~*Cooking with La MaMa!

26 Sep

I grew up in a house where the passion for cooking wasn’t just inherited from my parents but was highly contagious as I started helping my mother at the kitchen and cooking with her at the age of 12 Years!

I would observe and absorb every single cooking technique she’d use that I would apply later on when she leaves the house to surprise her when she comes back…

From my childhood memories, I can recall tons of recipes, endless moments of pleasure while cooking a great dish and sharing it with my family and friends and most importantly is the ability of being able to live these moments again and again whenever my involuntary memory is triggered by the smell of a cake baking with love in the oven or the sound of a warm dish boiling on a cold windy day…

While a picture speaks a thousand words, this short movie summarizes chapters of my life with the person who taught me the true values; of life and cooking…


1 Jun

China… Home to 1 in 5 of the planet’s population… The superpower the world fears, but few really know, was my destination a few months ago… Excited and thrilled, like a child I flew into Shanghai to explore a culture I have always been fascinated about and as the fastest way to the heart of a country is through its food, my taste buds and curiosity helped me squeeze the most out of this trip …

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Shanghai is the largest Chinese city by population and the largest city proper by population in the world.The two Chinese characters in the city’s name are ‘上’ (Shàng – “above”) and ‘海’ (hǎi – “sea”), together meaning “Upon-the-Sea”.

Shanghai is a well known city in history and culture, and the financial trade and shopping center.

The architecture in Shanghai is another landscape; The bund, Shikumen houses and various Shanghai-style buildings, modern facilities represent all kinds of architectural styles which are the products of the combination of Shanghai local culture and foreign culture.


As you may be walking in a fascinating district with captivating sceneries and luxurious aspects it could take you a few minutes to cross the street and find yourself in a poor area where you can actually see nothing but clothes hung over the streets to dry on ropes and bamboo pipes in narrow alleys… A scene reminiscent of Shanghai’s poor life with harsh conditions to survive in small spaces or perhaps a simple spirit of hosting a green event, featuring clean technologies… Just imagine the amount of energy conserved to dry clothes for a nation of 1.3 billion people !!


The must see

Huangpu river, The Bund, Nanjing road (the first street of China – Pedestrian/shopping), Xintiandi, Yu Garden area (street food to be tried there), Tian Zi Fang, Shanghai Museum, Jade Buddha Temple, Longhua Temple, Xujiahui (foodie’s paradise), World financial center, Oriental Pearl TV tower (the third tallest TV tower in the world (with 458 meters in height) and is the first tallest tower in China.You can have a nice panoramic view of the whole city when you are in the 236-metre-high- observation ball.The Oriental Pearl Revolving restaurant is the highest revolving restaurant in Asia (267-meters-high ball))., Dong Tai Lu (Flea market where all you have to do is Bargain and bargain!)


Shanghai cuisine

Shanghai cuisine also known as Hu Cai, includes two styles of cuisine: Benbang Cuisine and Haipai Cuisine.It is not considered amongst the 8 major cuisines of China which are: Shandong cuisine, Guangdong Cuisine, Sichuan Cuisine, Hunan Cuisine, Jiangsu Cuisine, Zhejiang Cuisine, Fujian Cuisine and Anhui Cuisine.

Benbang Cuisine: means local cuisine and is in reality the traditional “family style” cuisine that appeared in Shanghai over 100 years ago. It relies on the use of fresh fish, chicken, pork and various vegetables as the main ingredients, in addition to oil and soybean sauce.

Haipai Cuisine: is derived from the cosmopolitan culture formed in Shanghai in the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It is an inspiration of foods from other regions of China that have been adopted to fit local tastes. Fresh fish, shrimps and crabs are the main ingredients of Haipai Cuisine.

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Cooking techniques have many variations; They include steaming, braising, stewing, stir-frying, quick-frying, deep-frying, boiling, marinating, smoking and roasting. In a nutshell, they could be considered healthy when steamed, boiled, marinated, etc. and unhealthy when deep-fried! The freshness of the ingredients is really fascinating especially when it comes to seafood that’s my favorite! I realized how much the cuisine in Shanghai relies on various seasonal fresh ingredients whether it is vegetables or fruits. I could simply see that everywhere not only inside restaurants but mainly on the streets where Shanghai is widely known for its street foods incredible diversity.And, when enjoyed they become one of the daily joys of living in Shanghai!


The Little Emperor Syndrome

The Little Emperor Syndrome is an aspect of China’s one child policy (introduced in 1979 to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems in China), where only children gain seemingly excessive amounts of attention from their parents and grandparents. Frequently, as parents would be at work, children would spend most of their times with their grandparents that wouldn’t refuse anything they ask for specially that they had witnessed the great depression in China where food was scarce which pushes them to always express a great desire for their child to experience the benefits they themselves were denied.

