Blog, Lifestyle

Following in Aphrodite’s Footsteps: A New Year’s Resolution for the Ultimate Goddess

 

It’s week 2 into 2017. How many of you guys are still hitting the gym? Cut your sugar addictions? As far as New Year’s Resolutions go, losing weight is perennially the most popular. But for this year, I would like to offer a new resolution: one that doesn’t look at just the numbers on your scale or in your bank account. In 2017 let’s look at following in Aphrodite’s footsteps. The Goddess of Love and Beauty probably never spent an excess minute thinking of her excess curves. Instead, she focused on giving love and making the world fall at her feet.

In this new year, allow me to share with you some secrets of how sirens of the Mediterranean make the world stop at their pedicured feet.

Adopt a Healthier Palate

Naturally, as a Mediterranean Lifestyle Coach, I teach Mediterranean cooking. So it’s no wonder that the first thing on Living La Vida Goddess in 2017 would be learning to cook! My family is a huge fan of olives, olive oil, tomatoes, yogurt, feta cheese, and pretty much all things Mediterranean. So it’s pretty easy for us to adopt a healthier diet when our palate is already accustomed to these tastes. But if you prefer the taste of butter, meat, fried foods and take out, then it may be difficult for you to make that change. Below are a couple of quick fixes to help you switch your palate

  1. Eat at least 7 servings of fruit and/or vegetables per day. Pack tangerines in your bag; chomp on dried figs for dessert; eat a salad every single day. I promise: if you do this, you won’t have room in your stomach for a full cheeseburger and fries.
  2. Eat beans/legumes at least 2x per week. Packed full of fiber, protein and folate, legumes are a great, inexpensive food that is extremely versatile (black-eyed peas are awesome on top of brown rice; edamame are wonderful on a salad; cranberry beans are great as a stew with coarsely chopped root vegetables – think carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips).
  3. Still unsure on where to begin? Take a cooking class! Cooking classes are a great gift to yourself. It is the ultimate gift that keeps giving. Look them up at your local university, community college, local food cooperative, or local restaurants.

 

 Gather your Personal Army

Goddesses recognize that life can be tough. So to combat the stresses of simply existing, we create an army of supporters. In this new year, consider building your support village. Join a Success Circle that will keep you on target with your professional and personal goals (think of a Writer’s Group). Reach out to new (and old) friends on social media. Then follow it up with a much-needed, but often overlooked girls’ weekend or trip. Plan a trip that has you swinging from vines, pushing your adrenaline by day, but relaxing in the evening and creating those precious moments that last a lifetime.

And call your mom weekly! She was the founder of your First Personal Army.

Photo from Your24hCoach

Get Om with your Spiritual Side

This is always the hardest one for me. I was born Orthodox Christian and raised Roman Catholic (grew up in small towns in Virginia). I love the church and its ancient traditions. I love the fact that my 5 senses are tantalized once I enter a cathedral. It’s an overall experience that leaves me at the end of my 1+ hour relaxed, happy and even chatty with my fellow churchgoers. But then I don’t go for weeks. Months. (at one point, even years). I get completely busy with life – a workout class, my children’s sports, traveling over the weekend, work, etc. Life takes over. This does not happen in the Old World. Religion is still revered. It is still considered family time to go to temple, church or mosque. And I’ve got to admit it: the families seem so contended and connected once they spend a couple of hours together on a given Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

So in my new year’s resolution, I will make religion a priority again. And I’m not talking about the in-your-face, hate-spewing, hell-damning religion (because I don’t personally believe in those, nor go to sermons that espouse those). I think most of us seek peace, love and serenity on a daily, weekly basis. Give yourself the gift of peace this year. Give yourself the time to meditate, pray and postulate before a higher being. Make a commitment to chant. Do it in the car or in the shower. Explore Buddhism and Hinduism, if the monotheistic ones which you may have grown up with no longer fits. Find the right religion for you; find one that resonates deep within you. Say yes to peace in 2017.

Become an Asset to your Company

One of the things I learned quickly in business school was how to build a balance sheet: a financial sheet that provided a snapshot of a company’s health. Once I graduated and moved to the corporate world, I began to think of myself and my peers as line items in a spreadsheet. I know, it’s totally unsexy and demoralizing to think of humans in this fashion. But it’s true: we are either a cost to the company, or a source of revenue. We are either an asset or a liability. Since then, I have not forgotten these simple truths.

