About Claudia

Home-brewed Artichoke Tea

Hello goddesses,

I’ve got a secret to share: I’m semi-obsessed with tea. Coffee is going out of flavor for me lately. I think it was too many days in the Mediterranean, sucking down espressos and Turkish coffees. Those thimble-sized cups of ultra rich coffee still taste great, but when I get cold, I want to suck down gobs of hot liquid. And my stomach cannot handle the acidity (or perhaps it’s the caffeine?) of multiple cups of Joe. So I’ve turned back to the silent step sister: tea.

I have a huge array of black and herbal teas sitting in my pantry. But I was introduced to a leafy tea this summer that I wasn’t quite prepared for: artichoke tea. I know, I know. It sounds really weird. But it has a soft, pungent scent – like a woodsy trek in the Fall. It’s super easy to prepare and it has a ton of health benefits.

Did you know artichokes grow in a vine-y, thorny bush? We eat the flower buds, but the stems are delicious and meaty. Don’t discard the petals after eating! Dry them and use later

Artichoke Tea Health Benefits

For Digestion: I have a sensitive stomach. I cannot eat fried foods day in/day out (thankfully, or I’d be ginormous). But even a little too much fat in my diet can cause my stomach to sometimes flip. Artichoke tea is a great digestive aid, as it helps increase bile in the stomach, which breaks down fat. Then it carries it all off to be flushed away out of your system.

For Liver Health: This same increase in bile also supports good liver function. Ancient Egyptians knew that artichokes implicitly supported good liver health.

Diuretic: Artichoke tea acts as a diuretic, which may help in preventing water retention (especially during those days of the month). It’s a little shared secret among us goddesses in the Mediterranean.

It’s also caffeine free (naturally), so you can drink it safely in the evenings.

Green and purple petals that are dried in the sun, steeped for a few minutes in boiling water to nourish your body

How to Brew Artichoke Tea

Brewing artichoke is rather simple. Once you’ve eaten the leaves (and if you are lucky enough to eat the stem), save them. Give them a good rinse. Lay out to dry to be used later. Once fully dried either in the sun, oven or dehydrator, keep them in a sealed container and consume within 6 months. Grab a small handful, add to boiled water and allow to steep until your tea turns a very light brown color. Sweeten, if you need (I typically don’t).

Enjoy!

Eat Like a Goddess, too, my friends!

Claudia

Have you tried artichoke tea before? Any thoughts? I would love to hear from you!

Blog

An Italian Surprise

Buongiorno goddesses!

Another couple and my husband and I spent 4 days in the Amalfi Coast region of Italy this summer. I had been to Italy before, but not this area. Oh my word should it be on your bucket list, friends! The fresh food, the intense wine, the sheer cliffs cascading into the deep blue Mediterranean Sea. . .  it was all intoxicating. A word to the wise: the Amalfi Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As such, there is no construction of modern highways along the coast. It is all windy, tiny roads were tourists and locals alike zip through on motorcycles and mopeds, SUVs and sedans. Throw in pedestrians, parked cars and passersby and the whole driving in Italy thing hits home. The roads are treacherous, so either steel your nerves, get insurance for your rental, or take public transportation – there’s plenty.

But I digress. We flew into Naples, found our rental car, and hit the road. Our first destination was the seaside city of Sorrento. The city is supposedly named after Ulysses hearing the “sirens” call of the mermaids from its shores. Tell me how cool is that? I literally swam in the same shores that Ulysses swam? I love history and travel. Sigh.

That’s Mt. Vesuvius in the background!

But I digress again. Sorry. That’s how Italy was for me: a series of digressions from real life – one delectable bite or one dramatic cliff after another. We spent the night in the bustling city of Sorrento, which is mired in Moorish art (I’ll get to the art in another post) and located at the base of Vesuvius. Sorrento was busy, and filled with Italians trying to sell limoncello or lemon art to American tourists. Truly – I heard more American accents in Sorrento than I do on the streets of New York City. Sadly, I found that slightly off-putting. It’s just me, though. When I travel, I like to think of myself as an explorer – going to the ends of the Earth, and not some place that has already been discovered a thousand times over. Imagine a female Indiana Jones (isn’t Indiana a girl’s name, after all?). But of course Amalfi Coast has been discovered. As I already mentioned, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site! And it’s unbelievably beautiful.

