Category Archives: Did you know?

Looking for vegetarian and vegan goodies in Egypt? Try Health Harvest.

We are always happy to find places to buy vegetarian and vegan goodies in Egypt. Don’t misunderstand:  You can find vegetarian and vegan goodies at ANY shop!!! If you make the focus of your diet whole foods it won’t be hard for you to find treasures in every grocery shop, small market and even vegetable vendor.  😉

However, there are certain ingredients that are just not readily available.  While we may not use them often and they may not be absolutely necessary for our survival, some of these ingredients make it possible for us to have compassionate versions of familiar treats,  add nutrition and flavor to our soups and dishes or just try new things.

We discovered a new shop in Egypt, Health Harvest, that carries some of these rare ingredients!  – Okay, it’s not new – it’s been here for about six years or so, but it’s new to us!!!!  With three locations across Egypt, Health Harvest carries a number of products you might be interested in.  Among the items we found are:

These seeds will be great on salads!!!

Sunflower Seeds

Miso adds wonderful flavor to soups and sauces.  It’s basically fermented soy beans.  We have not found miso anywhere else in Egypt.


Agar agar flakes are made from sea plants.  You can also buy them in powder form (we did not see them at Health Harvest, though).  They serve as a vegetarian gelatin and are wonderful for making puddings or CHEESE (recipe coming soon)!!

Agar agar flakes

We don’t really buy mixes usually.  We love to cook everything from scratch because it’s cheaper and we can be absolutely certain what ingredients are included in the mix.  However, we found a number of gluten-free mixes available and decided to try them out.  They have a variety including:

There were MANY kinds of beans available for sale – even black soy beans!!!  But we bought these little lima beans.  Aren’t they cute?  They’ll be really tasty in a minestrone (recipe here!).

There are even some safer, compassionate beauty products on sale including this deodorant that is free from aluminum!!!

If you are interested in visiting Health Harvest here’s their contact information:

  • 00237483851- Mohadessen
  • 0126007879- Nasr City
  • 002035231001 ext: 1085- Alexandria
  • General Manager-0020145253777
  • healthharvest[at]
  • Find them on Facebook:
  • Their website:
Do you know of other shops specializing in specific vegetarian or vegan products?  Tell us about them!!!
Alf Hana!!!

Why vegan? For the environment

We’ve been sharing lots of vegan recipes, resources and information over these last few months. Recently, we’ve been asked more and more about why we are vegan. As we wrote in Why Vegan?: For your health, there are many reasons to become vegan. In fact, it is probably not just one reason that causes someone to move toward veganism. For more about the health impacts of veganism, read our first article in this series.

Our topic for today is veganism and its impact on the environment.

When you stop eating meat, you save tons of water, reduce carbon emissions, and reduce soil erosion. The business of raising animals and making them ready for consumption uses a tremendous amount of energy and creates even more waste. Here are a couple of statistics about your diet and the environment.

National Geographic interactive tool: helps identify and compare how your diet impacts water consumption. You can scan through different products and find out how much water is needed to produce each.

Just one for you to consider:
1 pound of beef (or about ½ a kilogram) requires 1,799 gallons (6,810 liters) of water while 1 pound of soybeans (or about ½ a kilogram) requires 216 gallons (818 liters) of water

Melanie Joy, PhD, has also written about the negative effects of a diet based on animals on the Earth’s water.  She writes “Animal agriculture is likely the world’s largest source of water pollution.  The main sources of the pollution are from antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, animal wastes, sediments from eroded pastures, and fertilizers and pesticides used for feed crops.”

Carbon emissions
The business of raising animals for food has been found to produce more carbon emissions that all the world’s forms of transportation added together (according to a 2006 report by the United Nations).  Also, another report from the University of Chicago has startling information to share.  Because it takes 7 kilograms of feed to raise 1 kilogram of beef, and the methane released by the animals through their bodily gases, the meat-eater, on average, is responsible for the release of 1.5 more tonnes of carbon a year than a vegan.  Put another way, many sources place the methane produced by cattle and their physical waste can have a polluting effect equal to that of 33 million cars!!!


