Cookbooks: If your friends are interested in Middle Eastern and Lebanese cuisine, here are a few cookbook suggestions for you.
The Jewelled Kitchen by Bethany Kehdy (Pomegranates and Pine Nuts in the United States): I got Bethany’s book last year and was fortunate to be in Lebanon at the time of the book signing. I’ve tried several of her recipes and they simply just work. Even if you don’t follow them to a tee, the stories, the pictures and the inspiration behind them is priceless. I still have many of her recipes bookmarked for future entertaining eves. A must have for Middle Eastern and Northern African fusion cuisine lovers.
Taste of Beirut by Joumana Accad: I still haven’t got this book yet (hint hint!), but Joumana’s blog of the same name is quite the inspiration for Lebanese, Middle Eastern and Arabic cooking. Her recipes are authentic and straightforward. I’ve been inspired by a few from her blog with excellent results.
Mouneh by Barbara Abdeni Massaad: I received
this book as a gift for my birthday and I loved it. It is not a daily recipe book, but rather stories and recipes for stocking your Lebanese pantry. Mouneh translates to pantry and Barbara travels throughout Lebanon to bring us the authentic, traditional ways of preparing our own at home. From pickles and preserves, to jams and local cheeses, honey and oil, all is discussed according to season with easy recipes* to be made at home. So, if your friends are interested in learning more about Lebanese mouneh-making, with beautiful pictures from our countryside and the farmers behind keeping these traditions alive, this is the book for them.
Food politics and awareness books: If your friends are embarking on a healthy journey and are interested in food politics and learning about the manipulative ways of the food industry, here are a few interesting reads. Parents will love those.
Salt, Sugar, Fat: how the food giants hooked us: I talked about this book when it was first released last year. Michael Moss exposes the food industry and all their deceitful marketing and processing techniques to lure us and kids into consuming more of the addictive salt, sugar and fat.
Michael Pollan: I did not specify any book here, because you can’t go wrong with either. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and The Food Rules all make beautiful, enticing reads if your friends haven’t read them already. You’ll know they have if they can’t stop quoting Pollan, namely his most famous saying: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health by Marion Nestle : Nestle is a personal nutrition idol. Her book Food Politics is an important read to anyone wanting to go behind the scenes of the food industry’s politics and marketing and how it is affecting our health.
Toxin free cookware: When I started to get interested about nutrition, like millions, my utmost concern was cutting the fat off my diet. So logically, I turned into non-stick pans and skillets to avoid cooking with extra oil or butter. Little did I know about the dangers of that non-stick coating. Since, I’ve started substituting my pots and pans one by one. Safe options for you to choose from include cast iron, enameled cast iron, stainless steel, and ceramic. If you still want to buy non-stick, make sure you choose ones that are free of PFOA (PerFluoroOctanicAcid) which is a carcinogen and PTFE (PolyTetraFluoroEthylene) which can cause flu-like symptoms in humans.
Glass bakeware/or storage items: Again with the dangers of plastics, phtalates and Bisphenol A, I’ve started substituting my plastic bowls and storage items with glass ones. Choose ones that can go into the oven such as Pyrex and they will serve double duty by going from oven to table to fridge.
A holiday basket from your favorite health food store : Grab some goodies from your organic food store and arrange them in a Christmassy box or basket. Things to include: natural nut butters, cocoa nibs, cocoa beans, extra virgin olive oil, organic wine, coconut oil, artisanal jams, carob powder, bee pollen, acacia or Manuka honey, spirulina or some other “superfood” you would like them to try. You can also add some eco-friendly home cleaning essentials. The list is endless depending on your budget and your recipient’s preferences. If you have a favorite recipe, print it, get its ingredients, and gift those instead.
A bento box: Bento boxes are perfect for packing lunches and controlling portion sizes. Your friends will love it. I know my husband did when I got him one a while ago.
A macaron kit:
Macarons are so trendy at the moment. You can see in every patisserie different flavors and various unique combinations. Most macarons though are artificially colored and flavored. A macaron kit will enable your friends to make theirs at home and try to substitute the colors and dyes with more natural ones.
* Just a note, not all recipes can be made at home. For some like arak or darfieh cheese, you need special equipment. However, if you’ve ever wondered how these things are made, Barbara discusses the step-by-step method behind them.