Started in 2011 as a hobby, whilst recovering from surgery, Coffee Cakes And Running is designed, developed and written by Debbie Rogers. I’m a British Expat living in Dubai with a passion for Food, Drink and Travel. I’m often found in the kitchen or restaurant, behind a camera or hunched over my laptop
It’s Friday evening and I’m literally popping next door, or a few doors down should I say, to Somewhere! Yes that’s right Somewhere, it’s a new hotel which has recently opened in Barsha Heights (formerly Tecom). This is my first visit and I’m popping in to check out the new Lebanese evening at their restaurant called Nay, which takes place between 7.00pm and 1.00 am every Friday. Priced at 170/AED per person the evening includes a buffet and BBQ, Shisha, and entertainment by a Belly dancer.
We choose to sit outside on the terrace as the weather is perfect and my guest is going to partake in Shisha. On leaving we spot a small indoor Shisha room as well although personally I only like sitting next to someone having Shisha when it’s outside. The interiors of Nay are cute and quirky which is fun and there’s even a fictional character on the wall. Board games allude to his memories of Lebanon, back in the day, my dining companion tells me with a sense of nostalgia. We choose to dine outside and the terrace is a reasonable size with seating at one end and a small live BBQ and Shawarma Station at the end. The lighting is pink or blue mainly which is fun but means that food photographs are a big no no as the food does not look great in a Neon glow.
Starters come in the form of a mezze selection from inside which we help ourselves to. There’s quite a variety of salad items including some great middle eastern olives, halloumi in oil, the usual arabic salads including Tabbouleh, fattoush, Babydoll Ghanoush, Mutable , Mouhamarah etc. Presentation is spot on for the dishes and we pile our plates high with these dishes. There’s also a wide selection of mediterranean salads and breads which we leave aside as we are trying to stay authentic to the spirit of the evening.
Main Course :
For mains we ask chef to make us a selection of kebabs from the grill, which are cooked to order and brought to our table. Forgoing the offer of Ketchup or BBQ sauce, we ask if there are any more authentic dips and are brought some fiery Harissa and garlic sauce which hits the spot perfectly. The kebabs are good and being cooked to order, they are perfectly hot. There’s also a chicken shawarma station as well as a selection of other main dishes, which we don’t try along with hot mezze dishes which we do. We get a selection of kibbeh, sambousek and cheese rolls and they are ok, not the best but not the worse that we’ve had. These choices, I would suggest, are best served piping hot rather than after being kept warm in a serving dish.
Desserts beckon and here we are a little disappointed at the choice, with the exception of a large Um Ali and a plate of assorted arabic pastries, the rest of the desserts are the usual typical buffet selection. We would have preferred to see some more authentic desserts to match the theme of the evening.
Shisha & Entertainment :
After the food is served, my guest selects Mint Lemon Shisha which I’m told was good and the staff were attentive and always on hand to make sure the coals were kept to the right temperature etc.
Entertainment was in the form of some belly dancing, and we were treated to two shows by entertainer, Layla. I know her name so well as the music mix she performed mentioned her name about every thirty seconds or so which was unusual to say the least.
We stuck to soft drinks and juices, but alcoholic drinks are also served (extra cost) at reasonable prices. The hotel also has a wide range of different offers available (check out their site for details) including some great Happy Hour deals. We will be back to check these out some other time.
Billed as a Lebanese evening, I can’t help feeling a little disappointed that the hotel didn’t stick to the theme more wholeheartedly. Whilst I appreciate that there are quite a few Lebanese dishes on the menu, there are also a significant number of dishes that aren’t. Personally I feel that you either commit to something wholeheartedly and don’t deviate by adding additional dishes to the menu etc or don’t call it a Lebanese evening. At 170/AED per head (there are some discounts at the moment) it’s a reasonable deal and there were quite a few small groups enjoying the Shisha and a casual dinner Maybe this is somewhere that is more enjoyed with Shisha and I missed out by not taking part in this side of the evening. The location is great for me, so I feel I will be popping in to Nay again, although I will probably order from the A La Carte menu next time. (Typical price for salads, cold mezza are 20/AED per dish. Hot mezza circa 22/AED Mains circa 55/AED and dessert 20/AED. Shisha is 45/AED)
Disclaimer : This was a media invite. All photos and opinions are my own.
NAY Lebanese Restaurant, Somewhere Hotel, Barsha Heights
Lebanese Nights every Friday from 7:00pm to 1:00am
Lebanese Night at Nay Lebanese Restaurant, Somewhere, Dubai - YouTube
It’s early on a Friday morning, and getting towards the end of the twelve week program of Switch 360. I’m beginning to think about what my training plan will be after the program finishes, so am delighted to check out NRG Fitness at an open day. Locating the club is fairly easy as the club is on Marina Walk an area I know reasonably well. I have to stop and check with security to find the club as it’s not too clear exactly where they are and the signs are placed outside of the wrong building, sure this has been rectified by now.