The next day, we awoke to brilliant sunshine and bluebird, cloudless skies. We were off to our next destination: Salerno. On our windy way from Sorrento to Salerno,  I needed to stop at the pharmacy and pick up some dramamine for a boat trip planned the following day to the island of Capri (more on Capri in another post. Sorry! There’s just far too much to cover in one post – and I know you can’t read for hours). The coastal road is dotted with tiny villages that come alive in the summer and board up for the winter. We found a large green pharmacy in Sant’Agnello and pulled over. My husband had to stay by the car, while I ran into the pharmacy (parking was illegal on the side of the road). As I walked back to the parked car, I noticed a small fruit stand of a market and the largest, juiciest and most fragrant apricots waiting to be eaten. Behind it was a large glass window and I could see hanging from the ceiling: gorgeous, large, cylinder-shaped salamis, large round cheese circles, and strings of garlic and tomatoes – all drying in the window. My foodie instincts went up immediately. I headed inside.

Salami, cheese, garlic – oh my! A foodie lover’s paradise

It was an Italian family-owned deli and restaurant. The lights were darkened, the room drenched in dark wood. My eyes took a second to adjust from the brilliant sunlight outside. But my other senses came alive. The slightly mildewy scent of aging cheese, coupled with fresh tomatoes stewed in garlic and basil, wafted right to my nose and down to my hungry belly. The assortment of local, knotted cheeses- most of which I had never heard of were displayed in a simple refrigerated section to my right. There were olives. Oh were there olives! – black, green, seasoned, pitted, cured, spicy, and beyond. As my nose was pressed to the refrigerated window, I’m pretty certain a little dribble of saliva was coming out of my mouth. This place was my jam. The door opened, letting bright sunlight in for a split second. My husband loomed in the doorway. For a few minutes, I had completely forgotten that I left my husband in a rented car in a foreign land without telling him where I went. He found a parking spot and was searching the pharmacy and other merchants before finding me asking the owner to try the marinated olives.

The refrigerated section of Masaniello’s is crammed full of local goodness

A Puteca E Masaniello’s is truly a magical place. The owner Nello was kind and inviting, with a warm smile and a gracious handshake. We sat in the back stall and provided us morsels of what we asked for. I wanted a small portion of eggplant Parmesan, a portion of Nicoise salad and some olives. My husband ordered a slice of homemade, oven fired pizza that was spectacularly thin, with artichokes, garlic and more Parmesan on top. He is also a sucker for cheese, and so had several wedges of local cheese that he and Nello spent time deciding on which would be the best fit for my husband. When we were seated and eating, Nello pulled out this amazing rustic bread and two glasses of local red wine. As a thank you for our patronage, Nello also brought out a small round tuft of fresh mozzarella. It was still warm, it was that fresh! I sliced it open with a knife to share, and the whey spilled out onto the plate. This was the most incredible mozzarella I had ever had.

My husband enjoying a glass of local wine

My husband and I sat in the back of the deli – where only 2 booths were set up with black and white checkered tablecloths. It was the most humble of restaurants (I use that word liberally), but it was the most authentic and delicious food I had enjoyed in ages. I highly recommend it. Nello  is charming and the perfect host. We bought a couple of bottles of local red wine and wrapped up whatever cheeses we could not finish. We paid under 40 Euros for the meal plus 2 bottles of wine, chunks of cheese and wrapped up bread for the next meal. I even grabbed a couple of those tender apricots for later, as well.

Nello is the most gracious owner/host and his wife is a divine cook!

So if ever in the Amalfi Coast, and you find yourself on the windy road, go visit Nello! Tell him I sent you (not that he will remember, I am certain, but he was SO lovely!) and enjoy an authentic Italian surprise.

Keep exploring this wide, beautiful world my goddesses! And unleash your inner Aphrodite –

Claudia

Find A Puteca E Masaniello here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Puteca-E-Masaniello/1431376053765790?pnref=story

Blog, In The News

Stuffed Grape Leaves at Friendly City Food Co-Op

Time to stuff some grape leaves in this family-friendly event. I am honored to be teaming up with Harrisonburg’s Friendly City Food Co-Op to bring some Old World yumminess to the New World. We will be learning to make a traditional one and a vegetarian/vegan one with quinoa for a twist. Grab a friend (or your kids) for this family-friendly class.

Class is on August 9, 2017 at 6 PM at Harrisonburg’s Downtown location for Friendly City Food Co-Op.

Cost is $10 and includes food tasting at the end of class. Sign up below!

