On raising happy daughters

Every night when you tuck your daughters in, tell them how much you love them. Tell them they’re amazing. Tell them there’s nothing in the world they can’t do if they put their minds to it. Tell them they can count on your acceptance and trust you with their problems. If they come crying to you, listen to them, validate their emotions. Silly things don’t make people cry. If they think their noses are too big, their hips are too wide, their lips are too thin, they’re fat, they’re ugly…hug them tight and tell them everyone is beautiful in their own way and that what matters most is the beauty of their minds and the gratitude in their hearts. Never ever tell them that if they don’t like their features they can have plastic surgery when they’re older. A nose job never made anyone happy. There are many beautiful women out there with the most broken hearts. Mothers, your words are of great influence on your little girls. As role models, you need to put your own insecurities aside when you address your daughters’ insecurities. Let your strength reflect on their thoughts and behavior. Let your kindness embrace their sweet tender hearts. The hardest part about raising a daughter is convincing her to just be herself in a world that seeks to teach her otherwise; nurturing her self-esteem is challenging indeed in an age where the fashion brands you wear define how likable or cool or rich you are. There will be days when she’ll feel so alone, confused, and indecisive. Be that someone she runs to. Your daughter would never choose anyone else over you if she knows you’re the only one who will understand. So make every moment count. Enjoy those little talks, the endless questions, the laughs, giggles and yes, the power struggles that never seem to end. They will be merely memories in a few years. Be sure that she will be as happy as you ever liked her to be by just carrying the best of those memories, and upon recalling those encouraging words you once said. The best way to raise a daughter is not to tell her she can be just as good as any boy, nor that she needs one to grant her happiness. Raising a happy girl always, always starts with a happy mom.



~ Zeina


Balluza: A dessert and a memory

Today I decided to try out a recipe that I’ve been meaning to make for over 6 years since I discovered it in one of mom’s Arabic cookbooks. I wonder why I waited that long to finally give in to a sugar and dairy craving. This rarely happens, but I guess I was intimidated by the number of dirty pots and pans that will be piled up when the masterpiece is done. One would hardly call a pudding a masterpiece, but who wouldn’t admire the contrast of white creaminess and bright orange “syrupiness” layered beautifully in an elegant glass serving cup?
The Balluza is a classic mhalabiyé (mahalabiyah, sweet milk pudding) dessert with an additional layer of orange juice thickened with cornstarch over heat. I’ve read that this sweet has Syrian roots but I remember my grandmother (who was purely Lebanese) and aunt making it for many years. I also remember my grandma’s open fridge (and cupboard and drawer) policy and how comforting her food was. I wanted to revive some of my childhood and adolescence memories of grandma today through this walk down culinary Memory Lane. I must admit that I will never come close to her talent. She, like many women of her time, was illiterate and couldn’t decipher a single letter of any cookbook you might hand her, yet her skill was matchless. Her love for the kitchen could be felt in every bite and sip. 

Grandma was the barakah (blessing) of the family, the soul that united us all, first and second and third generations, every Saturday over breakfast and every Eid (holiday) feast. When we lost her 12 years ago, little did we know that we had lost more than just a remarkable pious kind old woman. We had lost the very heart of the family. I’ve missed her wisdom, serenity and patience. I’ve missed her touching bedtime stories, her humor and giggles. I’ve missed her delicious extra-large kibbé (fried meat and bulgur balls stuffed with minced meat), the largest I’ve ever seen yet. I’ve missed the way she used to call my name and how she would take my side when mom and I quarrel. She loved her grandchildren very dearly and took pride in their achievements. She died a happy woman, I’m sure. She had all of her daughters and son by her side when she took her last breath. In days like these, you’re very lucky if you’re Lebanese and all your children live in this country with their children. It’s very unlikely that I’ll live to 87 like granny, but I do wish to die her peaceful death having lived a fulfilling peaceful life, such as hers. 

Going back to the balluza recipe, you might want to give it a try too. You could start off with a regular rice pudding instead of a milk pudding. It’s totally up to your preference. I garnished my set pudding with ground pistachios and sliced almonds. 
Here are the ingredients: 
For the mhalabiyé (milk pudding):


4 cups whole milk

3 TBSP cornstarch

1 cup sugar

1 tsp orange blossom water

1 tsp rose water

For the orange layer:


3 cups orange juice

3 TBSP cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar



Mix 1 cup milk with 3 TBSP cornstarch, add to rest of milk and bring pot to boil over medium-low. Add sugar. Continue to whisk throughout cooking time. When milk thickens, add rose and orange blossom waters. Pour pudding into serving bowls or glasses, filling only half-way through. 

2- As the milk pudding cools, prepare the orange syrup by adding 3 TBSP of cornstarch to 3 cups of freshly squeezed orange juice. Add sugar and whisk thoroughly until mixture thickens as it comes to a boil. 

3- Pour orange syrup over mhalabiyé and place all bowls in fridge till they set.

4- Serve garnished with ground pistachios or chopped almonds, if you prefer. 

I hope you make this comforting, tangy/creamy dessert soon. Let me know if you do and if you have any pudding recipes you’d like to share in the comments below. 
Have a warm evening, everyone!

Into the Sunrise

We all have always stories

We don’t tell

We all have feelings we don’t share

There are parts of us

That don’t show so well

But this secrecy is the cross we bare

All our lives we’re taught

To stay away from fights

We’re warned to escape

The very first ray of light

But we’re lured to the sun

Like a moth to a flame

And there’s really no use

To turn the other way

Or surrender to shame

All my life I knew

I had something to give

Every word I write is

A reason to live

And though some parts of my soul

Still don’t clearly show

They’re bound to shine through

That’s what I surely know

Oneday I’ll stand in the sun

And let its rays surround me

And finally embrace

The happiness that just found me

I’ll walk right through the walls

And break through the dark

Like some Supernatural being

That’s the faith inside my heart