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.

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Have you ever been through a situation that was too painful to face? Painful enough to make you want to stay in bed, hide away from the sun. Blinds closed. Eyes closed. Hands gripping the comforter over your head. You want to fall into a coma. Remain unconscious. Because there is nothing to get up for. There is nothing in you, no cell in your body, that wants to live because there is nothing to live for. Important relationships are severed. Your dreams are dead. You are weak. Defeated. Flatlined.

I have just read David Bonifacio’s blog entry, written to a fictitious/future daughter to help her remember who she is in Christ. Today he is helping her remember that You Are Strong. It reminded me about the season when I flatlined.

They say that every season has a blessing. I can now look back and see the blessing of not having anyone to talk to and completely lean on. It meant that God was the only one I could lean on 100% of the time. He was the only one who could completely comfort me. Yes, family and friends were there to offer prayers and words of comfort. Their kinds words and encouragement were priceless. But they couldn’t be there for me all the time. They have lives and challenges of their own. They couldn’t save me from wanting to fall into the pit of darkness and self-pity. At the end of the day, through sleepless nights and sunny days when all I wanted to do was hide in the dark, the only one I had–completely, totally, utterly–was Christ. His presence dominated my life and literally lifted me out of my emotional pit.

I would read His Words over and over again. Claim them. Speak them in the first person. Until they penetrated my stone heart. And slowly, ever so slowly, His words began breathing life into me again.

Here are some of those words He spoke to breathe life into my heart and the verses that they are based on–

I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

Where I am weak and I cannot do anything about my feelings or situation, You are strong. All I have to do is surrender everything to You. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

The Lord is fighting for me. The only thing I have to do is be silent. So don’t say a word. Shut up and let His Spirit do the work. (Exodus 14:14)

God is now healing me and binding my emotional wounds. I can literally picture this happening. (Psalm 147:3)

The Lord has only the best plans for me. I want God’s best. Nothing else. He’s my Heavenly Father and He’s working out my future and giving me hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

If you find that you’ve flatlined, pray. Read His Word. Listen to Him with your mind and your heart. He loves you. Where you are weak, He is strong. And know in your heart, that this is the season when all He wants is to be first in your life. No one else. Nothing else.

I wasn’t planning on featuring this recipe next but my friends Lally and Gigi want to try this salad soon. Very soon! So…voila!

Chicken teriyaki is one of my fave Japanese recipes. In Manila, there’s this restaurant called Teriyaki Boy and I absolutely love their chicken teriyaki on top of hot, steaming, soft, fragrant white rice. Unfortunately, it is not the healthiest eat. I’m quite sure that the scrumptious sauce is filled with sugar and salt. And I’m not going to get into the perils of white rice and how this yummy staple food, which always hits the spot, contributes to a jiggly belly. (Trust me. I’ve learned from experience!)

So Lally, Gigi and Teriyaki Boy, this is my tribute to you! 😀

This serves two.

Ingredients:
1 cup of chicken breast strips
1/2 cup of chopped celery
1/4 cup of chopped leeks
2 garlic cloves chopped
2 cups of spinach leaves
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
2-3 tablespoons of sesame seeds
salt and pepper

Marinade:
1/2 cup Kikkoman sauce
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 red onion
sesame seeds

Chop the garlic and onions and mix with Kikkoman sauce. Marinate the chicken for at least one hour. The longer you marinate it, the more delicious the chicken will be!

On a saucepan, pour the olive oil and saute the garlic. Pan fry the strips of chicken for around 15 minutes. Add the celery and leeks, as well as the teriyaki sauce. Saute for another 5 minutes and add the sesame seeds. Sprinkle salt and pepper according to how you want it to taste.

Plate the salad spinach and add your chicken teriyaki. It’s all ready to eat!

Healthy Eat facts:

Chicken – excellent source of protein
Spinach – has anti-cancer nutrients
Sesame seeds – good source of manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc and dietary fiber. Wow!
Celery – has nutrients that can lower cholesterol and contribute to cancer prevention
Leeks – known to contribute to cardiovascular health

Sources:
The World’s Healthiest Foods

Salmon is B’s fave fish so I’ve cooked this several times in the past month. Apparently, it’s salmon season in the US so we’ve been able to find salmon fillets for a very reasonable price in Walmart.

The hunt for dill was a little more challenging. There’s an organic herb section in Walmart where they didn’t have fresh dill on the first day we looked, so we bought dry dill weed instead. Two days later, I found fresh dill in the same Walmart section so I’ve been using it every time we cook salmon. In Manila, I’ve found fresh dill in Santi’s Delicatessen.  I have yet to look for dill in Mumbai!

This serves two.

Ingredients:

For the salmon:
2 pcs salmon steak
2 stems of dill
capers
olive oil

For the dressing:
4 tablespoons of Japanese mayonnaise or any low fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon mustard (any kind will do)
1 stem of dill

For the salad:
lettuce
1 cucumber
10-15 pcs of red grapes
goat cheese
3-4 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar

Preheat your oven for 30 minutes to 350 degrees. Rub the dill on the salmon steak and leave for at least 15 minutes. Coat the bottom of a baking pan with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake the salmon for around 15 minutes. Sprinkle with capers.