Co-op Learning: Mediterranean Bites

 

Blog, In The News

Live Like a Goddess Tour of Cyprus – October 2017

Cyprus: The Island of Aphrodite Tour

10 Days, 9 Night tour of Cyprus, the Island of Aphrodite, to Walk Amongst the Gods


Unleash your Inner Aphrodite & Adonis

October 6 – 15, 2017

Accommodations: Merit Crystal Cove Hotel is a 5-star, all-inclusive beachfront hotel. Includes:

  • Unlimited drinks, beach and poolside service at the multiple indoor/outdoor and poolside bars
  • The resort’s fabulous pools features poolside bar, attentive staff bringing food and dinner; poolside servers on rollerblades to get to you faster J No one has yet figured out to rollerblade on sand, so beachside servers simply walk
  • In addition to three full meals per day, unlimited access to beach & poolside restaurants
  • 24-hour cappuccino, espresso and coffee bars
  • 24-hour On-site Casino
  • Daily ice cream socials
  • Unlimited use of the spa center, including sauna, steam room and fitness center
  • Beach and watersports such as snorkeling, scuba, jetpacks, jet ski, and more (at an additional cost)

http://www.merithotels.com/en_index_merit_park.php

Merit Crystal Cove Hotel – 5 Star Experience

Itinerary

Day 1:             Welcome to Cyprus, transfers to and from hotel, settling in. Unpack, relax, swim, eat and play at the pool and beach

Day 2:            Introduction to Live Like a Goddess and the 5 Pillars of Goddess Living

  • After breakfast, join us for a private belly dancing class on the beach. Whittle away your waist with an introduction to the seductive, traditional dance
  • Eat, drink and be merry during the day: time off to acclimate and enjoy the hotel, accommodations and Mediterranean!
  • Depart hotel after lunch (1 PM) for a guided tour of the Kyrenia Castle – the walled castle built in the early 9th century and protected the city of Kyrenia from Arabs, Moors and Ottomans for over 1000 years.
  • Then, stroll over to catch an evening sunset cruise across the Mediterranean with a cocktail from 5 – 7 PM. Bring a light sweater! It can get chilly on the water in the evenings.
  • Transfer back to the hotel about 8:00 PM

Kyrenia Castle

Day 3:            Day trip to ancient city of Famagusta – pack your bathing suits!

  • After breakfast, pick up at 9:00 AM
  • Visit Saint Barnabus Monastery and final resting spot http://stbarnabasny.org/who-was-st-barnabas.html
  • Visit ancient Roman city of Salamis (http://www.bibleplaces.com/salamis-cyprus/)
  • Lunch at the famous beachside restaurant St Barnabus’ with calamari, fresh fish, salad and Cypriot French fries. Wine with lunch included.
  • If weather permits, a dip through the tranquil waters on the eastern side of the island
  • Walled City of Famagusta (Saint Nicholas’s Cathedral, The Othello tower, Djanboulat’s Bastion & Museum, Porta del Mare, Martinengo Bastion, the old Royal Palace, Namik Kemal Dungeon & Museum)
  • Return to hotel in time for dinner (approximately 8:00 PM)

Ancient Roman city of Salamis

Day 4:            Kyrenia Day: Farmer’s Market & Shopping

  • After breakfast, pick up at 9:00 AM for a tour of the weekly farmers’ market. Buy fresh fruit, vegetables, artisan bread, assortment of nuts and desserts to take home
  • Shopping tour of downtown Kyrenia for souvenirs
  • Lunch at the Kyrenia Harbor of fresh fish and local Cypriot mezzes. Wine with lunch included.
  • Return to hotel after lunch for swim, relaxation, dinner, and needed downtime
  • Feel free to try your luck at the hotel casino
  • Optional: scuba diving excursion may be organized by the Hotel Concierge for an afternoon pick-up. Additional fees will be paid directly to scuba company for pickup and service. Snorkeling is free and plentiful by the shore! Pack your own snorkels, or the hotel can provide for a fee.

Day 5:            Aphrodite’s Temple, Village of Kakopatreia and Limassol Vineyards

  • Early morning departure of 8:00 AM to
  • If weather and beach conditions permit, swim at the shores of Aphrodite’s birthplace: (Petro tou Romiou), or Aphrodite’s Rock, the Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty http://www.visitpafos.org.cy/petra_romiou.aspx
  • Aphrodite’s Temple, the museum and shrine where the Goddess was adored and revered http://www.sacred-destinations.com/cyprus/paphos-sanctuary-of-aphrodite
  • Lunch in the charming, mountainside village of Kakopatreia – home of delicious, traditional halloumi cheese, yogurt and wine
  • Visit vineyards for wine tasting at Lambouri Vineyards – the largest vineyards on the island in the traditional Omodos Village. http://lambouri.com