In the new year, take a good long look at yourself in the business setting. Are you actually adding value in your role? Could you learn a new skillset that would benefit your company and then you? And as always, be certain to promote yourself loudly – so that your higher ups take notice of this new you.

Get pampered

Get your Glam On

Women in the Mediterranean know how to be flirty, fun and sexy. The men drop to their pedicured toes because we Mediterranean women ooze confidence. In the new year, take a dance class (tango? Salsa?), become regimented about skin care, eat healthfully, and choose sequins every now and then for a little sparkle in your life.

Here’s to a brilliant, healthy, goddess-worthy 2017! Do you have any other healthy resolutions for 2017? Drop me a line below!  

Lifestyle

Take Back the Weekend

What happened to lazing around at the beach or a park on Saturdays? Or church and a large family gathering on Sundays? That’s what I want to know.

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My weekends got hijacked the moment I stepped foot on American soil and enrolled my kids into public school. It seemed to happen overnight. One day my generation were kids – riding our bikes, telling ghost stories in the middle of fields, exploring abandoned and most definitely about to collapse wooden houses. We got into colleges and floated by at frat parties and all-nighters at the library. We grew up in simpler, less competitive times. And I know I sound old right now.

But this is the deal: the blissful, ignorant relative calm of the 80s is how people still live outside the crazed energy of the US. In the Mediterranean, no one in their right minds would consider infringing on family time to watch their kid kick a ball down a field. It doesn’t happen. Sports practices are after school once per week. Period. Music classes may occupy an additional weeknight. But that’s it. And as for competitions, recitals and so forth? Once per semester. Simple.

There is no illusion the kid in question will go pro or to the Olympics. There is no discussion of athletic college scholarships, probably because colleges are already rather affordable to the average household income. But I’ll withhold political discussions at this point.

While many Westerners may scoff at the lack of competitiveness in the Mediterranean (and visions of imaginary portly, lazy kids may abound in their heads), let me say one thing: what is lacking in athletic prowess is more than compensated in family-focused lives.

Three generation of a family sharing a meal. Stock photo from Huffington Post

Three generation of a family sharing a meal. Stock photo from Huffington Post

One of the most important pillars I noticed in the Mediterranean is the focus of a strong family bond. I could try to explain it by noting political instabilities in the region, and therefore focusing on the health and wealth of your own, immediate family is of utmost concern. The lack of trust in a government working for the people and by the people could also be a contributing reason why family is more important than all else. But really, I don’t feel the need to explain it. Rather, I would like to talk about the effect that happens in this environment. According to sociologists studying the effects of extended family, considerable research points to benefits of children growing up around grandparents and other important family figures. (http://family.jrank.org/pages/473/Extended-Families-Study-Extended-Family.html) Instead of focusing on artificial (and often times fleeting) sports relationships, shouldn’t we be more focused on cultivating long-lasting, meaningful relationships with family and close friends?

On a typical Sunday in the Mediterranean, we go to church in the mornings. Jews and Muslims would go to their prayers of worship on Saturday and Friday, respectively. But for us, after Sunday service, lunch was almost always had at my in-laws. They live in a modest home with a ginormous garden full of citrus, olive, pomegranate, persimmon and fig trees. Since retirement, they had gotten into the habit of planting seasonal vegetables. So lunches, while simple, were centered around local, organic veggies in season and fresh baked bread from the baker down the road. We usually shared a bottle of wine, plenty of laughter. It wasn’t a large, elaborate meal, but it was our tradition that most on the island held sacred.

But by the time coffee came around, extended family would begin making their rounds. Cousins, uncles, aunts, children, all stopped by for a cup of Turkish coffee, glass of homemade lemonade, or a piece of fruit. The children would play in the garden all day long, weather permitting. They climb trees, pretend to skate down the rickety driveway, throw rocks at the houses across the ravine (they could never hit it). Basically, they weren’t doing anything special. But they were bonding. They were playing, living healthfully not in front of a screen, not being directed by a coach, and always under the watchful eye of a loving adult.