Erosion: courtesy of Soil Science

Erosion is the process by which the fertile soil, and the nutrients therein, are worn away.  Erosion is especially damaging to the Earth.  According to several studies, the process of growing animals for food is responsible for 55 percent of all the erosion now occurring in the United States.  If we would stop growing animals for food, we could greatly reduce the amount of erosion of fertile topsoil.

Choosing more plant-based options in your diet will help you make less of an impact on the Earth.

But the reasons to include more plant-based foods in your diet don’t end here.  Keep an eye out for more posts about reasons to try a more plant-based diet.

Joy, M. (2010). Why we love dogs, eat pigs, and wear cows. San Francisco: Conari Press.

5 Easy to find, Nutritious, Quick, Vegan Snacks in Cairo, Egypt

How’s that for a post title?!  This post was actually inspired by a recent post on One green planet about vegan snacks that are available on the market.  But, unfortunately, none of them can be found in Egypt!!!  So, we humbly present the first in a series of posts about vegan snacks that you can find in Egypt.

Later we’ll write about snacks that you can make at home, but for now, these are snacks available in shops or from street vendors.  We have tried to choose snacks that are as close to their whole state, retaining as much of their nutrition as possible.

1.  SEEDS (or ‘lib’)

Brown Egyptian seeds (watermelon seeds)

These beautiful babies can be found in almost any nut vendor’s shop in Cairo.  Egyptians love to eat them by cracking the shell open with their teeth and pulling the seed itself out with their tongue.  It’s kind of a complicated technique and you might have to be a real Egyptian to eat them properly 🙂 .   There are two common varieties : larger white seeds (what my research says are pumpkin seeds), and smaller brown seeds (which are watermelon seeds).  Both are easy to find, relatively inexpensive, fun to eat, and full of nutrients.

White Egyptian seeds (pumpkin seeds)

For the watermelon seeds, 1 cup of seeds will give you a whopping 602 calories – so go SLOW!!!!  But, it also provides 31 g of protein, 44 % of your daily recommended intake of iron, and is a good source of phosphorous, zinc, manganese, and magnesium!

As for the pumpkin seeds, they are only 285 calories for a whole cup.  With 12 g of protein, a cup of these cuties provides 12 % of your daily intake of iron, and a good helping of magnesium and zinc.

For the record, I love the white ones most – I guess because they’re larger and easier to manipulate!!!  But, if you’re in the mood for a challenge, try the brown ones!!!  Oh, and if you’re watching your weight, just take no more than two tablespoons because these are high in fat! [images from]

2.  Termis

Termis, also known as lupin or lupin beans, is another type of seed very common in Egypt.  You can buy them in their dried state in any small grocery.  Find the already-prepared version (soaked, cooked, seasoned with salt, lemon, red pepper!!!) in larger markets.  It is especially popular in the spring during the Sham El Nessim holiday, but you can find the prepared version year-round.   Eat the yellow lupin seed with the skin, if you like, but I like to bite about half-way down and remove the skin before I eat it.

And here’s the nutritional info on the yellow lupin:

Yellow lupin seeds

1 cup will provide you will only 193 calories and – hold on to your hats! – 26 grams of protein!!!  That’s right, folks – here’s a high protein, low-calorie food you can snack on without a guilty conscience!  But wait, you also get 5 g of fiber and 8% of your daily recommended intake of calcium from these plump yellow cuties.  In fact, our source for this nutrient information, lists them as being a good snack if you want to lose weight!  So dig in!!! [image from]

3. Dried Figs

A favorite especially around Ramadan, these nutritious and naturally sweet goodies are also easy to find.  In small groceries or larger supermarkets, they are commonly sold in 250 gram packets or in air-tight circular packages.  Their very sweet taste will satisfy even the most troublesome sweet tooth – while you get some nutritional value!  Eat them right out of the bag – or soak them in some water for a softer treat!

