author sugarandgarlic Noha I love food. I love my kids. I love my camera. In my family, we believe food to be a universal language of love. Everyone can appreciate a good meal together, friends and family come together to cook, to eat, and to celebrate, and everyone needs food. Food brings together people of various cultures and different worlds into such a beautiful and unified artful community. Based in Chicago, I have so many wonderful opportunities to engage with food in such a culturally diverse city. A teacher by training, foodie by nature, and photographer since childhood, I love cooking with my children and recording the stories of our food. It’s not unusual to find me snapping photos as I cook,  before I dine at a fine restaurant, or before my husband sips his artful cup of cappuccino. To me, food is art and the final product is a masterpiece that reflects a passion, a skill, or story.  Ever since I got my Nikon DSLR in 2007, I have not put it down. Any opportunity I found time in my busy teaching career to bake or cook, I also found myself shooting everything to document it. So when I took a break from teaching and became a full time mom, it only made sense for me to fully embrace my love of cooking, eating, being with my children and capturing it all on camera. I cook for my family and with my children, and they are always an important part of my culinary adventures in my own kitchen and our travels. These are our stories.

 

 

 

child cooking

 

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Buying, growing, and eating organic and clean foods.

My food philosophy is a simple one based on enjoying and appreciating natural and clean foods, coming from natural and pure sources. What that simply means to me and my family is being careful to consume, produce, and cook with foods that are free of chemicals, toxins, pesticides, and processing that can expose it to contaminants. When I was pregnant with my first child, I embraced the organic movement. I suddenly realized foods treated with pesticides and toxins were a horrible idea for me because a fetus and vital organs were developing inside of me [1]. There is also evidence of increased occurrence of allergies and disease with exposure to GMO foods (which are prevalent in almost EVERYTHING in the store if it is not organic!), and that all of these risks are significantly reduced by feeding our children organic foods [2]. Read more about all that here and here. The bottom line is organic foods are better for our bodies and our children, and organic farming is better for the environment and reduces pollution. Why would we want to give our growing children and ourselves foods full of chemicals, pesticides, hormones, and genetically mutated toxins that we do not yet know what harm they can cause? The switch was very obvious for me.

I also make every effort to avoid any processed and canned foods, and make almost everything from scratch. I impart these easy to incorporate practices and methods here on the blog and in my recipes. For example, we buy seasonal produce and freeze it (to use later in smoothies, sauces, soups, baking, etc), buy beans in bulk and cook them quickly and easily in a pressure cooker, make my own oatmeal, cereals, breakfast and energy bars, breads, or muffins (cereals and breakfast foods are one of the most processed and GMO concentrated foods you can get!), and of course, I make my own baby food. 

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Not another low-fat, sugar free recipe collection

My food has to taste great. I never liked artificial sweeteners, and I try to use natural non-refined low-glycemic sugars such as honey, agave, and dates whenever possible.  I try to make my foods healthier by using whole and non-processed foods, organic ingredients, and clean, sustainably sourced ingredients. I use healthier oils such as olive oil and coconut oil in a lot of my baking. But when it comes to flavor, I do not compromise on taste and texture. My goal is not to be fat free and sugar free, but to provide deliciously high quality natural food. You will not necessarily lose weight by following my recipes, but you will be eating well. As always, everything should be in moderation. Most of my savory and garlic based recipes are naturally healthy, taste wonderful, and are great for you. The sweets, well not so much. They will be clean recipes, but dessert is dessert 😉 . 

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I am actually cooking IN that “melting pot”.

My food is mostly a Mediterranean-Middle Eastern fusion with foods from a variety of countries, and almost every single savory dish will have garlic in it. My baking (the “sugar” part of this blog) is a combination of traditional family recipes from my mother, grandmother, and aunts as well as recipes I have developed from my personal and memorable experiences with chocolate and pastries. I taught myself how to make the best cupcakes and frosting from scratch, and refined the technique of macarons through endless trials and errors.  I hope to soon gain some formal training at a pastry school. I grew up in an Egyptian-American household within a diverse Middle-Eastern community (Lebanese, Egyptian, Palestinian, Iraqi, Syrian) so I have been exposed to a heck of a lot of good flavors and techniques! We also love exploring the Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Portuguese, Turkish, Persian, French, and Spanish restaurants here in Chicago, so I am lucky to be exposed to such a diverse palate. Every time I enjoy a meal, I always think to myself, I can make this. So I continue to love the exposure to a variety of dishes and flavors that constantly inspire my palate and kitchen!

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[1] See more at: http://www.stonyfield.com/blog/why-i-choose-organic/#sthash.Kcv3RN5I.dpuf President’s Cancer Panel. Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What we can do now. Annual Report 2008-2009. Full report available at: http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/annualReports/pcp08-09rpt/PCP_Report_08-09_508.pdf. – 

[2] See more at: http://www.stonyfield.com/blog/why-i-choose-organic/#sthash.Kcv3RN5I.dpuf Lu C, Toepel RI, Fenske R, Barr D, Bravo R. Organic diets significantly lower childrens’ dietary exposure to Organophosphorous Pesticides.Environmental Health Perspectives. 2006 Feb;114(2):260-3. –