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My fabulous four

They were part of a team. But I guess it wasn’t a formal one; it was a family one.

Lifestyle

Olive Picking Time

In the Mediterranean, late Fall/early Winter is olive picking time. Truthfully, it’s not met with much enthusiasm. It’s one of the many chores, the labors of love, of living in God’s country. All summer long, knotted olive tree branches weigh heavy with green olives slowly ripening in the relentless summer.

old-olive-tree

Did you know that black olives were nothing more than ripened green olives? That was a total news flash for me. 

Most families in Cyprus have their own olive trees. And with these olive trees, they provide their own families’ supply of organic olive oil for the year. If you come from a particularly wealthy family, you own an orchard. The olives are collected by teams of seasonal workers; but even then – the entire family still pitches in and helps pick olives on Saturdays and Sundays.  Olive picking is a family affair.

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As an American, all I knew about olive oil was that it tasted good (especially when I dipped fresh bread into it with salt, pepper and oregano). I could find rows of bottled virgin, extra virgin, cold pressed, and regular olive oil lining my grocer’s shelves.  But I had no idea what all these really meant.

After living in the Mediterranean for 8 years, and going through 7 harvests, below are some of interesting facts about olives that I thought I’d share.

Lessons Learned from Olive Picking over the Years

  1. Wear long sleeves, gloves and boots! Olive branches are super scrappy and they tear through skin like a sharp razor. Okay – that’s an exaggeration. But they really do hurt! I’ve got one scar on my hands from years ago that still hasn’t healed from an olive brush. As for the boots – olive trees do not need much (if any) watering, so the ground below is quite dry, and often brush-like. They are also a breeding ground for rodents, which totally gross me out. Where boots to protect your pedicure.
  2. Process of picking olives hasn’t really evolved much over the years. Spread a big blanket on the ground and then begin to gently hit shake the tree branches. For high up branches, you will need a ladder, a broom stick or both. Be careful when standing below! Dropping olives are like big pebbles landing on your head!
  3. Olives are really bitter off the tree! They are pretty much inedible. Trust me, I’ve tried. To get them to table-serving worthy, you need to ferment and cure the olives. The process of curing/fermenting involves adding it to salt-water brine and changing out this brine for about a week. Then letting the salted olives soak for another few weeks, until they get soft, salty, squishy and yummy.
  4. BUT to get high quality OLIVE OIL, you should press the olives within 24 – 36 hours of picking. Once pressed, keep the olive oil in dark barrels, hidden from direct sunlight for a month to allow the debris to settle. Then the oil is spectacular.
  5. You need about 3 kilos (10 pounds) of olives to yield a liter of olive oil. The skin and pits are the heaviest part of the fruit, and therefore there is a significant amount of waste when pressing. Interestingly, in recent years that debris has been used for all sorts of commercial use: crushed pits are baked into bricks, which are used to build houses. Broken skin is soaked and used into making soaps and cosmetics.

Like anything, when you work for your food, it tastes all the sweeter. But I got to admit: I’m glad it’s only once a year.

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About Claudia, Blog, In The News

Mediterranean Cooking Class @ Friendly City Food Coop

Hey all – just a reminder that the Harrisonburg Friendly City Food Coop is getting Mediterranean-Friendly tonight! I’m teaching a class open to the public from 6 PM – 7:30 PM  about the goodness of eating fresh, local and light. Learn how to make hummus, tzatziki, tabbouleh, and fennel. For more information and to book your tickets, check out their site:

Mediterranean Diet

Grab a friend and a cutting board! See you there!

Live like a goddess. . .

Blog, Cooking, Lifestyle

La Vie en Rosewater

La Vie en Rosewater

rosewater

Rosewater is made from steeping fresh petals and distilling. Photo from www.steptohealth.com


In the Mediterranean we try to use all natural products with a deep history of its beneficial uses, instead of relying on man or factory-made ones. This was, of course, primarily dictated initially due to the region’s lack of buying power and remoteness. But, as the people of these regions slowly gained in wealth and imported products began permeating the local markets, some traditions stay true. Rosewater is one of them.

Rosewater is one of those truly multifaceted products which are used in the kitchen to sweeten foods, as well as in the bathroom and bedroom as a beauty and healing product. Best of all, the luxurious scent of this marvelous little water adds a bit of zest to your cooking without breaking the bank. The cost is under $5.00 for a 12 ounce bottle.