As for their nutritional punch, here’s the low-down:

For 1 cup, you get 371 calories, 15 g of fiber (!), and 5 g of protein.  Not to mention 24% of your daily recommended intake of calcium and 17 % of your need for iron!!! [image from]

4.  Grilled Corn on the Cob (especially in the summer!)

Can you smell it?  Yes, the man with the cart on the corner has a grill and is smoking up some corn!!!  MMMMMMM!!!  Usually grilled in its husk, it can obtain a smoky taste, but if you like corn, you’ll love this!

This snack is quite nutritious, with one large ear providing 123 calories, 4 g of fiber, and 5 grams of protein!  With 16% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin C covered, you’ll be protecting yourself from illness with just one ear!  It’s also a good source of thiamin, folate, magnesium, and phosphorous.  [image from]

5.  And now, the best for last: Dried dates stuffed with nuts

We actually already wrote about this in a post during the Vegan MoFo last November. You can find these in most small groceries and larger supermarkets.  In fact, you can even find them organic!  Try Isis Sekem.  I love these little jewels. They are the perfect combination of sweet and savory.  You can find many variations – including dates stuffed with almonds, peanuts, and I have even seen cashews!

Our dried dates with peanuts are not too bad on the nutritional scale.  For one ounce (about 28 grams) – which I’m thinking would be around 3 of these babies – you get about 140 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and about 4 % of your daily need for calcium.  Not bad!

What other vegan snacks do you readily find in Cairo?  Please share!

Alf Hana!!!

What COLOR is on your plate?

There is an old saying in English: You are what you eat.  And, as trite as that might sound, I think it’s true.  Especially when it comes to color!

Think back over your last few meals.  What colors did you eat?  White? Brown? Black?  GREEN?  Did you have a variety of color or mostly one?  How did those colors compare or contrast to the meal before?

What does color have to do with anything?

Well, naturally occurring colors in foods are signals to us about their benefits. Each color is created by different phytochemicals or antioxidants that can be very beneficial in the protection of our health, prevention of disease, and reducing damage.  You can read about each color and see a list of fruits and vegetables for each on this page.

Since all the colors (antioxidants) provide different health benefits, it is most beneficial to include a wide variety of color in your diet.  So, try and see how many colors you can eat in one day!  Here’s our salad from yesterday:

Red (tomatoes), Purple (purple cabbage), Green (cucumber), Yellow (yellow pepper), White (garlic), Yellow / brown (chickpeas)

WOW!  Okay, and here was breakfast from the other day:

Purple (purple grapes), Yellow (banana), Brown (peanuts), Red (apple)

Make your plate into a rainbow, reap the health benefits, and give your taste buds a real treat!

Want to find some awesome recipes to help you do so?  Try out Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s book, Color Me Vegan.  In fact, she has some free recipes for you to try out on her website, here.  We’ve tried the Blueberry Buckle, Carmelized Bananas, Beet Burgers, Rainbow Salad, and many more and have absolutely loved them!

What color is your favorite food?  What color is your least favorite food?  

Getting Vegan Resources in Egypt

While many of the resources available for vegans and vegetarians these days are FREE, sometimes they’re not.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t get them in Egypt!

First, for some FREE resources, we have shared a set of invaluable resources for new vegans and vegetarians recently.  Also, you can find more resources on our resource page.

Now, there are some amazing cookbooks and other books about vegan issues that are all the rage in the vegan community, but just aren’t available on the shelves of local bookshops.  I am a little embarrassed to say that for years, we used to order from bookstores in the States, have them delivered there and then shipped to us here.  Boy, what a process!!!  Now, thanks to technology, we don’t have to do that anymore!