To make the salmon dressing, remove the dill leaves from the stem and chop into tiny bits. Combine the mayonnaise, mustard and dill.

For the salad, shred the lettuce and dice the cucumber. Combine your lettuce, cucumber,  grapes and goat cheese on a plate and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar.

Healthy Eat facts:

Salmon – improves metabolism and can lower blood sugar levels

Dill – improves digestion and can help people with sleep disorders

Capers – rich in anti-oxidants

Cucumber – low in calories and a good source of potassium

Goat cheese – lower in calories compared to cheese made from cow’s milk; high in protein and calcium

Balsamic vinegar – is a source of calcium, iron, manganese and potassium, which improve the body’s functioning and weight loss abilities

Sources:

Livestrong.com
www.nutrion-and-you.com
Organic Facts
The World’s Healthiest Foods

Early June was the start of my summer break so off I was to Cortland to meet B, my honey :-D.  I got really excited to cook for him.  According to a recent medical test he had, his cholesterol was pretty high, so we shopped for many veggies, fruits and fish to help him lower it down.

B slicing some veggies for us

We bought some frozen tuna steaks from Cortland Seafood, which I thought was a pretty interesting shop. Besides buying seafood, you can order ready made food from their menu.


Ingredients:

1 large tuna steak
olive oil
salt and pepper
string beans
broccoli
lettuce
Japanese mayonnaise
Kikkoman soy sauce

Rub salt and pepper on the tuna steak and leave for 15 minutes. Pour some olive oil on a thick pan and crank up the temperature on your stove burner to high for 3 to 5 minutes. When the pan is very hot, place the tuna steak for 45 seconds, then flip it, and place for 45 seconds more.

Blanche the broccoli and string beans by boiling water and placing both vegetables for two minutes.

Plate the greens and tuna steak. If you’d like to add taste to your salad, spread some Japanese mayonnaise on your tuna steak and sprinkle some Kikkoman sauce.

Healthy Eats facts:

Tuna – contributes to improving cardiovascular health

String beans – rich in antioxidants

Broccoli – contains a high amount of vitamin C

Lettuce – has potassium which can lower blood pressure

Source:

The Health Food Guide

The World’s Healthies Foods

 

In late May, my friend Paula visited me in Mumbai! It was a magical experience for both of us because before I left Manila, she said she would visit me in my new city. A year later, she was assigned to a workshop in Ahmedabad, which is a one hour plane ride from Mumbai. Since both of us are always on perpetual diets, I decided to make some high protein low carb food.

Unfortunately, with all the sightseeing we planned, I was only able to cook her one special homemade meal with my Southeast Asian influence. Nevertheless, it’s so much more inspiring to cook for two!

Ingredients:

2 chicken breast fillets
5 cloves of garlic minced
¼ red onion diced
spinach
mushrooms
1 cup basmati rice
1 cup water
olive oil
Salt and pepper

Boil 1 cup of water and add 1 cup of basmati rice. Put the stove temperature on low and boil the rice for 20 minutes or until the rice has absorbed the water and is tender.

Rub salt and pepper on the chicken breast and leave for 15 minutes. Pour a teaspoon or two of olive oil and sauté the garlic and onions until light brown. Add the chicken in the pan and cook for around 20 minutes. Taste the chicken to make sure that it’s cooked all the way through!

To blanche the mushrooms and spinach, boil some water. Pour in the mushrooms for five minutes and the spinach for one.

Plate the chicken, rice, and veggies. Welcome to Mumbai, Paula!

Healthy Eat facts:

Chicken breast – besides being a good source of protein, chicken has cancer protective nutrients
Basmati rice – full of fiber and nutrients

Garlic and onions – can lower cholesterol

Spinach – rich in vitamin K

Source: http://whfoods.org

Mushrooms – contributes to improving one’s immune system

I absolutely love smoked salmon. Besides tasting delicious, it’s an easy ingredient to use because I don’t have to cook it. This recipe takes ten minutes to prepare.

My ingredients include–

smoked salmon strips
romaine lettuce
olives
pistachios
feta cheese
1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar

All you have to do is mix all ingredients together and it’s good to eat! I like putting more balsamic vinegar in my salads more than most people do. So please feel free to adjust according to your taste.

Healthy Eats facts:

Smoked salmon – has omega 3 fatty acids which are good for your heart. It also has a lot of vitamin B and protein.

Romaine lettuce – besides having vitamins A, C and K, romaine lettuce had the minerals manganese and chromium. It also has a lot of fiber.

Olives – have monounsaturated and vitamin E

Pistachios – excellent source of minerals such as copper, manganese and phosphorus

Sources:

http://www.whfoods.com/

http://pistachiohealth.com/health-care-professional/nutrition