The homeopathic roots of rosewater date as far back as the ancient Egyptians. According to legend, Cleopatra would take milk baths with rose petals floating to keep her skin soft, smooth and gloriously scented. Even in recent times, it is said the streets of Beirut are filled with the scent of rosewater in the late Spring and early Summer, as the rose petals are pressed, steamed and distilled to make this many faceted beauty and food product.

Rosewater for skin

Rosewater is typically spritzed on the faces of women with sensitive skin or rosacea, due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties. For those with acne, applying rosewater as a tonic reduces the amount of bacteria on the skin. So it makes an excellent, all natural toner for skin that has broken out due to excess oils. Even for those of us who don’t necessarily have problematic skin, rosewater is a gentle, fabulous pick-me-up. The scent awakens your senses better than coffee (well, that may be a stretch, but it does work). Rosewater enjoys a natural aromatherapy healing to elevate your senses.  Rosewater is refreshing, inexpensive and luxuriously scented; keeping skin soft and hydrated – which is important for all skin types at any age.

Rosewater for Men

While some men may scoff at smelling like roses, let me point out that rosewater is an excellent aftershave. It stems from the very same reason that rosewater is good on sensitive skin: it helps to calm irritated skin. And don’t worry about smelling like a girl: the rose scent is light and generally dissipates off skin within the first 30 minutes.

Rosewater in the Bath

The calming, luxurious effect that rosewater has on your skin can have the same effect on your other senses. After a long, busy day, a deep bath in hot water with a few drops of rosewater and any essential oil (my personal favorite is Jasmine) relaxes even the most stressed out Type A out there. Best of all, you go to bed smelling like a bed of roses – with the added bonus of softer, brighter skin.

Rosewater in the Bedroom

Try spritzing your sheets with a bit of rosewater to release the Aphrodite within.

Rosewater in the Kitchen

In addition to using rosewater for beauty purposes, try adding a splash of rosewater in the kitchen for a refreshing twist on simple salads.

Rosewater in the Laundry

Give your freshly laundered clothes a little goddess love. Spritz folded clothes with a few sprays of rosewater. Your family (and you!) will love it. It makes your entire wardrobe, closet, drawers smell heavenly. Simple pleasures like this go a long way in making one feel luxurious and pampered, without spending a fortune.

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Moroccan Cucumber Rosewater salad is light, refreshing and perfect for cleansing the palate. It is served in most evening meals.

 

Moroccan Shredded Cucumber Salad

Used as both an aperitif and as a digestive, this cucumber dish helps to cleanse the palate in between meals and bites.

  • 1 English or American Cucumber, peeled (if desired) and shredded
  • ½ teaspoon of Sugar or Stevia to taste
  • Dried Mint
  • 1 tablespoon rosewater

In a large bowl, shred cucumbers, sprinkle in sugar and stir until fully dissolved. Add mint and rosewater. Place in fridge and allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving.

 

Watermelon, Basil & Feta Salad

In Greece, with the extreme heat and no one with a ravenous appetite, watermelon and feta is a simple summertime dinner. Add some fresh bread and a dash of rosewater for an island-flair.

  • Ripe watermelon, cubed
  • Chunk of Feta
  • Fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons rosewater

In a large bowl, combine the above. Enjoy the compliments you will receive on this simple, yet exotic salad.

 

Have I convinced you to give Rosewater a whirl? Do you know of any other fantastic recipes that uses this elixir of the goddesses? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment.

 

Blog, In The News, Lifestyle

Islanders Have Nothing to Do, so they Do One Another

Originally published on 8/25/16 on Women Who Live on Rocks http://womenwholiveonrocks.com/why-islanders-have-more-sex/. A little more tongue and cheek than the usual drink Hibiscus tea (http://www.livelikeagoddess.com/hibiscus-heart-health/) or how to make a rocking Spanokopita (http://www.livelikeagoddess.com/spanokopita-spinach-pie-with-fresh-mint/). I hope you all enjoy it!