Ruins at Aphrodite’s Temple

Day 6:            Beach day! Snorkel, Scuba, Jet Ski and Kite Surf

  • After a long day trekking through the fields where both Aphrodite and Cleopatra stepped, a relaxing beach day is in order.
  • Enjoy poolside/beachside service as you lounge on your private beach cove or explore undersea caves for octopi lurking beneath rocks. Scuba diving professionals can teach you the basics of scuba for a daily “trial” dive

Day 7:            The Kozan Experience

  • Today tour-goers will have the opportunity of living like a local. We will visit the organic farm of Kozan – perched on the mountainside overlooking the Mediterranean Sea from the north. Kozan is a charming village located in the forests of the Five Finger Mountain Range (Pentadyklos). We will get our hands dirty and learn how to make homemade yogurt, traditional Cypriot halloumi cheese, and authentic olive & cheese bread.
  • Lunch will be served with traditional Cypriot mezzes and kleftiko (Cypriot lamb in the oven with roasted potatoes. To die for).
  • Hotel transfer back to hotel to relax, unwind by 5:00 PM
  • http://kozanexperience.weebly.com/

Learning how to make traditional Cypriot cookies at Kozan Organic Farm

Day 8:            Olive Picking & Elia’z Olive Factory

  • Cyprus is home to some of the oldest olive trees in the world. Today we will explore the olive groves of a private estate, learn the process of how and when to collect the ripened fruit. Perhaps we will get our hands dirty and help harvest one of the world’s healthiest fruits.
  • We will then follow these olives to the factory of Elia’z Olives, where we will enjoy a private tour of the factory as well as tastings of the cured and fermented olives, as well as learn the process of sorting, fermenting and curing. Feel free to pick up a jar of organic olives to take home
  • If olives are ready, we will then tour the olive oil factory to understand the age old process of pressing olives into what Homer calls “Liquid Gold.”
  • Transfer back to the hotel by approximately 5:00 PM

 

Day 9:            Hotel, Yoga, Scrub-down in a Turkish Hammam, Relaxing day

  • Get beach-skin gorgeous and pampered on your final day
  • Get pampered with a Spa day. Enjoy a private Turkish hammam was once the public bathhouse where people would gather to scrub off excess dirt and exfoliate dead skin. With a private room and personal assistant, the Turkish hammam is a relaxing, unforgettable experience.
  • Get your “fal” on! Enjoy a cup of Greek coffee (size of an espresso cup)
  • Evening off to relax, eat, drink and be merry. Check out the in-house casino or take a cab to downtown for nightclubs/bars

Relax and unwind in a luxurious Turkish “hammam” spa experience

Day 10:          Final Day of Live Like a Goddess Tour

  • Breakfast, pack and shuttle to the airport

 

Total Price for hotel, full board, transportation on the island, and all of the activities listed above (excluding airfare and insurance based on double occupancy): $2100 per person. Please have Euros on hand for incidentals. Credit cards are widely accepted all over the island. Cyprus is the easternmost part of the European Union. It is also a former British Colony. As such, English is widely spoken all over the island.
PLEASE COME BACK AND VISIT CYPRUS AGAIN SOON!!

 

About your tour guide:

Claudia Hanna Veysel is a James Madison University Instructor of Eat Like a God or Goddess, learning how to replicate healthy, Mediterranean meals. Having grown up in Harrisonburg, Claudia was a management consultant for years before trading power suits for flip-flops and beach sarongs for a simpler, healthier life in Cyprus. Claudia lived in Cyprus for 8 years and has put together this tour as “a few of her favorite things” while on the Island of Aphrodite. She now writes her own blog, Live Like a Goddess, which is focused on introducing the Mediterranean Lifestyle to the West. Claudia teaches Mediterranean Cooking Classes to the Valley through JMU and the Friendly City Co-Op. Claudia is also a huge proponent of encouraging better, healthier eating choices to children by teaching at the Discover More Museum. She is a regular contributor for Cville Weekly, Mind Body Soul, Women Who Live on Rocks, Expat.com, and Sivana Community. Claudia is married to her own Adonis and they have two pretty awesome kids together. They live in the Shenandoah Valley with their dog.

 

Blog, Lifestyle

Finding Your Tribe

Paddle boarding with manatees in San Juan, Puerto Rico courtesy of #VIP Adventures

One of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean Lifestyle is Pillar 2: Focus on Family & Community. In the Med, families and neighbors are close-knit. Want to keep a dirty secret? Failed an exam? Lost a job? Hate your husband? Fuggetaboutit. It all comes out within weeks, days, hours – and spreads like tropical storms across the Caribbean skies in September. There is no hiding your dirty laundry. Children grow up, marry and move down the street, perhaps to another village, or to the “city” a couple hours away (to the horrors of the devastated mamas in the Med). Suffocating at times, but these kin are your family – like it or not. They have your back, and they will never let you falter.