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This phenomenon is generally considered to be problematic since Chinese children are blindly bewitched by Western Fast Food chains that are known to offer foods that are highly caloric, rich in fat (saturated and trans fats) with high amounts of sodium,  cholesterol, sugar and carbohydrates… Highly processed foods with little nutritional density when compared to Chinese rural diet that’s based on natural ingredients with a high consumption of vegetarian proteins and some dietary fat…

Unfortunately and sadly, China’s youth are at risk of developing chronic disease… “A 2012 study in Obesity Reviews Journal compared the risk of chronic disease in China to other countries including the U.S.The researchers found that approximately 12 percent of Chinese children and adolescents aged seven to 18 were overweight and about 1.7 million children under 18 suffered from diabetes. Additionally, the rate of diabetes among Chinese adolescents aged 12 to 18 was about four times that of American teenagers.”
The Chinese department of health decided to take an action and put into practice a campaign “Eatsmart@school campaign” (http://school.eatsmart.gov.hk/en/template/home.asp) where education about nutrition and health would help increase China’s youth awareness and guide them into healthier food choices that started being offered at schools in order to be able to learn effectively and grow healthily!

On another note, it’s impressive to see women engaging in physical activities on the streets such as dancing while exercising rather than being seated drinking tea and socializing … It’s a sign of  their increased awareness to opt for healthier habits and modify their lifestyles…


My food discoveries

Doujiang or soybean milk in Shanghai is consumed salty mixed with dried small shrimps, minced pickled mustard tuber, minced chive, laver, Youtiao pieces, chili oil and other ingredients.The beans are completely soaked in clean water and then crushed into slurry for filtration.After boiling the essence from filtration with adequate water, the soybean milk is done!I had the courage to taste it but disliked it! Prefer to stick to my vanilla flavored soy milk with my bowl of bran flakes!



Smashed bean steamed bun is also another Chinese traditional food item consumed throughout the day for Breakfast, lunch or Dinner! It has a sweet taste, beans are mixed with sugar and a bit of oil in order to get the texture of a paste. It is extremely satiating as beans are a great source of fiber and proteins!

IMG_1837_2Also another bean paste filled dough is the delicious red bean roll! Moderation is the key as the dough is caloric!


Chinese dim sum is one of the common food choices for breakfast and lunch The term “dim sum” first appeared in Tang Dynasty, and it generally refers to all common Chinese-style snacks.There is a wide range of Chinese dim sum such as steamed buns, steamed salty dim sum, steamed rice-roll, pan-fried and deep-fried dim sum, rice and noodles, boiled vegetable and desserts. The ingredients used for making Chinese dim sum included different types of cereal products, meat and poultry, seafood, vegetable and condiments. Chinese dim sum is mainly prepared by steaming, and some of them are prepared by pan-frying and deep-frying. The use of lard and monosodium glutamate (MSG) is believed to be quite common in the preparation of Chinese dim sum.

Hence, although the fact you may read that dim sum are steamed they may contain fatty substances and be highly caloric (a dim sum could contain between 90 to 200 calories)! Always choose dim sum that contain low fat fillings and start with a fiber rich source of food such vegetables/salad and avoid consuming the soup of rice-in-soup and noodles-in-soup.

I also tried this steamed vegetable bun for Breakfast and was surprised by its exquisite taste!

IMG_1812Another traditional “Shanghaien” food for breakfast is the Zongzi or traditional Chinese rice pudding! It is wrapped in bamboo or red leaves.The sticky rice appears to by pyramid-shaped, reason for which it is called zongzi (meaning pyramid).Rice is mixed with meat and is steamed.The scent of the bamboo leaf can be brought out by white sugar and the meat stuffed zongzi balances the oily meat with light rice!

IMG_1833You may also find tea eggs; another  typical Chinese savory food commonly sold as a snack, in which a pre-boiled egg is cracked and then boiled again in tea, soy sauce and/or spices.

IMG_1707IMG_1713I also fell on the millet congee and tried it with sunflower seeds, watermelon seeds, dried tangerine, raisins and banana crisps! Millet is one of the gluten free grains that i often praise about its high nutritional value! It is rich in proteins, fiber and is satiating.