I’ve decided to try two classes, almost back to back and sneak in a quick look around the club before the classes start. The club is not huge but it does have a multi purpose funky studio albeit with some slightly odd angles, a smaller studio complete with a few poles, plus a large bike studio which is packed with bikes. There are also some pristine changing rooms and a reception area which also hosts a small snack/juice bar and a few items for sale. Decoration is hip and funky, lots of motivational arty graffiti on the walls and of course a selfie spot which is fun.
First session of the day starts with a HIIT session which reminds me a bit of a mix between, Body Pump meets Function Movements, meets Workout of the Day from Cross Fit. There are two trainers leading the class though I suspect there is usually one. They encourage and motivate where needed and are helped by live music by DJ Danny Cee who is there for the event which adds a fun element to the class. We are broken down into two groups doing various HIIT and Functional movement exercises with the addition of weights as required. The odd room shape causes a few issues and I feel like I’m constantly having to move around so as not to bump into the person next to me, more because of room design than me I hasten to add. The class is ok but doesn’t ignite my fire that much, to be fair it’s still in the first couple of weeks of opening so I’ll give them a bit of leeway. I’m teamed up with a reluctant partner at the end and he is a bit of a bad sport and chooses to abandon me to do a duo exercise on his own. I know I’m not the fittest or the fastest but am a bit shaken by this as usually more competent people I’ve trained with have tried to help and encourage me to train to the right pace, and not abandon me. It’s the first time that’s ever happened to me so I’m surprised, a little upset, a bit annoyed at him and me and a little embarrassed if I’m completely honest – I’ll put it down to bad gym etiquette, but really …..
With just enough time to mop the sweat from my brow, I move to the other studio and quickly set up my bike for the NRG Ride class. The class is full and once again we have two instructors. The bikes are a posher version to the spin bikes I’ve used in my earlier gym life and are easy and quick to set up. The class is once again supported by DJR Danny See which his fun and the music is perfectly timed with the exercises. The class seems to be very much in two parts, the first is interval based where we simulate various rides, along the flat, up and down hills etc using resistance to mimic the situation. The second half is much more focussed on sprinting intervals so we pedal like crazy and get our heart rates and energy levels soaring. At the front of the class some of the members have their heart rates and percentage of effort etc beamed onto the wall, which can be motivating – but you will need to buy the My Zone Heart rate belt sold by the club to benefit from this. The energy in the room is amazing and I leave this class on a high, as do the other participants.
NRG have a few other classes under three categories. RIDE – RPM, NRG Ride and NRG Sprint, STRONG covers things such a Zumba, Pilates, Yoga and Body Pump, Body Balance and a few others whilst FOCUS covers NRG arial swing and NRG pole class. There’s a mix of traditional Les Mills classes and some NRG devised classes.
WOULD I GO BACK?
The only class that I would like to go back and try is NRG Swing, purely because I’m fascinated by this training. Whilst the classes I tried were good, neither of them gave me the ‘Great! Must Return’ feeling which I have had for other classes with other providers. Location wise, I’m sure it will be a big hit with those living at the Marina Walk end of town which is lacking in training facilities.
I attended on a free public weekend, with no obligation to share my experience. As usual all opinions are my own.
Our hip and funky fitness facility offers the best in semi-personalized group workouts with our extra injection of NRG! We invite you to join NRG fitness and get your endorphins rushing and help enhance your life. We throw invigorating beats, charismatic coaches and advanced equipment into a group fitness cocktail shaker, and serve up a delicious workout over ice!
With the personalized NRG System, we set you up for a life-changing training experience like no other.
– Source :NRG Fitness Website
Classes are paid for on a Credit basis with one Credit starting at 100/AED and reducing to 80/AED if you buy multiple Credits. Booking is via a nifty app which was really easy to use.
That’s it! Ramadan 2017 is officially over, as is EID and after twenty-nine days of fasting I jumped on the scales to see whether fasting had been good or bad to my body. The good news is that I lost weight! I’m down a fantastic 3.2kgs (7 lbs) which is great news. Since I started Switch 360 program I’m now officially down 13.7kgs (30 lbs). Just as important is that my body composition is dramatically changing and I’m certain more leaner, have gained some muscle mass and am getting fitter by the day. I didn’t measure my body composition at the beginning of Ramadan, but wish I had as I’m sure this would have been a good indicator to see what had happened too.
Each year, I write a post looking back on Ramadan and how it went and this year I’m writing it in the form of answering some of the many questions which have been asked of me by family, friends and readers across my social media platforms. This isn’t meant to be a guide for you to follow since I’m not a professional in the area and even if I was I strongly believe that as we are all different we all have different needs and requirements. Below I’m sharing my experiences based on what has worked for me.
