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

Plantain chips

When I crunch into one of those freshly made plantain chips, also called banana chips, it is the heavenly smell of God’s own country that I inhale! I call them mystic food. Back home, all we had to do to eat fresh chips was to walk down to the roadside vendor, who sieved the hot chips right out of the gigantic pan of simmering coconut oil to a large container and pack them for dear customers. Every time my India visit would wind up in the last- minute purchase and packing of my suitcases with these yums to the brim.

I had tried my hands on making these chips at home from fresh raw plantains bought at the local supermarket. My effort in recreating the original flavor here in US always fell short in terms of taste, texture or crispness. Whenever my brother visits, it is a ritual for us to make deep fried food, mostly puris(Indian deep fried bread) with potato gravy on Sunday mornings, which is a form of brother-sister bonding. But this time around, we strayed away from puris to plantain chips, reminiscent of ‘those’ times. He was also equipped with gadgets for precise slicing and coconut oil to add authentic flavor, knowing him for a perfectionist in his culinary indulgences. And man, didn’t it pay off this time? We got to taste near perfect plantain chips that my friend’s son was willing to pay $5.00 per lb for!

All you need for the plantain chips are

Raw firm plantains                                             – 2 or 3

Oil (Canola  )                                                          – 3 cups

Coconut oil                                                             – 1/4 cup

salt solution(salt 3tsp, water 1/4 cup)   – 1/4 cup

20141207_09433120140927_115958

20140927_120031 20140927_120056

20140927_12010220140927_121514

20140927_120121 20140927_120149

Wash the plantain, wipe them, cut the ends and make about 3 slits lengthwise on the peel. Make sure it doesn’t make its way into the flesh. Put a knife in the slits and slowly peel the plantains. In a large pan, add the canola oil and coconut oil and turn on the heat. You can also make chips with just one kind of oil. We added coconut oil for flavor. Be careful while mixing. If you add more coconut oil the combination causes the oil to froth and come out of the pan.

Once the oil heats, either slice the peeled plantain straight onto the oil or drop the pre-sliced plantain into the oil. About 1/2 a plantain would suffice for one lot. Stir them occasionally keeping the flame at medium high. Once the plantain feels slightly crisp add 2 tsp of salt solution. It makes a wave like sound for few seconds. Do not be scared by it(If you are scared to add salt solution to oil, you can sprinkle salt once you take the chips off the pan, but this won’t be as tasty). Turn over the chips so the salt gets everywhere, reduce the flame and strain them onto a bowl lined with oil absorbent paper. Now the chips are ready to be consumed. Indulge yourself guilt free as they are homemade and there are no additives that you don’t know of, at least! After all, who doesn’t want to indulge in the guilty pleasure of deep fried delicacies every once in a while.

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!