IMG_1701Snacking on fruits is crucial even when on vacation!Opted for watermelon, pineapple and pitaya or dragon fruit! The dragon fruit is cultivated in tropical regions around the world. The flowers of the dragon fruit plant only bloom at night and usually only live for one night. Pollination happens at this time to allow the fruit to emerge. The flowers of the dragon fruit give out a very beautiful scent, and the smell can fill the night air wherever the plant grows. It is rich in Vitamin C, fiber and flavanoids!

IMG_2094The Hot Pot experience!

With nearly 2,000 years’ history, hot pot is a great creation by Chinese and has spread to many other countries. It is extremely favored by Chinese people. Especially in winter. There are many kinds of hot pot in different regions of China; however the dining customs are similar. Usually there is a copper pot in the center of the table containing a simmering soup base. Various food materials are placed into the pot, including sliced mutton, beef, chicken, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, glass noodles, frozen bean curd, and seafood. The foods are cooked only a few seconds after placing into the boiling soup. Then they can be eaten with a dipping sauce.

IMG_2070IMG_2057IMG_2072Being a Pescetarian and in Shanghai, couldn’t stop me from ordering seafood dishes and tasting all types of shellfish!



Shrimps shanghaiSeafood is of an extreme freshness and tastes so good! Sashimi and maki rolls are outstanding!

IMG_2020_2Also in season were the hairy crabs! Delicious tender meat that’s low in fat, rich in proteins and omega-3!

Hairy crab


IMG_1634_2IMG_1742Sashimi salad …

IMG_1747And IMG_1750_2 black cod that has the highest amount of proteins amongst all animal protein sources and is definitely much lower in fat than red meat!


Also, I didn’t miss eating grilled calamari that’s rich in proteins and low in fat!

IMG_1756One of the unforgettable dining experiences I had in Shanghai was at Mercato Restaurant by Jean Georges!

The food was literary out of this world! And i can say that I had the best salmon tartare ever! In addition to extraordinary scallops, black cod with mussels and squid!

IMG_1907_2Jean Georges is a famous chef and restaurateur, responsible for the operation and success of a constellation of three and four star restaurants worldwide.

IMG_1908 “His signature cuisine abandons the traditional use of meat stocks and creams and instead features the intense flavors and textures from vegetable juices, fruit essences, light broths, and herbal vinaigrettes.”

IMG_1924Finally, You can’t be in China and refuse to try green tea based desserts! Although they might not taste as good as they look, trying them is a must! I actually enjoyed eating a green tea cheesecake!

IMG_1651And disliked the green tea sorbet!

IMG_2109Last but not least, trying in moderation Shanghai’s walnut mooncake, sesame seeds cake, radish cake and red beans sesame cake is inevitable!

IMG_1702And if you happen to be in China and decide to go to the bank, don’t be surprised if you see a stand of vegetable oil for sale with a special offer on each container! Some things happen “Only in China”!

IMG_1839“Travel is the only thing You buy that Makes you richer”!

P1080850Looking back I realise that, in just seven days, Shanghai filled my senses with flavors, colors, sounds, scents and smiles… With a language barrier and unusual rituals and habits you cannot spend a day in Shanghai without saying: “It’s all Chinese to me”!

IMG_1855If You ever think about traveling to Shanghai remember to …

P1080900Dietitian Nicole Maftoum

~*Malnutrition, an emerging threat amongst Syrian refugees in Lebanon

26 Mar

March is the National Nutrition month and I decided to dedicate it this Year to an issue of  paramount importance that  is not related to the consequences of being overweight, obese or something in between… Nor to the foods we must avoid to shed a few pounds or the foods we must focus on to live happier…

It is related to a condition that touches the lives of millions of people around the world and in Lebanon, specifically amongst Syrian refugees…And, it is called Malnutrition!

The assessment conducted by the United Nations children’s fund UNICEF and other agencies found that:

~10,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon <5  years old are suffering from acute malnutrition

~1,800 Syrian refugees in Lebanon <5  years old are at risk of dying and require immediate treatment to survive

~2000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon <5 years old are found in makeshift shelters in the Bekaa valley with unbearable living conditions: food is not enough and water is not safe while streams of putrid waste surround their camps… As a result of a lack of immunization, improper feeding practices you can’t get pretty good at judging the age of children based on their size as a 2 years old looks like a 4 years old; that’s what stunting is and that’s where action needs to take place immediately!

Today, the UNICEF treated 400 cases so far and the remaining 5.5 Million Syrian children are still in need of Humanitarian assistance!

syria_children_boy_1000-1000_dd4459b147cfaea44636a2f34edd98c8.nbcnews-ux-640-700By definition, malnutrition is not getting enough food or the right sort of food.The most widespread form of malnutrition in the world is Protein Energy Malnutrition.