Reading Devices

iPad / Kindle / iPod / iPhone:  You can now order books from or the Apple Store in digital format that can be downloaded directly to one of these reading devices.  Find a plethora of popular vegan cookbooks / or other books for sale!  But, wait – don’t have one of these devices? Don’t worry – if you have a computer, you can still order and read books….

Use these FREE downloadable applications to read on your computer.  Then, all you need do is set up an account with amazon, order whatever books suit your pleasure and enjoy!!!!  Of course, we would recommend you start with one of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s amazing books.  But, there are tons of  vegan cookbooks out there to choose from. Have a blast!

In the meantime, we will be starting something new to help you choose…  and we’ll be writing about it very soon!

Alf Hana!!!

5 Resources for New Vegetarians / Vegans

This weekend, we learned that an acquaintance has decided to become vegan. It got us to thinking about when we first became vegan more than 10 years ago. At that time, we didn’t have access to all the amazing resources that are currently available. From nutrition advice, to easy FREE recipes, you can find almost anything you need now to maintain a healthy, plant-based diet. Many of these resources (and our favorite cookbooks) are listed here on Alf Hana’s resource page, but we thought it useful to focus on some resources especially made for new vegans.

1.  Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has a vegetarian starter kit that you can download as a pdf.  Also, on this page, you’ll be able to find links to articles dealing with the most commonly asked questions about plant-based diets.

2.  Compassion Over Killing also has a starter kit that can be downloaded, but this page also links to information about the most common reasons for considering a vegan diet, as well as recipes and issues about transitioning to a vegetarian diet.

3.  Vegan Outreach is another place to find a guide covering frequently asked questions, recipes, and other resources.

4.  PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) also has an interactive starter kit that is informative and bold.

5.  Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, of Compassionate Cooks, has a podcast called Vegetarian Food for Thought that is inspirational.  Addressing vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike, Colleen has a straight-forward style of dealing with issues that is at once informative, analytical, emotional, comprehensive, and motivational.  Colleen, her cookbooks, and this podcast have provided tremendous personal support for us in our journey as vegans.

BONUS resources:

United States Department of Agriculture actually has a fact sheet about the healthy nature of a plant-based diet.  You can download it here.

The American Dietetic Association has also produced a document called Position on Vegetarian Diets that you may be interested in.  You can find it on the Vegetarian Resource Group site.

We know many of you also have resources that you can share.  What has helped you in your journey toward a more plant-based, compassionate diet?


Many of you have noticed that we use a kind of oil that may be unfamiliar in some of our recipes.  We thought we’d write a post to help you understand canola oil and why we use it.

What is canola oil?

Canola oil is made from rapeseed.  Its name actually is a brand name that comes from the words: Canadian oil, low acid.  The low acid we’re talking about here is erucic  acid, a fatty acid.

What are the health benefits of canola oil?

Canola oil is low in saturated fat (the ‘bad’ kind of fat), and high in monounsaturated fat (the ‘good’ kind of fat).  In fact, Jack Norris recommends canola oil, olive oil, and some other oils as a source for daily Omega 3 intake [read the details].  You can read more about fatty acids and why we need them here. You may also be interested in this comparison chart of different oils and their fat content.

Why use canola oil in baking?

Canola oil is an excellent oil to bake with because it is high in monounsaturated fat and because it has a very mild taste.  While olive oil also is high in monounsaturated  fat and low in saturated fat, it has a very distinctive flavor that would not make your cookies and cakes taste so great.

Can we find canola oil in Egypt?

Yes, you can!!! We have found several brand names in both small and large sizes.  The best place to find it consistently is Royal House, but we have also found it at Oscar and sometimes at Metro.  All the varieties we have found are imported, unfortunately, so you may find yourself paying a bit more than you’d like.  We always try to remember that it’s better to pay now for healthy foods than later for medicines and treatments!

Alf Hana and Healthy Cooking!!!