Seeds of health

20170406_074135(1)

Time and again, I am bought into the idea of super foods that I diligently attempt to include in my family’s everyday diet. I make sure to stock my kitchen pantry with green tea, oatmeal, quinoa, walnuts etc. and my refrigerator with avocado, greens and berries, just to list a few. Off late, the bandwagon is joined by 2 newcomers in the form of seeds

  1. Flax seed
  2. Chia seed

The numerous health benefits that these two ingredients have is quite too often discussed with regard in the food world. Chia seeds, indigenous to South America, are loaded with fiber, protein and Omega -3 fatty acids. They are also high in vitamins and minerals like calcium, manganese, magnesium and phosphorous that are essential for bone health. They are usually grown organically and are naturally free of gluten. Due to high levels of fiber and protein content, these seeds are highly recommended in weight loss programs. They are believed to control high blood pressure as well as blood sugar given their antioxidant property. It is only befitting for ‘Chia’ to mean strength in ancient Mayan.

Flax seeds, believed to be native to Egypt, have omega 3 fatty acids that helps in healthy glowing skin. It is also high in fiber content which helps improve digestive health or remove constipation. Its high anti-oxidant qualities is supposed to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Consumption of flax seed also helps in moderate regulation of blood sugar level. It is believed to fight many types of cancer, including breast, prostate, ovarian and colon cancer. Its high fiber-low carbohydrate combination is an excellent recipe to combat weight gain. Flax seed is best absorbed in ground form as it is easier to digest.

I find ways to incorporate these ingredients in my everyday meal, by sprinkling a table spoon or two of these to most food items, be it salads, soups, side dishes, dosa batter, chapatti dough or rice dishes. They make for excellent ingredients in baked goodies too. The addition of small quantities of these seeds do not bring a noticeable variation to the taste or texture of food as they do not possess any peculiar smell or taste. These seeds find their way in smoothies, cereals and yogurt on a fairly regular basis. Chia seeds, when soaked, become tiny, slimy globules with interesting texture that qualifies for a perfect condiment in refreshing drinks.

Using these in moderation and discretion is a key reminder to maintain balance of nutrient intake. Anything, including super foods if consumed in excess is rather toxic to the body than beneficial. Add these ingredients in creative ways to your daily cooking to reap full benefits. There is no effort required or time wasted in finding unusual and complicated recipes.

20170406_074157
Chia seeds
20170406_074211
Flax seed powder

My husband’s bulging waistline continues to make a mockery of my culinary efforts. I don’t give up. Like an invincible warrior on a single-minded pursuit, I patiently wait for the day when my seedy adventures proudly stand testimony for a naturally flat belly, not sucked in as seen in photos 🙂

Advertisements

Parent-child hood

02120015  There is nothing as nostalgic, yet rewarding, as flipping through the pages of an old album that transports you in time and place. Old pictures have a unique flavor that transfixes you in frozen bits in time. Now and then, I sift through the synopsis of special moments of our lives captured by our old fashioned camera, long before smart phones invaded our safeguarded lives. And tucked most safely among our precious collection are pictures of our 2 daughters in all stages. Some just tug at your heartstrings, others elicit a spontaneous giggle or two and quite a few others leave you simply stupefied. Most importantly, I am reminded and reinforced to embrace each passing moment as I realize how time flew from their toddler years to young adulthood. Thanks to unnumbered nights of bed time stories, sweet lil’ rendezvous amidst diaper changes, endless summer days lazing in the pool and the park, nice long walks among talks with them in strollers, unforgettable tantrums and reprimands, for having made the bonds stronger than feebler.

With each passing year, my ubiquitous presence around them had slowly started to vanish. Bed-time stories would become a thing of the past, the amount of  home work help needed had started to wean, there was almost no assistance required in everyday chores, and to top it all, my views and opinions started to be vehemently questioned . I bit my lip and held back tears as I had no choice but to witness this transformation. It is truly an art for a parent to accept the independence of their off-springs with the same flair that they proudly ruled the world of these once helpless and hapless beings. I had started to question the purpose and worth of my role as a mother, except, I knew to avert damage and change gears to ensure a smooth ride together. It helps to have a reminder to our parent selves to steer the course so we don’t lose our own in unexpected twists and turns.

