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Day 24 : Pre & Post cooking work

Our food is now greatly simplified. We just eat salads for lunch and dinner every day. The vegetables vary, dressing remains the same. The prep time is very time consuming, may be not that bad if it comes down to 2-3 hours for 3 days’ worth of food. And then packing the food in containers layering it from one of the greens , quinoa/cracked wheat/brown rice,  lentils of variety (one type every week), two steamed vegetables ( carrots, broccoli, beets, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts), I shop for veggies every 3 days so that they do not sit in the refrigerator and escape my memory. I have been diligent about that lately as I often forget and throw out the veggies. Bringing in only when I plan to cook is greatly helping me.

This obviously entails cleaning of veggies, chopping them, steaming and packing the food in containers. And all of them should be done in a day. I have also stopped using canned products that requires me to perform additional two steps of soaking a day before and cooking them. But, that is a lot of work as I am greatly un-coordinated and inefficient in the way I organize my cooking. Additionally, I make spicy peanut powder inspired by one of my favorite chef’s recipe, along with dressing. These items all combined make up for a fulfilling meal and I cannot be happier to have found something that is sustainable. The dressing which is supposed to last for 3 days usually does not. I think we overdose ourselves greatly. Still, not very bad compared to my earlier days of trying to make homemade food. Let’s just say I am able to manage and see a scope for improvement on being more efficient with my energy and time.

When I have some time and mood for cooking, I make a simple Italian, Indian or Mexican dish to satiate my taste buds or find a new recipe to play with. Then comes the cleaning part, which is where I am still struggling with, I am trying to wash them off immediately but the constraint of storing wet dishes makes it challenging. I have timed it several times, the dishes are done under 10 minutes’ tops, but motivating myself to do that work takes hours of cajoling. Additional stress if I have guests over.  And that is why, I have not been keen on inviting anyone over. Sure, we can order food outside, but it undermines the whole idea of saving when we are tight on budget. It’s any day cheaper to cook healthy meals at home than eating outside.

This is partly bragging as well as ranting about the benefits and dis-advantages of homemade meals and where I stand. Hope you have ignored all my rants and took only positive aspects. After all, in America – those added sugars, salt, canned and refrigerated goods are neither tasty nor healthy anyway.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”  ~Hippocrates

Now, your turn – speak up about your cooking adventures.

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Day 23: Resolutions review

It’s been exactly a month when I took these resolutions :

  1. Drink 2 liters of water every day.
  2. Yoga 5 times a week.
  3. De-clutter once a week at least for 20 minutes.
  4. Write on this blog at least twice a week
  5. Eat home made food unless there is no option.
  6. Treat myself when I achieve some of personal and professional goals.
  7. Read at least two books each month.

and….

I followed none. Absolutely none. It breaks my heart to over estimate my capabilities and commitments and under deliver them. It is bit in-humane for me to do it. When I make lists like these, I forget that I am a human and not a robot. I have mood swings, my physical and mental abilities have limitations and more importantly trying to outrun my laziness to manage my time efficiently. The only thing that I have been consistently trying to do is drinking 2 liters of water and that is if I make it my agenda first thing in the morning. Yes, I forget to drink water until I have these dreams where I am desperately searching for water every where waking myself up in the mid night to gulp down full bottle of water. The other thing that I have been some what successful is #5, 5 out of 7 days, meals are prepared at home, that should not be even part of resolution for that matter, it was that holiday time and I went off the track eating every meal outside.  #2 is averaging once a week and rest of them are almost not happening.

Then, why make resolutions when you cannot follow? I really like to plan, execution is a paramount problem for me, having a sizable goals is probably a good idea. But, no matter what I do, I have difficulty following it through. As the saying goes, rules are for breaking and so as resolutions are for renewing. Ok, I just made that up, the resolution part. Self-blaming does not help either and it is greatly discouraging, so please do not do that, especially if you are in the same boat as I am in not following through resolutions. So, I give up and stick to only two reasonable goals that are healthy – #1 and #5 and I seem to follow that a bit, so I continue.

If I reduce my resolutions to just to two of them, my success rate just went up drastically. So, I will just stick to it. It all made me feel better and want to eat an chocolate ice cream to celebrate myself. Speaking of which, I have been on  a hunt for satiating my chocolate ice cream by making it at home. Yes, I have been eating lots of ice cream lately and I put on so much of weight lately, putting on weight is not a problem but the limited choice of dresses to wear is the problem. So, I am in the process of cutting down that addiction. Not easy. So, I found this awesome recipe that I am planning to give it a shot. I’ll share the link when it comes out well. It looked great and we can make it at home with few ingredients. I have to wait around until my banana ripens and I could froze them. Patience is the key. Did I just went off track? Ok, I’ll stop right here and right now.

How are you all doing with your resolutions?

