Nutrition and Fitness with Randa

Turkish Pide Pizza and Cold Yogurt Cucumber Soup

Ramazan is a good friend of mine who I met in Turkey years ago and is now spending time in our hometown with his wonderful wife. He the pastor of a church in Antalya, Turkey and has a heart of gold - and a love for good food! I will never forget my first experience eating delicious pide pizza at an outdoor restaurant one warm summer evening in southern Turkey - it was brought out steaming on a wooden board and set in the middle of the table, and if my memory serves me correctly, I polished it off and ordered another one!

Ramazan offered to teach me how to make this popular pizza and its refreshing counterpart, cacik, a cold yogurt and cucumber soup. I was especially intrigued when I learned he had worked at a pide shop when he was younger! I learned from a pro!

I think the pizza would be wonderful cut up and served as appetizers at a party, taken on a picnic, nibbled on for a snack - hot or cold, or eaten for dinner with the soup, as we did. (The kids loved that their pizza looked like a boat!) It is fun to make and even more enjoyable to eat.

"The Turkish Cuisine has the extra privilege of being at the cross-roads of the Far-East and the Mediterranean, which mirrors a long and complex history of Turkish migration from the steppes of Central Asia (where they mingled with the Chinese) to Europe (where they exerted influence all the way to Vienna). All these unique characteristics and history have bestowed upon the Turkish Cuisine a rich and varied number of dishes.....The Cuisine is also an integral aspect of culture. It is a part of the rituals of everyday life events. Anyone who visits Turkey or has had a meal in a Turkish home, regardless of the success of the particular cook, is sure to notice how unique the Cuisine is."  -

INGREDIENTS for Pide Pizza with Meat

  • Dough (enough for 6 pizzas)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large green peppers, chopped
  • Cumin, red pepper, salt and pepper (add to your liking)
  • 1.5 lbs lean ground beef
  • 6 medium tomatoes, chopped and seeded

INGREDIENTS for Cacik (Cold Cucumber Yogurt Soup)

  • 3 cups plain Greek yogurt or regular yogurt
  • Chilled water to thin
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tbsp dill, dried
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and grated
  • Dried mint and olive oil

Pide Pizza, just like the Turks eat it!

Cacik, cold yogurt soup with cucumber and mint

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Breakfast Doesn’t Have to be Pancakes

Arabic Breakfast

Growing up and traveling in the Middle East, I have learned that breakfast does not have to consist of pancakes, eggs and cereal. Some of my favorite Arabic breakfast choices are fresh cucumbers and  tomatoes, paired with olives and haloumi cheese or labneh, and warm arabic bread.

I love this tantalizing description of classic favorites for breakfast in the Arab world:

"Fragrant stacks of freshly baked flat bread assail the nostrils when the napkin is lifted. Surrounding the loaves are small bowls of salty, white goat cheese, glistening black and green olives, and labnah, a thick cream cheese made by draining yogurt through cheesecloth, and then drizzled with olive oil.

A breakfast in Lebanon is likely to consist of arous labnah, rolled sandwiches of flat Arab bread filled with labnah, along with whatever the eater chooses of olives, tomato and mint. Or pieces can be torn off the bread and dipped in za'tar, a mixture of thyme, salt, sumac and sesame seeds. If there is a bakery nearby, manoushah can be delivered, hot and oily, with za'tar, already baked on top of the bread. At the same time, from the baker y, it is a temptation to buy laham bi 'ajin, a sort of pizza made with minced meat, tomatoes, and onions sprinkled with spices, parsley, and pine nuts."

We had guests for dinner last night, and when I opened the fridge this morning, the leftover grilled chicken and red quinoa salad sounded much more inviting than a bowl of oatmeal! Who says you can't eat chicken for breakfast? (Check out my blog post titled: Chicken for Breakfast?) Think outside the box when it comes to breakfast - if steak sounds good to you, eat a steak!

Black Bean, Roasted Corn & Avocado Salad with Quinoa (recipe from Trader Joes)

Red Quinoa salad for breakfast

  • 1 Cup Quinoa (or red Quinoa) , cooked with broth
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1-15. oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 avocados, cutinto 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 3/4 cup Cilantro Salad Dressing (or use a Balsamic Vinaigrette)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • sea salt and pepper

Cook quinoa according to package directions. While quinoa is cooking, combine beans, corn, avocado, tomatoes and onion. Top with salad dressing and toss gently. Add salt, pepper and lime zest to taste. Add 1/2 of cilantro and toss gently.

When quinoa is cooked, toss with olive oil. Set aside to cool. When ready to serve, combine quinoa with corn and bean mixture and garnish with remaining cilantro.

If you don't eat chicken, top with sauteed tofu (watch my video post on how to make tasty tofu), or top a bed of greens with this wonderfully health quinoa salad.

Do you have a "breakfast outside the box" idea? Leave a comment!

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Cooking with Zucchini Lebanese-Style

It is the season for summer squash! While this dish is also great in the winter, it uses that extra zucchini in your garden very nicely!

One of our favorite Lebanese dishes is called Koussa. It is a tomato-based meat and zucchini stew served over Arabic rice*. My mother, cooked this satisfying, delicious meal for us growing up and I now cook it for my kids.

There were four of us siblings aged within 4 years of each other, so my mother wisely altered the original recipe to one that was easier to make and took a lot less time. This is the version I am sharing with you....... (You're welcome!)

It is an easy weeknight meal, and I have also served Koussa to guests on many occasions with a side of toasted pita bread, hummus, and cucumber mint yogurt**. Once again, it is a meal that takes few ingredients to make and not much time.

Let's get started!


  • 4 medium zucchini, cut in 4 lengthwise and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 lb. ground beef (I have used turkey, but preferred lean beef for a more authentic flavor)
  • 1 medium or large onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 18. oz. V8 juice (if you use low-sodium, add a little more salt at the end to taste)
  • 1/2 -1 cup toasted pine nuts (if you are a member at Costco, if is much cheaper to buy in bulk)

1. In a large pan, sautée zucchini in 1tbsp butter on medium heat with the lid on until zucchini is tender but not overcooked.

2. While zucchini cooks, season with spices and saute the meat and onions in 1Tbsp butter for 10-15 minutes until onions are tender and meat is browned.

3. When meat mixture is done, add in zucchini, V8 juice, and pine nuts. Bring to a boil, then simmer with lid on for 20-30 minutes.

4. Serve over Arabic rice and a dollop of laban, or plain, non-fat yogurt on top,  or a side of cucumber mint yogurt.

ARABIC RICE: Rice with Vermicelli (ruz bi shirieh)

  • 1 cup uncooked rice*
  • 2/3 cup vermicelli broken into small pieces
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp salt

1. Melt the butter on high heat and toss the vermicelli until golden brown (be careful not to scorch!)

2. Add the rice and stir until it is well mixed with the vermicelli. Pour in the water and add the salt.

3. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until rice is done.

*White rice is typically used in Lebanon, and while not as authentic,  you can certainly use brown. My friend made this recipe with brown rice to try and "convert" her 5 year old from eating white, and he loved it. He now asks for "Randa's Rice"!

CUCUMBER MINT YOGURT: A refreshing addition to any meal or snack

  • 3 cups plain yogurt (I use non-fat)
  • 1 cucumber, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed, or 3 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried mint leaves

1. Stir yogurt until smooth. If using Greek Yogurt, add a little water to thin it. Blend in the garlic or garlic powder.

2. Add cucumber.

3. Season with salt and dried mint leaves and mix well.

4. Serve chilled sprinkled with fresh (or dried) mint leaves.

Enjoy! Sahtan!

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