 

Why Islanders Have More Sex

WRITTEN BY: CLAUDIA HANNA

 

This may be one of the best well-kept secrets of island living: we are *horny* here. Not like a little bit horny, but straight out, teenage-frenzy-horny. Have you ever noticed that you feel a bit more,ahem, amorous while on a beach vacation? Maybe it’s the sun, sand, and alcohol (a less-than-holy trinity), but the killer combo makes most people impossible to resist a flirty glance, a stolen kiss, or, if you’re lucky, a bit more.

*click for image credit

Now take those stolen, sweaty moments and expand it into days, nights, weeks, months, and possibly years. There are plenty of times for the unholy of sanctions to strike. And that is exactly what is happening on my rock. All. The. Time.

I’ve got a few possible explanations as to why we islanders get in-between the sheets more than the average colder climate dwellers…

The Weather

Yes, this one is really quite obvious. As mercury rises, pheromones release, sending us all into the friskiest of moods. There’s something about ladies in short dresses, bare skin, and sweat beading (because it’s so stinking hot) that has men slinking through the streets like alley cats looking for food.

We Come Alive at Night

To deal with the relentless sun, we sleep by day and play by night. With the nighttime comes locally-produced (read: cheap) beer, wine, and liquor. While northern friends may flock to the rock to escape cold, blistery days, we island-dwellers shrink from the relentless sun and then come alive by night. The nighttime living turns into nighttime loving, once alcohol is introduced into the mix, especially if we have all this excess energy to be consumed due to our lethargic, sunny daylight hours.

*click for image credit

Vacation Brain

It’s the vacation state of mind. The perma-vaca mood that permeates the islanders has many locals and expats alike howling at the full moon. We can’t help it. There’s a relaxed vibe that does not translate in higher latitudes. With both brains and bodies in chill-mode, we return to our natural animal-mode. We are blessedly stripped from typical Western cultural norms, business attire, and polite banter/behavior.

But while I can go on and on about the weather, the nightlife, and the holiday-mindset, do you want to know the real reason why islanders get it on so much?

There’s nothing else to do.

Really. It’s that simple. In America, where I’m from, we were constantly climbing the corporate ladder, or training for a marathon, or helping in a charity, or starting a business, or taking a child to tennis/track/violin/you-name-it. On our rock, we have no large corporations. Non-profits are feeding a stray dog or cat. And absolutely no one would be stupid enough to train for a triathlonhalf of the year (it’s simply too hot). So a better form of exercise is… you get the picture.

And there you have it: plenty of time on your hands, no high pressure aspirations for a killer career or a multi-million dollar venture, scant clothing or modesty, plenty of alcohol-imbibing, and nocturnal living. This is why islanders – at least on my rock – are having more sex.

How about on your rock? Have you noticed an exorbitant amount of busy-ness between the sheets in the absence of business on the streets?

*click for image credit

Blog, In The News, Lifestyle

The “F” Word That Rules Our Life

Originally published on Sivana Spirit on July 25, 2016 http://blog.sivanaspirit.com/f-word-that-rules-our-life/

A year ago today, my father-in-law succumbed to prostate cancer.

It was a grueling 4-year battle that saw him deteriorate until all that was left of him was skin and bones. I still have no idea why his body began to mutate against himself.

Before the cancer, he was the epitome of health. At age 70 he worked vigorously and daily in his large garden. He ate (mostly) locally and organically, and in moderation.

He exercised his mind by hand-drawing architectural plans.

He was surrounded by beauty and love from his adoring wife, children and grandchildren.

But yet, cancer still seized him. I don’t know why.

Perhaps it was genetics; perhaps it was bad luck. But cancer came, and it didn’t let go.

Being at the center of a family going through an emotionally and physically exhausting experience such as cancer, I watched and wondered what would happen if we were in the States.

The process is similar: countless doctor’s appointments, MRIs, bone scans, chemotherapy, radiation, sweat, tears, meals being delivered by nearby family or neighbors, silent prayers for full recovery.

But yet the process felt different.

 


It is Written. “Maktoob.”

Behind every uttered prayer was a slight resignation in a higher being. Let this be Your way.

It wasn’t the TV commercials dotting the airwaves today: a series of faces saying “No” to cancer, demanding it to be obliterated from our vocabulary. This fighting spirit we have in the West, while intoxicating, can be famously distorted.