I am one of those lucky people who grew up in a tight-knit, totally functional family (is that even possible in today’s reality-TV-obsessed-bigger-is-better-world??). I then married into this same type of situation, and my familial tribe grew to include my in-laws and the rest of his clan.

But what happens when you don’t have such a laundry list of healthy, functional family members? Or if you love your family until it hurts, but they still may not get your eccentric ways. Find your own Tribe. And although I  grew up with a functional family, I was always a little bit off. A little too loud or laid back. A little more Mediterranean than Western. I was blown away to discover a new set of Tribe members. We call ourselves Rock Sisters.

Laughter is the best antioxidant, medicine, anti-aging procedure – signed, Dr. Goddess

I write for a mega-blog called Women Who Live on Rocks. Chrissann Nickel, our fierce and fearless leader, a total rockstar (pun-intended) decided to organize the first ever Writers’ Rock Retreat to introduce 10 female writers. Instead of meeting virtually, we did something so 20th century. We actually met. Women Who Live on Rocks is focused on Caribbean island-living. As a Mediterranean Lifestyle chic, I think I slipped through the cracks.  And boy am I glad I did. For 5 days in San Juan, Puerto Rico, we collaborated, laughed, danced and drank. Not necessarily in that order, either. After all these years, I finally found my Tribe.

Why you should find your Tribe:

According to Abraham Maslow (as in Maslow’s Theory): one of the most fundamental of human needs is the need to belong. In the age-old days of the Mediterranean, people live close to where they grow up. Their family is their Tribe (ring in mental clips of The Godfather). But in the West, we move for our jobs/careers; for our husband’s jobs/careers; for better schools for our children; for a better quality of life. Heck, I’ve even heard people moving for better weather. Along the way we may lose our Tribe.

Haven’t found your Tribe yet? Rest assured, they exist. Somewhere out in this big, bad world, they exist and are waiting for YOU to complete them 🙂

We celebrated birthdays

How to find your Tribe:

  1. What do you love to do? Not to get paid for, but actually choose to do for pure enjoyment. I love writing. I love acting. I love swimming. Join a Meetup group near you.  If one doesn’t exist to fit your exact niche (Dancing in the rain while eating Little Debbie’s snacks?), start one! You never know who is thinking: yes! That’s exactly what I *love* to do, too.
  2. Go back to school. Yes – I’m serious. Visit the website of your local university or community college. Schools have come a long way in community outreach. A quick scan at my local university, and I see that I can take a class on the cosmos, dream analysis, and ukulele for beginners (I’m serious). Classes are typically pretty cheap, in the evenings or on the weekends, and a great place to meet your potential Tribal Sister or Brother.
  3. Log on. Facebook, Yahoo! and other social media sites are laden with groups you may be passionate about. The more precise or specific, the better to narrow in you like-minded folks.
  4. Watch Yes Man with Jim Carrey. Avoid stupid, dangerous stuff (unless that’s your thang) and then say yes. Had I not said yes to flying to Puerto Rico, leaving my children in my husband’s capable hands and doing something DIFFERENT, I may not have met my ultimate Rock Sisters. Say YES to new adventures and see where it leads you. I almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
  5. Put it out in the Universe. It may sound corny, but it worked for me. Writing can be a lonely process. It’s hard to meet like minded passionate, positive, strong, fun, and fabulous women from my home office. I put out positive vibes into the Universe, and it came back, ten-fold.

And got blue masks that they promised would reverse the aging process

I am also old-school. I love social media sites, but nothing compares to a gaggle of girls, sorority-style, playing, laughing and learning in a big house in Old San Juan. I will treasure those days and look forward to when we will be reunited. In the meantime, my What’s App chats keep me chuckling as I proceed with normal life as a wife, mom, writer and entrepreneur. And, I think this is what a Tribe is all about: they got my back; I got theirs. They keep me laughing, sane and focused. And sometimes (like right now) very unfocused, as I am trying hard not to check my messages and see what some of those crazy gals are up to.

And simply celebrated. We did work! I promise, honey!

Focus on Family & Community is Pillar #4 in Goddess Living. I am humbled to realize that it has more to do with choosing a positive Tribe than simply what family you were born into. Choose your Community. Choose your Tribe

Choose your Tribe and let your hair down – knowing  they’ve got your bare back.

Want to meet my awesome Tribe? Check out what these fabulous ladies are up to.