Other forms of malnutrition are less visible but not less deadly:

-Iron deficiency

-Vitamin A deficiency

-Iodine deficiency

-Zinc deficiency

PEM (Protein Energy Malnutrition) takes two forms: Marasmus and Kwashiorkor and is prevalent amongst Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Marasmus: occurs to children aged between 6 and 18 months who are fed low quality proteins and who look skeletally thin.

An Inadequate nutrition implies:

-the weakening of the muscles and heart muscles

-An impaired learning with the stunting of the brain development

-A slowed down metabolism with subnormal body temperature: skin loses its elasticity and moisture and tends to crack.When sores develop they fail to heal

-Digestive enzymes become in short supply leading to the deterioration of the digestive tract lining and the failure to absorb nutrients

-Blood proteins (hemoglobin) stop being produced and the child becomes anemic

-Antibodies are degraded leading to an increase in infections.Infections and malnutrition are responsible for 2/3 of the deaths of young children in the world.

-Dysentery which is the infection of the digestive tract causes diarrhea that depletes the body’s potassium and upset the electrolyte balances that in addition to anemia, fever and infections lead to heart failure and death.

Marasmus progresses to the point of no return! And, years after PEM is corrected, a child may experience deficit in thinking and school achievement.As an adult, he will have a low income and women would give birth to low birth weight babies with abnormalities.

Kwashiorkor symptoms resemble Marasmus but without severe wasting of body fat.As the proteins and hormones that maintain the fluid balance diminish, the fluid leaks out of the blood and accumulates in the belly and legs causing edema and a fatty liver.

Instead of making this world a better place to live in, this emerging threat amongst Syrian refugees in Lebanon will affect the nation’s progress negatively in an era where science and technology are in a continuous effort to develop more advanced nations… Uncontrollable factors play against the ideal scheme we always dream about and the only way to prevent more disastrous outcomes of the Syrian conflict that’s been going for the past three years, is to lend a hand…

photoIt is commonly believed that a picture speaks a thousand words but actions speak louder than words…

For Your donations check Refugeaid’s website: http://www.refugeaid.com/Donate

This Lenten season, saw the Syrian Refugee crisis enter it’s fourth year.Besides praying, omitting foods from our diet plans and avoiding drinking, helping the people of Syria can be part of the sacrifices done during this period…

After all, while giving, I put myself in a position of wealth. The gift is proof that I have more than enough. At the same time it gives me a sense of my worth as a person. That act of giving created a sense of spaciousness in the mind… the world we live in is created by our actions, and the act of giving creates a spacious world…A world where generosity is an operating principle…A world where people have more than enough, enough to share… And it creates a good feeling in the mind.

Today, when someone asks me what is the meaning of life, I refer to the Dalai Lama and state that it is, to be happy and useful. What matters the most, is to be able to see and try to make a difference in this world, even if you can’t feed a hundred people, you could just start by feeding one!

Dietitian Nicole Maftoum


~*La Petite Maison

9 Mar

Seven years ago, I had the great chance to discover a restaurant in the South of France where Food had a different meaning than being a nutritious substance to maintain life but a mesmerizing experience that left me with a constant strong desire to go back there every time I would crave for an authentic and flavorful French cuisine…

As time passed by, I was lucky enough to fall on this same restaurant in Dubai and finally in Beirut to experience other glorious food experiences…

La Petite Maison is about a delightfully charming atmosphere with exceptional cocktails, wine selection and delectable appetizers and main courses to be shared all along with divine deserts. The most fascinating thing at this restaurant is the prime quality of the ingredients used in each and every dish and their alluring freshness; two characteristics of paramount importance in my dictionary of authentic and natural foods! In addition to that, La Petite Maison’s cuisine relies greatly on fresh, seasonal produce; herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables and non processed foods…


You will always find on your table three tomatoes and a lemon; these are not decorative items. They are supposed to be sliced, seasoned with salt, pepper, a hint of olive oil and lemon juice and shared before the food is ordered!

photo-10Also, another delicious and fresh vodka tomato based cocktail that will literary leave you with a positively astonished facial expression after the first sip must be tried! It is called Tomatinii and is my favorite vodka cocktail so far as it is made with freshly crushed cherry tomatoes that are rich in lycopene which is an antioxidant and are a great source of many vitamins and minerals including vitamin A and C. The safe recommended daily alcoholic intakes are 1 glass for women and 2 glasses for men.