img_0967    Over the period of time, I painfully taught myself attachment in detachment, reminded myself to be more receptive and less defensive, to be a friend and a guardian to my kids and to use these roles with discretion. I smile at the gentle disapproval of my teenager on matters of disagreement just as I used to find joy in the warmth of her hugs and kisses as a toddler. Just like I had cheered their tiny strides attempting to catch up with my long ones, I am now cheered to catch up to their faster jogging pace. The camaraderie, friendship and sisterhood received is priceless, in return for trying to understand their lives, their struggles and aspirations as opposed to thrusting my ideas and dreams on them. My off-springs taught me to strive to be more liberal than narrow-minded, a listener(still working on this!) than a preacher, less judgemental and more forgiving, less rigid and more flexible. Undoubtedly, there are qualities that individuals can teach themselves to acquire at any point in their lives, only if they are willing to. I have learned more from my children than I ever taught them. It is time for role reversal and it is unquestionably going to stay. The driver and passenger have exchanged seats, literally and metaphorically. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

In the battlefield of parenting, there are no winners or losers. If we win, we win together. If we lose, both sides lose.

 

 

 

 

‘Kitchen’esthetics

Weekday mornings find me springing up from bed, thanks to my wake up alarm set to 5:50 am, and barging straight to the kitchen after a hurried round of bathroom rituals! Next thing, I see myself scurrying for food in my refrigerator, pulling out a container of batter, fiercely cutting fruits, chopping vegetables, breaking an egg or two among the slew of chores that a healthy breakfast and a fancy lunch demand. As the freshly fermented dosa batter is spread on the hot griddle with one hand, a sip of steaming hot filter coffee would be consumed with the other hand while attempting to tune in to the BBC news broadcast, all at the same time! To me, the day doesn’t seem to start off right with a low productivity quotient. I have figured over the tenure of motherhood that multitasking is one label women so proudly wear on their sleeves, considering themselves to be the be-all and end-all of their families’ existence!

Mornings are also queerly the perfect time to put my hard earned beauty tips into practice. Almost always as an impulsive gesture, the leftover cucumber on the cutting board makes a quick appearance in the form of a face mask, at other times it is tomato pulp or the white of an egg. Avocado, coconut oil and honey to name a few have also made their way to the hall of fame list of my aesthetic products. It is amusing to see the startled faces of my kids as they open their sleepy eyes to their mom’s changing avatars ! It goes without mention that there is a wealth of skin care products in the pile of fruit and vegetable leftovers that end up in our kitchen trash. Often times for me, self-pampering is not the long drawn, carefully laid out, step by step process, rather an impromptu act.

0052629
Credit: Google images

Going back to the do-it-yourselves tips on skin and hair care, here are a few benefits that I learned about some of these natural ingredients. According to most recent fad, coconut oil is the best nourishing cream found in nature, in addition to being a super food. Cucumber juice, tomato pulp or mashed banana can all make for a refreshing and brightening mask and so is ground orange peel+yogurt+honey mix. Oatmeal powder mixed with warm water or milk makes a fine face scrub. Sliced cucumber or potato applied on the eyes are believed to reduce dark circles. The white of the egg counts for an excellent skin firming agent, whereas the yolk helps nourish hair. Honey and avocado mask helps in acne treatment. Avocado, rich in unsaturated fat and vitamin E is famously known to moisturize dry skin. Aloe Vera is another popular kitchen ingredient that is part of my skin and hair care agenda. It has great skin-soothing and healing properties and makes for a rich hydrating hair conditioner. There is a plethora of products that make for effective home made masks, and that includes pretty much everything in the kitchen pantry except, probably salt and pepper!

Lunch boxes for the family are neatly lined up on the counter top, 30 minutes into the culinary acrobatics. I realize I can no longer handle my stiff-lipped mumbles through the dried up layer of the flaky mask. I make a hasty trip to the sink for a quick face wash as the school bus alarm goes off, to render the rest a glimpse of my real face!!

 

Quinoa patties – Greek style

Every weekend I get into the mode of cooking in bulk often in anticipation of the busy work week ahead. As always, I was on a roll that Saturday morning multitasking in my kitchen, looking for a quinoa recipe. The other day, I had bought 10 pounds of quinoa from ‘Sprouts’ supermarket as part of my healthy-eating campaign! I called out to my daughter to find out recipes online for a quinoa salad that was different from last time. She obliged instantly and searched up a very inviting recipe of Greek style Quinoa patties or cakes with a simple dip to go along. So much for asking to find a salad recipe!