Chrissann Nickel (the organizer of this life-changing event); Women Who Live On Rocks
Jennifer Legra, Dominican Republic: Drinking the Whole Bottle
Riselle Celestina, St. Maarten: The Traveling Island Girl
Mariah Moyle, The Bahamas: Out Island Life
Brittany Meyers, Tortola, BVI: Windtraveler
Lizzy Yana, St. Thomas, VI: Island Lizzy

Liz Wegerer, Bonaire: The Adventures of Island Girl

Jennifer Morrow, Puerto Rico: Jen There Done That
Sherri DeWolf, Key West: Deeply Creative; Island Jane

 

Want a peek into our 1st ever Writer’s Retreat? Click here

I’d love to hear more about Your Tribe! Have you found them yet? Let’s hear it, goddesses. . .

Blog, Cooking

Citrus Tahini Dressing

Citrus Tahini Dressing

One of my favorite things to do is zazz up a simple (boring) green salad or humble tabbouleh salad with a sultry, spicy, sweet kick. Plus, it’s a great way to use up that 16 ounce of tahini you bought and made hummus that one time. It’s sitting in the back of your fridge or cupboard, waiting to be used and collecting dust. It’s begging for you to get a little crazy and experimental. So pull out that versatile sesame butter and let’s get cooking.

Citrus Tahini Dressing – add it to your Tabbouleh, falafel or simple green salad!

Ingredients

  • Juice from 1 fresh orange (the riper the better)
  • Juice from 1/2 fresh lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Orange zest (optional)
  • Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon honey, sugar, agave or stevia (optional)

Method: blend all of the above until smooth and pour over your salad. Serve immediately or allow to simmer in its gorgeous juices to allow the garlic to become potent.

Note: if your tahini is quite thick (the bottom portion and little of the natural oil is reserved, or if you notice this dressing is a bit thick), you may thin it out by adding small amounts of water. Check, taste and modify as needed.

Voila! Transform simple salads into an epicurean delight with this heart-healthy dressing.

If you are looking for more ways to use up that delicious, protein-rich tahini, check out this earlier post about 7 Things To Do with your Tahini that aren’t Hummus

Got any other great tahini recipes? I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a comment below or email me at claudia@livelikeagoddess.com

Blog, Cooking

Lebanese Bulgur Salad

Lebanese Bulgur Salad

I think of this wholesome, one pot, warm bulgur “salad” as being a suped-up version of  tabbouleh. I love the fact that this meal is all chopped, thrown in a pot, and cooked within 30 minutes. It’s fast, simple, delicious and nutritious. It pairs great with my Citrus Tahini Salad dressing, which you can whip up in advance and store in a jar in the back of your fridge. Pull it out when you need to add a bit of jazzing up to your green salad, tabbouleh or this warm bulgur salad.

Packed with protein and fiber, bulgur is a whole wheat and used in place of rice in parts of the Eastern Mediterranean. It’s low in calories, but packed with nutrition. One cup of bulgur has less calories, fat and more than twice the fiber and protein of brown rice! So please – get very familiar with this “super food” and enjoy!

Bulgur wheat comes in Very Fine, Fine, Course, “Breakfast” or Kernels. All are used for various recipes. I love the Course kind for this warm Lebanese saaad

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh or dried basil
  • 1 cup coarse bulgur
  • 2 ripened tomatoes, chopped
  • 1.5+ cups broth: vegetable, chicken or beef
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper, as desired
  • Pinch of paprika, cayenne pepper, as desired
  • Italian parsley, finely sliced
  • Crumbled Feta cheese, optional

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and cook until lightly translucent.
  3. Add red pepper and zucchini, and saute for another 2 minutes
  4. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  5. Stir in the tomatoes and basil, cooking 2 more minutes.
  6. Stir the bulgur into the tomato mixture, making sure that the bulgur is well coated.
  7. Stir in the broth. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for 5 minutes.
  8. Add the tomato paste, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne to the bulgur mixture.
  9. Continue to cook, covered until the bulgur is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed, about 25 minutes.
  10. Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the parsley & feta over the top.

Have you tried to make this meal?  I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a line below and Unleash your Inner Aphrodite. . .

Blog, Cooking

Red Lentil Balls (aka Meatless Meatballs)

This is a recipe I learned while living on the island of Aphrodite (aka Cyprus). We typically eat these handheld, flavorful balls in the summertime alongside watermelon and lounging by the pool or beach. Sounds like a hard life, right?