Did you start fasting over Ramadan to lose weight? Absolutely not, in fact when I started researching this I was worried that I would gain weight since this is what a lot of people report. I wanted fast to feel and experience a richer Ramadan. Since coming to Dubai eight years ago, I have always fasted in some shape or form. Sometimes it would be an odd day of full fasting, other times it would be fasting on food but not on water. Three years ago I committed to fast properly and to follow the full principles of fasting for Ramadan.
Is it possible to lose weight over Ramadan? Absolutely! I’m living proof, and no I didn’t starve myself to do it, but of course I did follow the rules of fasting, so was fasting for about fifteen hours per day. This is the third year that I’ve fasted and each year I’ve lost weight. In fact last year and the year before I lost 4.5kgs (10 lbs) over the same period.
What’s my secret? There is no magic secret as such, but this is what I did and what seems to work for me. The majority of meals were eaten at home and cooked from scratch by me. Each day I focussed on eating food that would fuel my body, be healthy and sustain me until the next meal. In practice this meant that I broke my fast with dates, water, laban, homemade soup and homemade flatbread and the occasional samosa. Later in the evening I had a late meal for dinner usually consisting of a source of protein, veggies and some carbs. If I was peckish between meals then I would eat a piece of fruit or a South African rusk which was quite low in sugar. The most important part of all was to keep hydrated so I drank a lot of water, and of course a few cups of good Specialty Coffee.
Eating Out Lavish Iftars and late Suhoor meals are not really something that I support and/or an eat during Ramadan so I kept it very simple and actually only ate out just five times. I went to two buffet Iftars. The first one was very low-key and lovely, the second a larger event with average food. I did not eat to excess at either, partly because I just don’t have space to do so, and partly because I just really didn’t want to. Ramadan is not supposed to be about eating to excess and feeling uncomfortable although lots of people do this. I went to one Ramadan pop up with a Set Menu which was really good and I really enjoyed. I also made one trip to my local falafel shop to satisfy a falafel craving (sadly they didn’t have falafels on the day, so I ended up with a chicken shawarma plate and humous instead). Finally I had a late night craving for Mille Feuille and Coffee so ended up in a bakery eating Caramel Cheese cake since they had run out of Mille Feuille!
Exercise I exercised about four times per week. Typically this would be two or three boot camps just after Iftar and then one or two late night HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts in my building gym. I must admit that I didn’t quite manage to train at the same level of intensity that I usually do particularly as some of the boot camp classes as I struggled to get hydrated – this was more clear at the end of Ramadan when boot camp started literally two minutes after Iftar so I had only managed to gulp down a few mouthfuls of water before boot camp started.
How did you fuel up for exercise? This was the most tricky for me particularly with boot camp which was just after Iftar. At the start I experimented with eating a few dates or half a banana just before training, but found both too heavy so instead I either had a few slices of watermelon if time permitted or just fueled with water and then had a protein shake after training. Training later in the evening was no problem as I was able to eat an Iftar meal before training.
Were you constantly thinking about Food? Yes and No. Yes in the sense that each morning I would start planning what I was going to cook later, what soup would I make, what supplies did I need to buy and what I was going to bake and/or make. I typically find that I shop daily during Ramadan and not doing a big weekly shop and planning ahead. Was I thinking about food in the sense of “I’m hungry”, absolutely not. To be honest the only thing I was more aware of missing was water, since the heat and humidity means that you feel dehydrated quite early in the day. This was compounded as I also spent at least an hour a day outside on a building site helping with FillingTheBlues.
What did you Cook? Before Ramadan I flicked through a copy of Magic Soup, and made a list of simple soups to make. The criteria I used was that they were simple in terms of the amount of ingredients required, that I had the majority of ingredients in my store cupboard and that they would be simple and easy to make and tasty. Favorites included minted pea soup, roast tomato soup, leek & potato soup and broccoli soup. You can read the recipe for Roasted Tomato soup and flat breads in my post here.I also baked banana cake (minus the sugar and topping) from a recipe from FoodeMag dxb.
Any cravings? Aside from a constant craving for chilled water due to dehydration, I craved Mille Feuille, Falafel and crispy/crunchy food as well as caffeine!
How was cooking whilst you were fasting? Cooking itself was fine, but the challenge was to cook and not be able to taste to season etc for Iftar food in particular the soup. It was a bit of an unknown quantity about whether it would be seasoned enough or not. Also have you ever tried baking without sneaking the spoon with some cake batter in your mouth at the end (sorry old habits are hard to change).
How do you feel when you fast? The first few days are tough. I usually get bad headaches which are probably as much to do about caffeine withdrawal as they are with anything else. It usually takes my body a few days to adjust without water and food, but I don’t really feel hungry until just before Iftar time. Mental clarity is tough for a few days but after this I find that it generally improves. Each year I do notice that my eye sight becomes a bit more blurry than usual. This year I suffered really bad cramps in my calf on one day, but I’m putting this down to really bad dehydration as on that day we were outside in the heat for three hours. Energy wise this fluctuates a little – mostly I had plenty of exercise to train after fasting, with the exception of the last day when I was literally running on empty at the start of the session. During Ramadan my day tends to start later as I tend to sleep later, so I suspect some of this is due to changed sleeping patterns etc.
