Soooo, It’s Been Awhile

Hello, my people!

So, it’s been about five-six years since I’ve posted to this blog. I’ve logged in a few times over the years in an attempt to say hello, but I just stared at a blank screen and eventually gave up.

While I haven’t cooked as much over the years, I have been baking. I love cookies and baking A LOT and I turned that love into a home-based baking business. It’s been five years (I can’t believe it!) since Yalla Sweets came to fruition. And while I haven’t been as active with YS (are we seeing a pattern here??) as of late, it is always on my heart – just like this blog has been.

I know this year has been a super weird cluster of experiences many of us haven’t faced before. At the beginning of it, I baked and cleaned a ton. I figured it would be a good way for me to reconnect with my cookies and my obsession with food. And, it was for awhile until it wasn’t.

After having a conversation with a friend recently, I was reminded of Zayt and Zaatar and how much I loved this project. When I started this blog, there were only a few cookbooks that focused on Palestinian food/food from the Levant region. I’m so thrilled and proud to say that over the last decade, we have seen a number of gorgeous Palestinian cookbooks published. I love seeing the stories, memories, and recipes from other Palestinian food lovers. I especially love that our food is preserved in writing for others to learn about and appreciate.

I share all of this to say, I’m back! Zayt and Zaatar started as a personal project that allowed me to reconnect with the memory of my mama through learning and cooking her recipes. It was a powerful moment in my life and I hope that the stories resonated with those who took the time to read. I hope the recipes were made and shared with those you love (and turned out okay!).

Moving forward, I’m just going to write. I’ll write about food. I’ll write about cookies. I’ll write about baking. I’ll share recipes when I feel excited to share. I’ll write about memories around food. I’m not going to hold myself to a theme. I just want to write.

I’m going to give myself the grace to ease back into this and if there is a recipe you’d like to see or a food/baking-related topic you’d like me to touch on – feel free to leave a comment and ask!

Soup’s On

Red Lentil Soup

 

We’re just going to gloss over the fact that I haven’t written a damn thing about food or cooking in over a year. I haven’t cooked much in that time but when I do, I remember how much I miss this project and miss cooking and sharing it with you all.

To be honest, I’m kind of floored by how much people enjoy reading my words. Though, I do very much understand the power of connecting with others through family history and food. Each day that passes shows me just how amazing food really can be. I recently sat down to answer a handful of questions to help me reflect on this past year and one of those questions asked me to list five things that make me good and truly happy. Food/cooking made number three on that list.

Cooking is one of the few things in my life where I am able to completely immerse myself in the process and not worry about all the other millions of things I normally worry about. Yes,  I can be a little rigid about following recipes, but I attribute that less to my Type A personality and more to the fact that I am still in the beginning stages of this process. I think I show a lot of promise though and I believe that my genuine passion for food will more than likely guide me through this hobby.

So, what inspired me to finally sit down and write after so many days of not writing? The answer is many-fold:

1. My health. I have a sizable amount of weight to lose and I’d like to learn to cook interesting, healthy meals instead of burning out on chicken, salad, and canned soup.

2. I am on a limited budget but I am convinced there is a non-complicated way to eat nutritious, flavorful meals and I’m determined to figure out how to do that.

3. I just miss this. A lot.

The recipe I tried out today was not my own nor one from my mama’s cookbook. I was on the search for soup recipes that looked yummy but weren’t packed with all that unnecessary sodium. One of the biggest issues with canned soup – whether you buy high-quality organic or not – is that their cup runneth over with sodium. I was looking at the nutritional information on a can of Amy’s soup and the sodium in one can would use up my recommended sodium intake (which is 1500mg for those who have high blood pressure or certain other health concerns) for the day. That is absolutely ridiculous.

So, I searched the internet and found loads of interesting lentil soup recipes to try. Lentils are great because they are chockfull of dietary fiber and protein without the fat, cholesterol, or sodium. And they are cheap and very easy to find unless you are the red lentil. I had to go to SIX different grocery stores before I found them.

Anyway  – the recipe I used was one I found in the NY Times Fitness & Nutrition section of their online site. It’s a simple recipe for a Red Lentil Soup. My dad helped me make it and we went with adding 1 quart of chicken stock and 1 quart of water. I’d like to try it with just water or a veggie stock to make it vegan/veggie friendly. And while the recipe suggested adding cayenne to add some spice toward the end of the cooking time – we went with a few pinches of berbere that my dad brought back from Ethiopia. It added a subtle dimension of heat that was a welcome treat. We topped it off with fresh cilantro and plain yogurt and it made for a very filling meal on a cold night.

And that’s why I love cooking. It offers you the chance to take tried and tested recipes and make them your own. You can explore and learn and begin to understand the beauty of other cultures through the complexity of spices and a meld of ingredients. There is passion and history and stories behind these meals and I love that it’s such an accessible thing for all of us. All of the ingredients for this soup totaled less than $10 and could feed at least six people with a hearty bowl. It was healthy, inexpensive, cooked with love and brought together culinary gems from several different regions. Plus, this gave me a chance to cook with my dad again and feed my body a meal it deserved.

Do you have a favorite lentil soup recipe? Want to share the recipe with me? I’d love to try it out!