One of my favorite movies of all times is Slumdog Millionaire. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. Now.

The last words in the movie were “It is written.” Of course, the movie ends on a happy note.

The boy gets the girl and a million rupees. And we viewers think Maktoob is Arabic for “it is written.”

It also means “fate,” which we are trained to believe means happy endings in the West.

It was fate that the young lovers met! It was serendipitous that we found one another after all these years! Yes, fate can be beautiful.

But in the Old World, fate also means reality.

It means you take the good with the bad and that God Almighty (or any form of a Higher Being you believe in) wills it to be for you, in that particular instance.

You can fight, as my father-in-law did with rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, but in the end, cancer won. And it was fate.


Where’s my Hollywood Ending?

I write this entry with mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I find the lack of fighting spirit in the Mediterranean to be disheartening and weak.

On the other hand, there is a sense of peace in not struggling to be in control at all times.

If something is not in your hands, then why fight futilely? Why pretend we have a choice, when sometimes the road is already written?

This is what Fate means. It’s a quiet resignation that sometimes shit happens.

And as much as we all want a happy ending, sometimes it’s not in the cards.

Not at that moment or for that circumstance.

But there will be other happy endings if you choose to move where the story ends.


Life is the Gift

It has been a year since my father-in-law’s passing.

We share his words, his vivaciousness, and zest for clean living.

We do not cower in the shadows of his memory.

His toothy grin and wrinkled face in pictures are front and center in our living rooms.

We visit his graveyard all the time. His grandchildren have planted evergreen trees and Bougainvillea at the cemetery where he has been put to rest.

The trees grow, yet his memory will surely fade over time.

But we still do our best to remember his smile, his kindness, and his love for his family.

Life is a cycle that is all-too-well-understood in the Mediterranean.

There is no squeamishness about death.

There’s no way around it.

With every first breath, there is a last. Every beginning must find its end; life is to be celebrated.

Whether the life was cut short due to an accident or illness, it is irrelevant.

Because life itself is the gift. Not the end of the story.

In The News

TV Interview with Vox Pop on BRT

Hey guys – sorry it’s been ages since I last wrote. I’m back on the island and have done some relaxing (a little too much), catching up with old friends, and learning new recipes. I got a chance to speak with my friends at BRT, the national TV station on the island about the work we are doing with Live Like a Goddess. Below is an excerpt of the TV program. I’ll be certain to send out the full interview here as it airs. . .

 

Woo hoo! Spreading some Mediterranean love. . .

 

http://cyprusscene.com/…/vox-pop-on-brt-television-2407201…/

Cooking

Get your natural electrolytes fix with Ayran

It’s getting hot in here. . .  so drop the Gatorade!

Please excuse the Nelly reference. I’m basking in my own sweat in the Mediterranean as I write. My brain and skin are fried.

We’ve all heard it before. Mercury’s rising. Kids are playing outside. We need to replace all those lost electrolytes with. . . a sugar-infused “sports” drink (whatever that means)? I’m here to tell you guys about a healthier alternative to that sugar-laden drink we in the West consider critical in replacing all those lost electrolytes.

Before we begin, though, let’s breakdown the story of electrolytes. According to WebMD, electrolytes are minerals in your body that regulate blood pressure, body’s water content, and our nerve and muscle function. We lose electrolytes through normal, daily activities. However, when we perspire, we lose electrolytes at a faster speed. Now, here’s the fun part: which minerals in our blood system naturally comprise of these oh-so-important electrolytes? Answer: sodium, potassium, calcium, and bicarbonate.  (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153188.php)

Not sugar. So, can someone please explain to me why we give our kids a whopping 56 grams (or 20% of our RDA) in a 32-ounce bottle of Gatorade? (Sucrose syrup and glucose-fructose syrup are two of the three first ingredients). May I suggest an alternative thirst-quencher, with organic, healthy roots that is easy to make involves only a handful of ingredients?

For my family, summertime in the Mediterranean means long, hot summer days at the beach or pool, cooling off with a tall glass of homemade ariani (Greek) or ayran (Turkish). All this punctuated with watermelon and feta cheese for dinner. (As a side bar: give watermelon/feta a try! The salty/sweet combo is addictive).