Would you recommend fasting during Ramadan? Yes, even if it’s only for one day to experience what your Muslim friends/colleagues are experiencing.
What are your plans after Ramadan?
What happens next?Before Ramadan I had tried Intermittent Fasting on some days and I will continue to do this going forward since it suits me well and is helping with changes to my body composition etc. There are a lot of health benefits for Intermittent Fasting and I will cover this in another post.
During Ramadan you are not allowed to eat or drink between the first prayer of the day (Fajr) and the next to the last prayers of the day (Maghrib). This is often described as being between sunrise and sunset. This year in Dubai this meant that people were fasting between the hours of 4.00 am and 7.15pm, just over fifteen hours. Typically during Ramadan those who are fasting eat their first meal of the day at Iftar which is just after the Magrib prayers. This is then followed later with Suhoor which typically refers to a meal consumed early in the morning before Fajr prayer. Some people eat Suhoor just before Fajr prayers and others tend to just eat later in the evening perhaps before going to bed.
It’s the 15th day of Ramadan already which means that technically today we have just passed the half way point. This year, like the previous two, I am fasting from sunset to sunrise – about 3.50 am through to 7.15 pm. Breaking fast at Iftar time is an important part of Ramadan for those who celebrate it and usually the fast is broken with something light.
This year the focus has been on breaking fast with something that is light, nutritious, tasty and easy to make. The first thing I always reach for as the Magrib (sunset) prayers are called is a large glass of chilled water along with three dates (Khalas are one of my favorite dates) a small glass of laban and a bowl of homemade soup. This year I have made different soups every 2-3 days using the book, Magic Soup as my inspiration. I reviewed Magic Soup for FoodeMag Dxb about a year ago now, and each time I pick up the book I’m inspired to get back in the kitchen and cook soup. The book covers everything from bone broths (suddenly trendy though my Grandma has been cooking them for years) through to hearty big bowls of soup which can easily replace a meal.
My Ramadan plan this year was to keep making different soups using inspiration from the Magic Soup book, always with a twist since I find it hard to completely stick to a recipe, and not to repeat a recipe twice. The aim was to cook simple soups with the majority of ingredients being those which I hold in my kitchen cupboards or simple to source ingredients which are fairly inexpensive. Partly for my budget, but also partly to try to stick to some of the principles of Ramadan, as well as an extremely sacred and religious period for Muslims, Ramadan is an important time to focus on family and friends and not on lavish food. This Spicy Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup has proven to be a firm winner since it’s easy to make, nutritious, extremely tasty and fairly quick to make and costs less than 20/AED for the batch*
*1 kg tomatoes (15/AED) Everything else was in my kitchen cupboards.
Spicy Roast Tomato & Garlic Soup
This soup tastes great both hot or chilled so works year round. Roasting the tomatoes and garlic intensifies the flavors. I can guarantee once you’ve made this you won’t go back to the canned stuff again.
Serving – 6 – 8 portions
1 Kg Ripe Tomatoes
5 or 6 cloves of garlic
Good glug of olive oil
2 x vegetable stock cubes (or your own vegetable stock)
2 liters water
1 Tbsp Paprika or Tandoori Spice (note you can change the spices if you wish)
1/2 Tsp Chilli powder
Salt & Pepper to season
Cut the tomatoes into quarters and place in a deep roasting tin
Add the peeled garlic cloves
Sprinkle on the spices and salt & pepper
Drizzle the olive oil over the tomatoes (approx 2 Tbsp)
Put tin in a hot oven (200c) and roast for approx 1 hour
Turn oven off and leave pan in the oven for a further hour or so (this intensifies the flavors but if you are in a rush you can skip this part).
Place the tomatoes, garlic and juices in a large saucepan or slow cooker (I have a multi cooker)
Add the stock cubes and about 2 liters of hot water* – or your own vegetable stock (*I always use hot water from my Zip Water Tap which speeds up the cooking process)
Bring water to the boil and simmer for approximately 30 minutes
Use an immersion blender or blender to blend the soup until it’s smooth – caution the liquid is hot so go careful.
Serving Tips :
Serve as is or add a dash of cream for a decadent touch
I like to serve with hot flatbreads (recipe below) dotted with just a tiny bit of salted butter
Leftovers can be chilled and will keep for a few days in the fridge, or will freeze well too.
Serve hot or cold – it works equally well.
These are quick and easy to make during the last fifteen minutes before the soup is ready. You can add chopped herbs, spices or my favourite middle eastern spice Zaatar to the flatbreads if you want to add a bit of variety.
