food contains.

2. Their whole foods. They are not over-processed and they don’t contain synthetic and artificial ingredients.

3. You’ll be able to find these foods in most grocery stores in the US. I’ll need to modify my list of the world’s healthiest foods for my local setting, which is India. I prefer local ingredients that don’t go through long journeys to get to my grocery shelf.

4. These foods are affordable.

5. They taste good, otherwise it would be challenging to eat them!

I adopted the following recipe from their website and it was deee-li-cious! This recipe serves two!

Ingredients:

1 cup chickpeas or garbanzo beans
1 cup shredded lettuce
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
2 TBS parsley, chopped
4-5 squeezes of fresh lemon juice
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Optional:
1/4 cup feta cheese
6 sliced olives
1 tsp rosemary

To cook the chickpeas:

Soak them overnight and boil for 30 minutes until soft.

For the salad:
Plate the lettuce. Put the chickpeas, garlic, tomato and onions on top. Sprinkle the olive oil and drizzle with fresh lemon. Add salt and pepper as you wish. Sprinkle the feta cheese, olives and rosemary on top. Bon appetit!