What is Ariani/Ayran? 

I learned about ariani while living in Cyprus. When the heat soars, the younger generation of moms reach for juice boxes and ice cream to hand to their kids. However, the older generation pull out the yogurt and the blender. They know how to quench their thirst naturally, organically using an age-oold method.

Ariani is a refreshing summer drink made from diluted Greek yogurt, salt and dried (or fresh) mint. It originated in Turkey and is served all over the country. From 5-star hotels to fast food restaurants and everything in between, ayran is by all means a national drink in Turkey. During the Ottoman Empire, the drink was introduced to other lands, and is now widely consumed in Greece, Lebanon, Iran and beyond.

Slightly salty, rather than sweet, it may take some getting used to. But it’s worth it. A comparison of those above-mentioned electrolytes of Gatorade (the de facto electrolyte drink of the West) versus Ayran is below. I even throw in sugar gram content and overall calories to give a better health picture.

Nutritional/Mineral content Gatorade (8 ounce) Ariani/Ayran (8 ounce)
Calories 50 42
Sugar 14 grams 3.2 grams
Sodium 110 mg 191 mg
Potassium 30 mg 141 mg
Calcium 106 mg
Protein 10 grams

 

Notice any differences? Aside from calories and sugar content, Gatorade grades far below Ayran’s nutritional/mineral content. Please note: this is only for an 8-ounce bottle/glass of both Gatorade and Ayran. Most Gatorade bottles come in 20+ ounce bottles, so please do the math.

It’s no comparison. Ayran is a natural, healthier alternative to Gatorade. It’s also super-simple to make.

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Refreshing ayran – natural, organic and thirst-quenching

Ingredients

  • ½ cup your favorite brand of Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt to taste
  • Dried mint, if desired

Add all of the above in a blender and whirl to oblivion a couple of seconds. Serve over ice.


Kefir versus Ayran/Ariani

Some often confuse the recently “discovered” super-drink Kefir with Ayran. However, they are not the same. Ayran is made from Greek yogurt that has been diluted with water, add a touch of salt (to taste) and blend. It is generally served chilled or over ice. Kefir, on the other hand, is made from kefir “grains” (a yeast/bacteria starter) which resemble tiny cauliflower. Kefir is made from milk rather than yogurt. Personally, I find ariani easier to drink than kefir. In the West, many people add sugar or fruit syrups to the kefir. Otherwise, kefir may be considered a bit too sour, bitter and strong. Ayran, alternatively, has a diluted yogurt taste. If you like yogurt, you will probably likely like the taste of ayran.

Have I convinced you yet? Make ariani/ayran a part of your homemade traditions to live like a Mediterranean god/goddess. Enjoy your summer and stay cool, refreshed and hydrated.

Blog, In The News, Lifestyle

7 Things I Learned Living in the Mediterranean

Originally posted on Mind Body Green on 5-27-16. 

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-25005/7-health-life-lessons-i-learned-from-living-in-the-mediterranean.html

7 Health & Life Lessons I Learned From Living In The Mediterranean Hero Image

Photo: Stocksy

I was one of those people who did everything right growing up. I studied, got good grades, got better jobs, and kept out of trouble. I never wanted to disappoint my immigrant parents, who had sacrificed and scrimped so that my siblings and I could graduate from college debt-free.

When friends and roommates were gallivanting across Europe, running with the bulls in Pamplona, hooking up with Greek gods at outdoor discos, or trekking the Great Wall, I worked and studied. I spent college summers working in a grassroots organization, a political lobbying group, or as an intern at the Virginia General Assembly.

One summer in college, I secured an internship on a remote island in the Mediterranean. That summer in Cyprus changed my life. I returned to the University of Virginia smitten with this ancient island, the gorgeous natives, and their relaxed, healthy lifestyle. It didn’t hurt that I was also smitten with a guy. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had met my future husband.

Years later, this dashing young Cypriot and I married. We lived in Atlanta, where I had earned a respectable MBA in finance and a high-paying but (for me) unsatisfying corporate existence.

I spent hours on the road or chained to my cubicle. Although our bankroll grew and we had two beautiful children, I felt there was something missing. That distant summer in Cyprus was an ever-present reminder of how life should be: healthier, more relaxed, and more balanced between work and play.