200g flour – you can use fancy flour if you want, but I often use whatever is in the cupboard, in this case all purpose flour
2-3 Tbsp Cold Water – I use sparkling water from my ZipWater Tap as I find it makes the dough just a little bit lighter.
Olive oil for cooking
Dab of butter for serving (optional)
Put the flour in a small mixing bowl
Add the water slowly and keep mixing with a spoon until the water and flour are incorporated into a soft dough
If the dough is a little too sticky add some more flour until the dough is not sticky, conversely if the dough is a bit flaky and dry add a little more water
Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and tip the dough onto the flour.
Split the dough into four equal portions
Roll each portion into a ball then use a rolling pin (or glass if you don’t have one) to roll the dough into a circle shape approx 3 mm’s deep (don’t worry if you can’t get a circle it doesn’t matter too much)
Repeat until you have 4 roti.
Heat your frying pan until it’s hot, add a little bit of olive oil
Add the flatbread to the pan and fry for approx 1 minute on each side until it’s light brown and crispyI often add some Zaatar at this stage to make Zaatar flatbread which goes well with the tomato soup.
Keep warm and serve with the soup, I like to add a tiny bit of butter on the flatbread for extra flavor
For the last six months I have tried a Zip Water tap which was installed in my kitchen and replaces my normal tap and my kettle too! Since it’s been installed it’s made a huge difference to the way I work in my kitchen.
Hot Water on Tap
The tap is super clever it dispenses boiling hot water at the press of a button, so bye-bye kettle and reboiled water which always tasted a bit nasty. Bye bye limescale buildup too and that bit of chalky sediment that used to build up in my kettle. Hello hot water dispensed as and when I need it, particularly great for my coffee addiction as I can alter the temperature of the water so it’s perfect for brewing freshly ground coffee, or turned up a bit higher for perfectly brewed tea. Cooking vegetables, rice, pasta and making soup etc is also that bit quicker since I always start with boiling hot water. I also use the boiling function to give the sink a quick rinse especially after I’ve done a round of washing up – it keeps germs at bay and the grease away.
Cold Water On Tap
It dispenses sparkling water which I adore, hello healthy fizzy drinks – simply dispense some fizzy water and add some flavoring of your choice. Since I’m avoiding sugar, I choose slices of lemon or lime, a dash of apple cider vinegar or gently infuse some cucumber and berries for something a little more refreshing. For inspiration on flavoured waters read my article in FoodeMag dxb here >> Water – an essential to life
Unlimited amounts of filtered chilled Water is also on tap, no need to get water delivered by security and no need for a separate water cooler taking up space, or for a fridge full of water bottles, not just a pain to keep but also a huge impact on the environment.
Washing Up & The Environment
Washing up water comes from the same tap which dispenses hot and cold water from the building supply and since I don’t have a dish washer I can wash up easy using the water from here with a top up from the boiling water supply if needed. No more having to leave the spare bedroom water heater on just to have hot water in the kitchen tap for washing up (crazy plumbing I know).
The tap comes in different styles and colors etc to suit your kitchen and/or workspace. Different taps also come with different specifications depending on your needs. As well as the tap, there is also an under-counter control centre which takes up the majority of space in the cupboard under the sink. The control box controls all the variables with the water e.g. temperature, dispensing time etc and monitors use. My option includes a C02 tank for sparkling water as well as a filter. The system tells you when things need to be changed, or when a service is required. Based on my current consumption it looks like the filter will last about a year before needing to be changed.
Installation took a few hours with access to the building water supply and an electrical supply being required. Since I rent my place, the team were able to install this with minimal changes to my kitchen which should mean I have a happy landlord when I move.
For the first few days I noticed the noise of the unit as water was heated and/or chilled, however this is now a background noise which I have become used to and rarely hear.
Drinking Dubai Water
The water that comes from your kitchen tap is desalinated water (sea water) which has had the salt removed, been filtered and treated to prevent bacteria growth and then converted into safe drinking water. In general, it’s perfectly safe to drink this water, however before the water makes it to your tap, it’s usually stored in an on-site water tank which needs to be regularly maintained and if not could cause issues. Most people who I know tend not to rely on their building water being drinkable and so tend to drink bottled water which is delivered to their house/apartment.
Safe to drink
Using the Zip Water Tap means that water from my building water tank is processed through a micro filter which removes any dirt or contaminants and is then dispensed directly from the tap. It also means that I am now confident that the water I am drinking is safe and I no longer buy bottled water.
Filtered Cold drinking water is always on tap and comes either was plain chilled water or sparkling water, depending on how you want it dispensed. There’s also an option for plain unfiltered tap temperature water, perfect for washing up, rinsing items etc. I know I seem obsessed by washing up, but if you don’t have a dishwasher and you like cooking, washing up is a necessary evil lols.
The hot water option allows for the ‘boiling’ temperature to be adjusted which is really handy if you are a bit of a coffee snob like me and is super safe to use with a built-in safety system which means the tap stops dispensing water the moment both buttons are not being pressed. Equally the tap does not get hot to the touch so it’s safe in that respect too.