Red lentils and all forms of legumes are a wonderful part of the plant-based Mediterranean diet. In the West, we think of lentils in the form of soup or salad. I’m most familiar with green or black/brown (sometimes also called French) Lentils. But in actuality, there are a variety of different lentils that are consumed in various dishes. They include green lentils, red lentils, yellow  (chana dal) lentils, brown lentils, mung beans, and even related to kidney beans, soy beans and black eyed peas. They each have an important place in a natural, healthy Mediterranean diet.

Red lentils are probably the easiest to prepare, as they are the smallest, thinnest and quickest to cook. Unlike other legumes, red lentils do not need to be soaked overnight. However, like all beans/legumes, lentils should be rinsed and quickly inspected  for foreign particles or natural stones that may have slipped through the manufacturing process.

So, why replace typical meatballs with red lentil balls? Lentils are a high protein, low fat and calorie, cheap source of protein. They are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and will not clog up your arteries like typical animal-based proteins. For more information on the health benefits of lentils and other legumes, take a look at Organic Fact’s site: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/health-benefits-of-lentils.html

Red Lentil Balls 

Red Lentil Balls are a great meatless substitute for those looking for a hand-held, flavorful and protein-rich dinner. They are also colorful, aromatic and versatile. Pack these in picnic basket for an option to a traditional meal.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup of red lentils, rinsed
  • ½ cup of fine bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Handful of fresh or dried mint
  • Handful of fresh or dried Italian parsley
  • Seasonings to taste include: salt, black pepper and cumin, as desired

Method

  1. Boil the lentils in a bit of salt until cooked, approximately 15 minutes
  2. When the lentils are still hot, place the bulgur, and leave to absorb the remaining water.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté the onions in olive oil. When translucent, add to the bulgur/lentils.
  4. Transfer all to a bowl and add yogurt, parsley, mint and spices. While still warm, begin to knead until well mixed.
  5. Shape the balls into flattened, handheld “sausage” shapes

Dipping Sauce

A nice dipping sauce for the Lentil Balls includes adding sliced parsley, dried chili flakes (for a bit of heat), lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Mix well and dip the lentil balls into them. Enjoy!

Another awesome dipping sauce that I love to use with these simple lentil balls is a Thai red sweet chili paste.

Go ahead and give it a try! I just delivered a course in my Mediterranean cooking class at James Madison University on these red lentil balls. The students LOVED them. I promise!

Got any other great legume recipes? I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a comment below or shoot me an email at claudia@livelikeagoddess.com

Unleash your Inner Aphrodite. . .

Claudia

Blog, Lifestyle

How to go from Type A to the Mediterranean Way

Ah that could be me. Right there. On the right. Oh yes! If I wasn’t sitting at my desk freaking out over that stupid deadline. But in my mind’s eye: that’s totally me.

We women are just natural go-getters, aren’t we? Many of us are inertly driven: at work, at home, in the community, and at the gym. The list goes on. It can be exhausting juggling the many balls in our lives. We all think it’s normal, this fast-paced, hectic lifestyle we lead: 9-to-5 job (who am I kidding? It’s more like 8:30-to-6:30. Can someone please tell me how Corporate America managed to log an extra couple of our hours?!). When we come home, we take our children to a myriad of sports, music or arts lessons. We crawl towards the finish line: the weekend, where many of us spend hours cleaning, prepping and shopping for the next week.

When did life become so boring and rigid?

Here’s a dirty, little secret: there IS a society in which women still live a more balanced, natural lifestyle. It’s called the Mediterranean. It’s way more than just a diet. It’s a lifestyle that we can copy here in the West.

I moved to Cyprus, the island of Aphrodite, 10 years ago. I watched, listened and learned the ways of the local women. With their glowing skin, perfectly piqued eyebrows, and harmonious lifestyles, they seemed to manage life’s precarious situations a bit more elegantly. Aphrodite swims through the veins of the women in Cyprus and throughout the Mediterranean. Here’s what I learned:

  1. They let go more easily

Before the Med: Like the proverbial square peg in a round hole, I used to force life’s hand. I was a control freak. A total Type A who liked to get things D-O-N-E (preferably yesterday). But boy, when things didn’t work out, did I get tired/angry/frustrated. I usually ended up in tears of frustration.

After the Med: Breathe. Life ebbs and flows in the Mediterranean. Actually, it ebbs and flows, everywhere. But there are less distractions in Cyprus. We can’t control everything, and what fun would it be if we could?

  1. They pray

Before the Med: Stellar careers are matched with stellar husband and stellar children. Weekend warriors are businessmen and women, racing to the airports on Sunday evenings or early Monday mornings. Weekend warriors also include the travel-sports family (insert soccer mom joke here). Clinics, tournaments, practices and theater rehearsals have replaced incense, sermons and devotionals.