With two babies in tow, my husband and I decided to pack up our Atlanta home and move east . . . to Cyprus for what was originally planned to be only for a couple of years (“until Ella goes to school” was our mantra). However, life took over; we got addicted to the Mediterranean sun and remained on the Island of Aphrodite.

Over the years, I learned a thing or two about how to relax, relish life, and live like a Mediterranean goddess.

Photo Credit: Claudia Hanna

 

1. My cupboards are bare but my fridge is full.

In my corporate days, locked 10-plus hours in a cubicle or traveling to multiple cities weekly, I munched on granola bars, sipped on Diet Coke, and snacked on dry Fruity Pebbles late at night.

Processed foods usurp our American grocery aisles. On the island, we eat three proper meals. Snacks are whole fruit or nuts.

Today my meals are centered round seasonal, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Condiments, cookies, and crackers (if they exist in my kitchen) are small boxes and enjoyed sparingly (bye, bye Costco-size!).

2. Everyone eats fat, but no one gets fat.

I used to obsess over eating low-fat pretzels, low-fat muffins, low-fat yogurt, and the like. In the Mediterranean, full-fat yogurt and milk, lamb, fatty fish, nuts, olive oil, and whole grains comprise our diets.

It’s considered far better (and more tasty) to savor a half-cup of full-fat yogurt than to eat a container of flavorless nonfat yogurt, sweetened with syrup and fake fruit.

3. I skipped the gym and started a garden.

I loved my old boot camp classes, but in the absence of an ex-Marine screaming his head off at overweight, overprivileged office workers, I learned to take long walks through the hills or down by the seashore with my family and dog.

Tilling my own land; planting cilantro, cucumbers, and tomatoes, weeding, and watering until the fruit grew ripe: This is one of the simple ways in which Mediterranean people live healthfully. Less stress, more living outdoors.

4. Adopt a giving nature.

I grew up in Virginia, so I mean no disrespect to the notion of Southern hospitality, but there is no comparison to Mediterranean hospitality.

We all love getting stuff—free gifts, swag bags, birthday or Christmas presents. It is always fun to receive. In the Mediterranean, there is an expectation to always give. So if most people are giving, then most people are also receiving. It’s a giant circle of being nice.

We show up at someone’s home with a bottle of wine, some slices of homemade cake, or fruit from the garden. Whatever is on hand, a simple token of thanks goes a long way.

And if you have nothing to give, a smile and a compliment will brighten anyone’s day.

5. I stopped being a jack-of-all-trades and stuck with (and profited from) a single one.

I studied business. I should know my core strengths. Should. Through my 20s, I flitted from one job to another, with the excuse that I was making vertical jumps. In truth, I had a hard time settling down and developing core competencies.

Although I earned a finance degree, my natural inclination was in the arts. I studied drama, theater, and screenwriting. These technical skills were what allowed me to eventually take a chance and work for myself.

In Cyprus, my American accent was in demand. I had my own radio show and worked heavily in TV. Eventually, I launched a children’s theater school, teaching local and expat kids the love of drama.

Bottom line: Find out what makes you happy. Pick a trade and make money from it.

6. Learn the language—or at least some choice phrases.

Americans are really proud people. We believe we have the best nation in the world. But guess what? Many other people feel the same way about their country.

In under two years, I could speak the local language. Expats marveled at how I had picked up the language so quickly. (Turkish is not an intuitive language to learn as a native English speaker.)

But guess what? Locals loved it! Although English is widely spoken all over this fine planet, don’t be the rude traveler. Learn their language, their customs, and their culture. We are guests in their country.

7. The world is smaller than you think.

When we lived in Atlanta, my husband and I had exactly three visitors: an old friend from New York City who came down for a girls’ weekend and my parents the week after my daughter was born.

Strangely enough (note: This is sarcasm), living on a Mediterranean island elicited friends and family from far and wide to visit. They seemed in awe of our ability to pack up and move across the world.

High school, college, and grad school friends; distant cousins; siblings; and more all came in droves to visit. We even had a newlywed couple spend part of their honeymoon with us.

Communication and technology has been a lifeboat for me. Keep up with your old friends! You never know who may need a hand or a pillow to lay their head on for a few nights.