From a convenience point of view, I no longer have to remember to order water from building security and rely on him delivering when I need it. Nor do I have to plan and/or store large water bottles in my apartment.
My chiller unit has been donated to someone who needed it and I no longer boil countless kettles full of water when I fill flasks for my #ChaiPopUp (Tea for the Taxi Guys) nor do I have to wait for water to come to the boil for cooking vegetables in etc.
I find that I’m drinking a lot more water now, particularly sparkling water as it’s readily available and always ‘on tap’ so to speak. In fact, since having the tap, I have completely moved away from buying any form of sparkling diet beverages and flavoured sparkling water and so my ‘soft drink’ habit has changed dramatically.
On average I think I save a minimum of AED 50/week (3 x 5 gallon bottles and 6 bottles sparkling water) on buying in water, not to mention the reduction in water bottles going to landfill.
[Disclaimer : I was gifted the Zip Hydrotap by Zip Water. All opinions are my own based on extensive usage of the Zip Water tap in my apartment. More details on www.zipwater.com]
[Images : Header image from Pixabay represents the essence of the soup and the flatbreads and is for reference only. The rest of the images were shot by a slightly dehydrated and tired me after a day of fasting with artificial light on my phone, so are not up to my usual standard, but represent the real challenges of cooking and shooting images after fasting (well my reality anyways).]
Love your Specialty Coffee and want to savour it during Ramadan? Here’s the list for you! This year just a small handful of Speciality Coffee shops have a license to operate during daytime. The rest will typically open from Iftar til late although a few will be closed too.
Life’s too short not to drink good coffee, and especially to have to spend time hunting it down! I’ve curated a special listing covering Dubai and Sharjah to save you time and help you get a speedy caffeine fix – especially useful for those who are fasting and will be craving their coffee – count me in on that one!
If I’ve missed anything then please do let me know.
Food, Glorious Food!
For those of you who are’t fasting and are looking for dining options outside of the hotels, (who will always have one restaurant open), then read about the independent restaurants open for dining in created by : TheRealGeordieArmani covering Dubai and also Foodiva who covers Dubai and Abu Dhabi This is the sixth year they will have compiled such a comprehensive listing of valuable information.
Brewing during the day – drink in & takeway
Raw Coffee 8 am – 3pm
Common Grounds 8 am – 4 pm (pop up at Brunswick Sports Bar – Sheraton Hotel – then back to usual location 7pm – 2 am
Specialty Batch – 9 am to 3 pm
Kaffa Beans – 7.30 am – 1.00 am
GoldBox Roastery – 9 am – 10 pm (Saturday – Thursday) ~ Fun things planned for the evenings too!
Victoria met with us over the course of the twelve week program for both Life Coaching Sessions and to offer Nutritional support.
Tried & Tested
In my corporate life I used to coach senior leaders for business performance, but never had I had personal life coaching with the focus on ME. For the first session, to be honest I was a bit uncomfortable sitting in the comfortable chair, and not taking notes – seems those were Victoria’s job and not mine!
Victoria has such a good nature that actually after a few minutes, it felt like I was chatting to a good friend and we made some really good progress discussing the sorts of things that I wanted to focus on and those that are out of balance. After the first session I came home with a small action plan as well as a bit of a better understanding about me.
Concentrate a bit more on making time for friends and family and staying in touch
Try and cut the need to be so focussed on using technology all the time (I found myself going out for a coffee on my balcony with my laptop, phone, and kindle!)
To try some form of relaxation/mindfulness
Over the course of the program we met Victoria a few times, I discussed progress on my plan and areas that I had not been able to work on, seems the book – The Power of Now is just not for me, I’ve dipped in and out of it a few times and just don’t ‘get it’. I do however, enjoy yoga in particular SUP Yoga with SeaYou which has been a big breakthrough for me. Reducing technology use is still work in progress since I rely on technology heavily for my job. I have however, made more time to focus on family and friends and intend to continue with this.
Would I have Life Coaching again? Absolutely especially with someone who I feel comfortable talking to and Victoria fits the bill perfectly for me.
After we received our DNA Analysis and understood more about how our bodies are designed, Victoria took time to explain what this meant in practice which was extremely useful. It’s one thing to read a report and another thing to have it explained to you personally, not only does the information sink in more, but it also allows you the opportunity to work out a plan of action based on the report and with sound nutritional advice to back that.
During phase 3 of the program Victoria devised individual recipes and menu plans based on the DNA results, my feedback from progress during Phase 2 when we ate meals provided by Pura as well as based on my feedback of what I liked/wanted to focus on. This was incredibly useful and I’ve tried out a few of the recipes. The great thing is that Victoria is only a WhatsApp message away with queries etc.