After the Med: Reclaim your Sabbath. Whatever that means to you: Friday, Saturday or Sunday (or all 3!) and spend time rejuvenating. In the Med, women pray as a family before meals, and when things get tough at work/home/illness, they rush to church, light a candle or seek advice from their local rabbi/priest/imam. Spirituality is still central. 

Ommmm. Inhale. Hold 2, 3, 4. Exhale slowly. Repeat.

  1. They know work is not as important as family

Before the Med: Deadlines, reports, presentations and budgets. Meetings upon meetings to discuss our next meeting. Must find new clients or the best new marketing scheme, else we lose existing clients. Expand or die. Make your targets; meet with the press. Promote ourselves, our branches, our business on social media or else be considered a dinosaur.

After the Med: Despite the siesta jokes, Mediterraneans are busy, too. But they know that the presentation can wait until the morning to send out. Bosses understand that a working mom (or dad) needs to get back to feed children supper. Family comes first, the rest follows. Guess what? The world does not fall apart.

  1. They rely on their Village

Before the Med: We Western Superwomen are another breed: we work, workout, have children, volunteer, clean our own homes, wash our own laundry, cook elaborate meals (and Instagram them), make unique, homemade costumes for Halloween (thank you Pinterest!), still look sexy/hot/desirable/ over 40 or 50, try Orange Theory, Mud Runs, Triathlons, pop vitamins, do a cleanse, detox and more. We do it all ourselves, and then watch Netflix to relax, while skimming FaceBook feeds by night. What a life.

After the Med: Superwoman was a fictional character (who rocked briefs, Linda Carter!). Women rely on a vast and intricate village, including, but not limited to, parents, siblings and friends to help with the child-rearing, cooking, and laundry. If no one lives nearby, they buy help when they can afford it. They pitch in to help one another (I have personally helped clean another woman’s house and on multiple occasions helped cook for a party, and clean up after many-a party). If someone looks tired, frail, we don’t daintily ask “is there anything you need?” We get in there, roll up our sleeves and help with the dirty work. Because we know one day soon, we will need their help soon.

  1. They worry less

Before the Med: those furrowed brows and lines do not need Botox. We need a change in our mental attitude. Let go, forgive those who hurt you, pray more and focus less on work and more on relationships.

After the Med: if it won’t matter to me in 1 year, then I try to not worry about it. There’s something intoxicating about shrugging my shoulders and saying “ah screw it!”

This really IS me. I really don’t care that much anymore. And I feel great going from Type A to the Mediterranean Way

Blog

Bob Harper goes Mediterranean

You guys remember Bob Harper, right? The personal trainer to Oprah Winfrey-turned-celebrity? He hosted Biggest Loser for 17 seasons and was the epitome of health. Tattooed, tough arms sprung from a chiseled chest. Lean legs and cut calves. But surprisingly, Bob was only 51 when he suffered a heart attack in February 2017. He acknowledges he is lucky; Bob thankfully survived the heart attack. His number one change was not walking more or pumping more iron. His first change was a return to the roots: a return to the Mediterranean Diet. http://edition.cnn.com/2017/03/14/health/biggest-loser-bob-harper-heart-attack-recovery/index.html

Bob’s cardiologists (and hundreds of doctors, nutritionists alike agree) recommend a Mediterranean Diet. My fellow goddesses, we are all in the right spot. Link up to my recipes site for authentic Mediterranean meals that are easy to prepare. http://www.livelikeagoddess.com/category/cooking/

If you have a question, drop me a comment below or an email. I love hearing from you!

A true Mediterranean diet is prepared simply with fresh ingredients. The primary focus is on vegetables, not protein or carbohydrates. We Mediterranean goddesses know a diet rich in vegetables and fruit are naturally filled with high volumes of water, that keeps eyes, skin and blood vessels clear from impurities. Use only the freshest ingredients, and when possible, locally sourced and produced food items. It helps promote your local community, and the produce is typically fresher, more nutrient-rich, as they are not slowly withering away being shipped.

Mediterranean sauces are simple. Repeat after me: olive oil & lemon & garlic or olive oil & tomatoes & garlic. Your choice. Stick with this combo for dressing your salads, your meats, your vegetables. Don’t be shy to experiment. Make vegetables your staple.

If you need to count how many vegetables you have eaten, then you haven’t eaten enough

Don’t believe me? Check out Web MD’s reason to switch over to a Mediterranean Diet http://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-12-reasons-to-love-the-mediterranean-diet

In 2017, I hope you are continuing to live in the moment, to live healthy and clean, and to live like a goddess.

Unleash your Inner Aphrodite . . .

Claudia