Being a Dietitian and a foodie might sound controversial to many but have always entailed me to enjoy life in all its forms.The first rule to eating right when eating out is to apply the concept of sharing food as I always recommend it: ‘Always share food, never eat alone’.Secondly,always begin your meal with salads and vegetables as they provide enough fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fills up the stomach, leaving a little space for the main course. The ideal portioning of the plate should always be: 50% salad, 25% Carbohydrates and 25% Proteins.

I started my lunch with a very unique Caesar salad prepared by Raphael Duntoye, the Chef Patron of La Petite Maison that happened to be in Lebanon this week.Then I shared the famous green beans salad with foie gras and a couple of seafood appetizers.



Scrumptious Tuna Carpaccio


Mouthwatering scallops carpaccio with almonds, cranberries, capers and ciboulette


Highly pleasant to the taste simple warm prawns with olive oil and fresh basil


Monkfish with a citrus seasoning and vegetables


Seafood is typically low in saturated fat and fat which will help you reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases when consumed regularly (at least three times per week).And may also reduce the risk of developing some types of cancer.It is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which have been connected to possible treatments of a range of conditions: heart disease, dementia, depression, Attention Deficit Disorder, Diabetes,etc. Not to forget that increasing your daily omega-3 intake will simply make you smarter!

“Use Do Not Abuse, Neither Abstinence Nor Excess Ever Renders Man Happy.”


I couldn’t but enjoy three tablespoons of my favorite pasta dish: porcini rigatoni.Perfectly seasoned and just heavenly!


And finally, I had left some room for deserts and based my choice on fruit based ones and happily shared a raspberry panna cotta and a passion fruit posset with mango and earl grey crystals! Whatever I say about those deserts won’t be enough to describe how good they tasted!


“Un sourire coûte moins cher que l’électricité mais donne autant de lumière.”


As I always leave this restaurant happy and contented, this time was different as I left with a large smile on my face especially after a long discussion with the Chef Patron Raphael Duntoye about food and his vibrant passion for cooking. It was simply impressive to sit and talk to a Chef that’s extremely passionate about food and that’s literary full of positive vibes, always smiling … Not to forget to mention the whole happy team behind the success of this restaurant that’s very friendly and welcoming.It simply helps you understand the reflection of this positive ora in the dishes you consume and the way they always make you feel…

photo-8Dietitian Nicole Maftoum

~*Happy Valentine’s day!

15 Feb

As George Bernard Shaw mentioned it one day: “There is no love sincerer than the love of food”…


Enjoy this special occasion and watch this episode if you wish to look better naked and you’re willing to prepare a special aphrodisiac dinner menu!

Dietitian Nicole Maftoum

~*Snacking on a great source of Vitamin C & Fibers!

15 Jan

Did You know that Red and Yellow bell peppers contain around two times more vitamin C than Oranges and Citrus fruits ? Well, in case you didn’t know now you do do know!

One orange= 116% of daily Vitamin C value

1/2 cup of chopped red pepper= 158% of daily Vitamin C value

At times where you look for ingredients that have a high vitamin C content, consider adding red and yellow peppers to your salads and including them in your afternoon snacks!

IMG_2505In order to encourage the consumption of vegetables you could prepare this platter made of sliced yellow peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrots and celery sticks with a tablespoon of white beans mashed with a quarter teaspoon of pesto sauce and place it on the upper shelf of your fridge! Hence, whenever you or any other member of the family opens the fridge, the reminder of consuming those fresh and colorful vegetables would be there!

IMG_4934Dietitian Nicole Maftoum



~*A breakfast to strengthen your immune system!

15 Jan

Simple yet delicious: Combine 1 bowl of fat free yogurt with a tablespoon of honey to 30g of Bran Flakes (Kellogg’s), 1 kiwi, 1 small clementine and 3 tablespoons of pomegranate.

-2Several studies have found that milk and yogurt assist weight loss and maintain bone mass. In addition to that, dieters who took 3 to 4 servings of milk or yogurt while dieting have burnt more fat compared to their counterparts who didn’t.Drinking a  glass of yogurt in the morning helps increase satiety and thus decreases the caloric intake by 9% at the next meal.

Honey is perhaps the only food item that comes to our mind whenever we catch the flu reminding us about the way our parents and grand-parents  forced us to swollow a teaspoon in order to recover faster from any type of flu! Studies have revealed the magical effects of honey that reduces cough by coating and soothing an irritated throat and decreases the mucus.

Pomegranates are a great source of antioxidants.In fact, many researches have shown that their antioxidant content is two or three times higher than that of red wine.Kiwi is  a great source of fiber and vitamin C and clementine is also a great source of vitamin C. All of these fruits will work on strengthening the immune system!

Dietitian Nicole Maftoum


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