We also got the chance to see some of Victoria’s recipes being cooked by Chef Girish from Media One Hotel who used produce from Ripe Market. A walk around Ripe Market the week before was enhanced by nutrition tips by Victoria she explained how to use various ingredients, nutrition tips etc.
The Limitless team provided us with protein shake powder and protein bars during the twelve week program. Since we were exercising a lot it was important to pay attention to the intake of protein that we had and the shakes in particular were of great help to me.
Tried & Tested
Limitless 100% Natural Indulgent Dutch Chocolate Whey Protein Concentrate
Really loved this protein powder, it was easy to shake with a hand shaker and it was one that I often had ‘on the run’ in the car after a workout (can someone please invent a car blender please). The shake is not too sweet and I often just blend it with iced coffee and a little extra water.
Each serving gives 24g of protein, is low in calories (119 cals) and carbs (2g’s), tastes great and is gluten free.
Empower Natural Protein Bar
Comes in 2 flavors; chocolate crunch and banana caramel, and two sizes; 60g & 30g. Both bars tasted great and didn’t have that chemical after taste which some protein bars do. I personally used these occasionally before or after training when I needed to have.a portable snack with me. Alternatively I chopped the bars into bite sized pieces and stored in the fridge for snacking on when I had a sweet craving.
The 60g bar has 20g of protein (252 cals, 17g carbs) and the 30g bar has 10g (128 cals and 10g carbs). The bars are natural, high protein, gmo free, gluten free and palm oil free. Higher in carbs than the protein shakes, these were not an every day choice for me as I was trying to keep my carbs on the low side.
It’s week six of Switch Dxb and I wanted to share with you a bit about our nutrition and in particular my nutrition over the last six weeks.
For those of you who don’t know one of the worries I had and do have with any form of nutrition plan is that I had weight loss surgery in the past. Eighty percent of my stomach was removed through surgery and in the space of just over a year I lost seventy-two kilos, about half of me. My head never caught up with my massive body changes, but that’s another post from a long time ago, but if you want to read about it then do take a read here When does the Head Catch Up With the Body ?.
My reduced stomach capacity gives me restrictions in terms of the quantity of dense protein and dense food that I can eat, but not in terms of sweet stuff which is not dense. So for instance, whilst I can probably eat about 150 grams of dense protein and feel full, I can (and did) eat unlimited amounts of biscuits, crisps, chocolate, cake etc and not feel full. This has been a major issue as I have an extremely sweet tooth. Unlimited restriction on sweet stuff, a lack of exercise and generally a total relaxation of what I have been eating has caused massive weight gain over the past four years. Hence I applied for Switch 360, not only to lose weight, but to get my health and wellbeing under control in a more complete way. You can read more about why I signed up here Switch360 time to #LiveBetter
Weeks 1 & 2
The first two weeks were based on learning about ourselves and consisted of:
function movement training sessions
a life coaching session
learning about some new products
a hypnotherapy session
Body composition profiling
and metabolic testing
but wait for it ….
Absolutely nothing on nutrition!
I have to admit I was a little out of my comfort zone with this. Typically when I start some form of transformation programme the first activity is to de-junk the cupboards (or eat the Chocolates left over from Christmas, Easter etc) and then go ‘cold turkey’ from day 1 of the new plan. But this was completely different. For the first two weeks we were given absolutely no plan at all. Instead, Phill, our head coach, explained that we were using the time to find out about ourselves and our body and that this information would pave the way for the next stages of the program. Makes perfect sense when you think about it and I wish more people would advocate this sort of approach so that advice, guidance and programs going forward are based on facts and real knowledge and understanding rather than applying standard approaches to people.
My own challenge! – Cutting out Sugar!
Whilst we had not been giving any plan, or been told to follow any sort of nutrition advice etc I decided that I would cut out sugar from my diet completely. Since I had begun to have adverse reactions to some types of sugar, and in addition just felt that it was the right time to make a change.
Cutting out sugar and literally going ‘cold turkey’ from day 1 of the programme was not as difficult as I had imagined it would be. I had gotten into routine of starting my day off with a coffee and three or four biscuits feeding my sugar cravings from early morning right through to the evening and feeling pretty terrible as a result. The first three days were pretty terrible though, I had headaches, desperate sugar cravings and felt lacking in energy. Instead I focussed on eating more protein, drinking more water and keeping myself busy but relaxing when I simply needed to. After the first three days things got progressively easier to the point that I don’t miss sugar at all now and do not get the terrible sugar cravings and highs and lows that I used to. In fact when I accidentally at a high level of sugar in what I was told was a no sugar brownie, I had a hypoglycemic attack and was quite ill.
Nutrition during Switch
There are two stages to the programme, all of which is based on our DNA analysis, body composition, training plan and supported with advice from our Nutritionist, Victoria Tipper, and also supported with Supplements from Limitless Supplements.
