Nutrition and Fitness with Randa

Vegetarian Linguini Pomodoro with Yellow Squash and Lemony White Bean Salad with Creamy Feta

There are zillions of  great vegetarian recipes out there, but somehow I always seem to wait until the last minute and end up creating a variation of something I read somewhere in a cookbook or on a recipe website. Last night's dinner was such a creation, and my husband and I were both pleasantly surprised at how satisfying and delicious it was. And I, how quickly it came together! (My kids, ages 4 and 6, who had just the night before watched the movie, Ratatouille, were quite pleased that they already knew the name Linguni and could match it to a steaming heap of it on their dinner plates.)

Over the last year since moving to the Middle East, I have been evolving into a habitual vegetarian cook, with meat dishes sprinkled in here and there. The challenge, albeit an entertaining one, is to make sure there is enough protein in any given meal to satisfy the body's protein requirement. One should eat a minimum of 15 grams of protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Oftentimes people wrongly assume that if there is no meat, poultry or fish in a recipe, it does not have enough protein.

Wrong! Combining the right carbohydrates in any given meal, or cooking with soy products and eggs, can definitely provide sufficient amounts of protein to sustain a healthy immune system and metabolism.

Here is my take on Capellini Pomodoro, coupled with a lemony, white bean salad with creamy feta cheese. I think you will find that most of the ingredients are already somewhere in your fridge or pantry. (If they aren't, they should be!)

Linguini Pomodoro with Yellow Squash

4 oz. linguini (or any other pasta you have on hand)

4 (or more) cloves of garlic, crushed

Two 15 oz. cans of diced or stewed tomatoes, partially drained

1 yellow summer squash, diced into small pieces

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar or red wine

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tbsp. dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh parmesan cheese, grated

While the pasta is cooking to al dente, sautee the crushed garlic in olive oil for 3 minutes. Add yellow squash and cook for 3 more minutes. Add in tomatoes, vinegar or wine,  and seasonings; bring to a boil. Simmer on low for 20-30 minutes. Combine the pasta and sauce, and sprinkle parmesan cheese just before eating.

Yields 4 servings

Total protein: 9 grams

Lemony Bean Salad

1 can white canelleni beans or great northern bean, drained and rinsed well

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Juice of two lemons

1/2 head of romaine lettuce, shredded

1/2 large red pepper,  sliced

1 tbsp. feta cheese, cut into small cubes (creamy if available)

1 tbsp. slivered almonds, toasted

2 tsp. dried oregano

1tsp. dried thyme

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine the beans with 1.5 tbsp of olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic. Sprinkle with oregano, thyme, salt and pepper and let sit for 20 minutes or longer while you make the salad. In a large bowl, combine lettuce, peppers, feta, and almonds. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, 1.5 tbsp olive oil, 1 clove garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over salad and mix well.

Entire salad yields 2 servings

Total protein: 20 grams


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Moujadra (Lentils with rice): A Lebanese Vegetarian Dish

Being half Lebanese, the cuisine from Lebanon is definitely at the top of my list of favorites. Lebanese dishes typically draw on a wide variety of ingredients – grains, fresh vegetables, eggs and yogurt – all flavored and seasoned with various aromatic herbs. They form a very nutritious, healthy diet.

Hearty and Healthy

There are many delicious meat-based recipes, but often overlooked is the wonderful and satisfying vegetarian dishes.

Today’s recipe is one of my favorites and so easy to make. It is called Moujadra, a healthy mixture of three ingredients: lentils, rice and onions. I like to serve it with a fresh cabbage salad drizzled with Lebanese dressing. Most Lebanese dishes are served with yogurt on top – I use my all time favorite greek yogurt for an extra boost of protein.

Not only is it a wholesome and complete dinner, it can also be served cold for breakfast.

As we say in Arabic when enjoying a good meal: “Sahtan!”


  • 2 cups lentils
  • ¾ cup short grain rice (I like brown)
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Water, to cook lentils

For cabbage salad:

  • ½ head of cabbage, finely chopped or shredded
  • ½ cup of lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper


1. Wash the lentils in a colander, put in a pot and add 5-6 cups of water

approximately, over the lentils. Boil until soft.

3. While lentils are cooking, sauté the onions in a pan in oil until golden brown.

4. Cook rice according to package instructions.

5. When lentils are done, add onions and rice to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer over low heat for 10-20 minutes. Add salt for taste.

6. To make dressing, blend together the lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt and pepper and pour the dressing over the cabbage.

7. Serve Moujadra warm or cold with cabbage salad and Greek yogurt.

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