Well, I was not sure of the healthy aspect of the dish anymore given its description, but decided to make it anyway by using as less oil as possible, still retaining its taste. And partly to give my daughter credit for her unique finding. Here is how our first attempt on quinoa cakes looked like.

Ingredients: Patties:

Onion large –   1/2, finely chopped
Garlic   –   2 cloves, finely chopped
Baby spinach – 3 handful
Olive oil – 1/4 cup
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa cooked in 1 1/4 cups water
Eggs – 2 large(substitute with all-purpose flour mixed in water, for binding)
Crumbled feta – 1/2 cup
Parsley/cilantro – 1 tbsp, freshly chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt – 1/4 teaspoon
Wheat bread crumbs – 1/2 cup
Black pepper to taste(add green chilli for more spice)

Tzatziki:

1 cucumber peeled and grated
½ teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt(I used plain regular yogurt)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dill – finely chopped(fresh)
½ tablespoon mint – finely chopped(fresh)
½ tablespoon olive oil
½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice

20150131_20220820150201_09342520150131_20122720150131_200920

Cooking directions: Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottom or non-stick pan. Add onion and garlic and stir till translucent for about 5 minutes. Add in the chopped spinach and let it cook for another 2,3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add beaten eggs, quinoa, lemon zest, feta, cilantro, salt, black pepper and mix well. Add in the bread crumbs to the mixture and let it stand for about 5 minutes for good absorption. Make patties around 2 inch diameter and 1/2 inch thick out of small balls scooped from the mixture.

In a heavy-bottom skillet, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and place the patties on the top. Let it cook on one side till golden brown. Dab the top of the patties with olive oil and turn them around. Let it stay till both sides are crisp and brown. Remove patties from the skillet and gently place them on a dish.

To make tzatziki: Mix cucumber and 1 teaspoon salt and sieve the juice into a bowl. Mix in yogurt, garlic, mint, dill, olive oil and lemon juice, and refrigerate till ready to serve. Serve warm patties with chilled tzatziki sauce as accompaniment.

My family engaged ravenously on the patties, especially with the zesty dip on the side. I saw the patties disappear in no time with delight and thought to myself it was well- worth the effort! These patties are excellent fillers, and can be used as appetizers. In fact, they can be planned as a main meal with a soup thrown in to make it complete!

Gingerly

My love affair with Ginger

 20140125_070311

Ginger finds its way in mostly everything I cook, from the simple morning tea to the exotic evening accompaniment for Indian bread or rice. Not to mention its innumerable health benefits, it is simply a zesty, aromatic addition to the dinner table.

As much as I love this ingredient in my dishes, my thirteen year old disapproves of it-with vehemence, with passion, with the skill of a detective bestowed with an extra pair of nostrils and several hundred taste buds designed just to sense this benign root. I defend; I come back with an equally fervent delivery of eulogistic monologue on why it is an inevitable ingredient of my kitchen spice list, but to no avail.

As I pen these lines, I am invigorated by sips of ginger tea that go in, with every word that flows out. Words fall short of the varied roles this effervescent spice plays, from the kitchen table to the Ayurvedic medicine chest (Ayurveda is a traditional, alternative system of medicine being practiced in India for centuries). Simply put, it is an integral part of my cuisine and everyday life. Here’s why:

  • Ginger is an underground stem that not only adds zing to the food, but also enhances its absorption and digestion.
  • It can be used in many forms – fresh, dried, powdered, or as a juice.
  • A concoction of fresh ginger juice mixed with honey is a perfect home remedy for cough and sore throat. About a teaspoon would suffice.
  • A cup of ginger tea with honey gives soothing relief to sore throat and cold.
  • It is applied to skin to treat burns in many parts of the world.
  • Ginger is widely used for treating stomach upset, loss of appetite, nausea and flatulence.
  • It is known to have anti-inflammatory properties, helping in reducing pain caused by swelling.
  • It is used as a flavoring in food and drinks, a spicy herb in cooking and a fragrant in soaps and cosmetics.

I assure my daughter that I love her and my culinary endeavors are mere extensions of that feeling. I look at her with thankfulness as she surpasses, with time the stage of discomfort, biting into a piece of ginger root in her food. She gives me the all-encompassing look of ‘Mom knows better’. I sigh in relief as we declare ceasefire on the Ginger War zone!