Weeks 3 – 7
During this phase of the programme we are being provided with food from Pura. The food is delivered to our house and is ready cooked, pre portioned and worked out specifically to my needs. I will write about this more fully when I get to meet the Pura team, but in essence this part of the programme is based on Macros so our nutrition is worked out personally for us based on the amount of protein, carbs and fat we need each day based on our current weight, our goal (mine is to lose weight) and our percentage body fat. In practice this means that we are delivered 4 meals a day. One breakfast and three other meals. The meals are typically a split of protein, veggies or sweet potato and a portion of fat – e.g. butter, olive oil coconut oil or my favourite, pesto. More details on this part of the programme in another post coming soon.
So Pura comes to us for five days a week and then we have two days a week to fend for ourselves so what are we supposed to do?
I spoke to Victoria Tipper our Nutritionist who advised the following for me :
Weekends – Stick to home-made juices made primarily with veggies and a little fruit as well as vegetable soup, almond milk smoothie, chia pudding. Also have some apple cider vinegar and post workout a banana, egg and cinnamon pancake.
She also advised to try to reduce/cut out dairy from my coffee and to reduce my coffee intake.
I haven’t as yet managed to do too much with the Nutritionists advice for weekends as such. As a result of changing my work routine around a bit to accommodate evening training sessions, my day job now tips into my weekend more than it did before. My day job involves writing about food and travel and as a result I have to eat out quite regularly. Over the last few weekends, I have taken up invites which typically fit the brief of ‘healthy’ rather than ‘indulgent’ dining and where possible I’ve tried to be sensible and moderate in what I’ve done. That’s not to say I haven’t had the odd cookie, or a bowl of Banoffee pie – I have, but I’ve been much more mindful about what I’ve eaten compared to how I would have eaten prior to the plan.
More information on Weekend Dining during Switch 360 coming soon.
Weeks 8 – 12
This is where we get to use the knowledge and information we have gained about ourselves, the food that we like to eat, and how it works on our body transformation and composition. I haven’t seen the actual plan as yet, but it will involve learning about how and where to buy the right ingredients to fuel our body. Cooking the ingredients in a healthy way and learning about what to choose from a restaurant menu etc for eating out.
It’s still the first week of Switch DXB and we’re already doing some things that are challenging my mind as well as my body. We only met as a full group on Day one and on day two we are ready to start spending a bit of time finding out more about each other and ourselves.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this session to be honest. The more I think about myself and how I act etc makes me believe that I’m more of an ‘action’ and ‘carry on regardless’ sort of person than a deep “self and /or inward thinker”. So when I saw Relaxation Hypnotherapy on the list of activities I was a bit unsure of what to expect and wasn’t sure it was for me.
I’ve tried Hypnotherapy once previously and found it really stressful and came out feeling like a bit of a failure as I didn’t feel that I had managed to benefit from the session, or to have been hypnotised – who knows maybe I was but just didn’t appreciate it at the time. In hindsight I think I had ‘hynotherapy block’ and just couldn’t allow myself to relax and go with the session.
Chatting to my friends about what to expect it seems that most people associate Hypnotherapy at it’s extremes ranging from shows where the audience are often encouraged to do funny things whilst hypnotized or with the more unusual areas e.g. past life regression. Few people thought about it for relaxation purposes at all which was interesting as this is exactly what we were going to do.
I’ve tried Hypnotherapy once previously and found it really stressful and came out feeling like a bit of a failure as I didn’t feel that I had managed to benefit from the session, or to have been hypnotised – who knows maybe I was but just didn’t appreciate it at the time. I think I had ‘hynotherapy block’ and just couldn’t allow myself to relax and go with the session.
What is Hypnotherapy? (Source Wikipedia)
Hypnotherapy is an alternative curative healing method that is used to create subconscious change in a patient in the form of new responses, thoughts, attitudes, behaviours or feelings. It is undertaken with a subject in hypnosis.
A person who is hypnotized displays certain unusual behavior characteristics and propensities, compared with a non-hypnotized subject, most notably heightened suggestibility and responsiveness.
As a group we were given an option, either to have individual sessions or to join and have a group session, we choose a group session and then spent some time trying to understand what Relaxation Hypnotherapy was, and equally, what it wasn’t so no eating onions as if they were apples, no regressing to the past, nor any ‘think yourself slimmer, stop smoking, cure your fear of flying’ for us – the purpose was purely to work on relaxation therapy.
Anyway, after some do’s and don’ts the office lights were dimmed and we took a comfortable place on the sofas and Zoe started the session. The session focussed on relaxation and Zoe took us through a number of relaxing activities each encouraging us to relax deeper and be more conscious of our surroundings that we were envisaging. The session, was really relaxing and whilst I was conscious of the what she was saying throughout the session and remember what she said I also know that when we finished I felt like I had been ‘zoned out’ for a very long time and felt completely relaxed.
As a final reminder, we received a recording of the session which we can use at home to aid relaxation which is really useful
Find out more :
Our Hypnotherapist was Zoe Turner of Simply Flawsome.