Day 15 : Fulfilling meal

What constitutes a meal that is nutritious, healthy and most importantly that satiates all your senses?. The smell, texture, taste that is not only appetizing but also very fulfilling is something that I look forward too. When you have food, it should be energizing as well. That is one such recipe I came across and I loved it very much. I usually look for vegan/vegetarian meals at various restaurants that I keep trying. When I came across this organic cafe Live Alive,  I fell in love with variety of food options that nurtures soul and body. I would look forward to trying different item on the menu every time I happen to visit that café. I carefully made a note of all the veggies, the style of cut, texture and taste, it was so delicious that I have decided to give it a try at home.

So, I scouted the entire world wide web for making the dressing recipe.. until I landed on this website, this turned out to be exactly as I tasted there. I made a batch of it that serves for up to 6 meals.  I had cooked quinoa, and layered with steamed broccoli, cooked & diced beets, steamed diced carrots and also added for some spicy-crunchy taste – dry-roasted and semi- blended peanut-chilli powder-coriander seeds-cumin-garlic-mustard seats. It turned out to be amazing. I just cannot stop bragging about how much I loved it. This is all refrigerated, all you need to do is organize, warm it for 30 seconds in microwave, add the dressing and have it. I have had it dinner & lunch for two days.  It was absolutely terrific. Highly recommend trying it.

If you were my regular blog reader, you would know how I keep struggling with food options and always on lookout for variety of cooking channels to get ideas for easy-to-prepare dishes. I want to minimize my time and optimize the options and easily scale for as many people as I want to serve. This recipe definitely goes under my favorite list.  What about you? And also, I do give reference links every time I like something and try it out. When I re-visit it In the near future, most of the links just does not work anymore. That is why, I plan on building my favorite recipe index, albeit copied, the references will be provided along with the text version of the recipe.  Between, I see the trend in food industry is shifting to grain bowls, mostly with kale-quinoa, kale-farro, kale-brown rice as a base, and all the other options are placed on top without mixing by giving an picturesque appeal to mix them up and eat. It just looks lovely and very appetizing. What appeals to eye and taste buds is a real winner –and before you assume, definitely not those junk foods that are deep fried and that are served in larger quantities.

I read somewhere, gut is the root cause of disease and food is the real medicine. If you ea t right, then you don’t have to visit any doctor. Please do share any simple veggie recipes you have.  Looking forward to hear from you.

Day 10: Breakfast routine

Do you have a breakfast routine?  What does it comprise of?

By writing those two sentences above, I just learned the grammatical difference between Do and Does. And when should each be used.  You must have figured it out by now the huge number of grammatical errors in my writings.  Ok, the topic was not about grammar but about breakfast.

I have been averaging to 5 hours of yoga in a week, i.e 5 classes. The classes are missed mainly coz my instructor cancels at least one morning class in a given week and I on the other occasion. I have been having pretty light dinners lately and that will make me very hungry in the mornings. I am looking at simple but healthy choice of food(s) that gives me enough protein, calcium and all important nutrients that are necessary for a balancing meal. Please share if you have any suggestions that are easy to assimilate into my routine.

One of the ideas is to have lentil/oat creeps, soak the lentils of different varieties, grind them up and spread it out on a hot flat pan. Have it with hummus/peanut sauce/tahini or with any steam cooked veggie combinations every day.  Lunch should be simpler that it should be no brainer and I have not settled on some ideas yet. I know that I have been going back and forth on simplifying the menu and never getting around it. I have also noticed that, I am consistently ignoring to include greens in my diet.  Making it a point to include diverse range of options is very challenging. And which is why, I am on lookout for simple, yet nutritious meals to consume.

Someone said, eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and supper like a pauper.  Something of similar sort has been suggested by my yoga instructor in order for me to bend flexibly during yoga session.  But, I love my food and prefer to have really heavy dinner. Since, my love for yoga exceeds love for food at the moment; I am trying my best to be conscious on what I eat, when I eat and how much I eat along with the amount of water I consume on a daily basis.  I have also ingrained into my morning routine to have lemon-honey-warm-water combination first thing as soon as I wake up to help kick start my metabolism.

It feels good to know that, once you kick start one thing, without forcing yourself, you would be doing other things and it all feels very natural and logical. Do you have any such things, that you have started as an experiment and that gradually put you in a path that you once thought was difficult to get there? I would love to hear your thoughts on that. Please share.

Writing this post today made me look into usage of has vs have, that vs which, do vs does and as vs since. I hope to learn, remember and correct myself when the opportunity presents itself in the near future.

I’ll leave you all with a quote on food to ponder upon:

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”  ~Hippocrates

All about oats

Lately, I have incorporated oats into my breakfast regime in an on and off basis.  One cup (156 g) of oats contain – 103 g of carbs, 26g of protein and 17g of fiber.  All, I have heard was that oats is rich in fiber and no one really spoke about how much carbs it contains and the calories -676, these statistics blew my mind. I compared this to one cup of basmati rice and the carbs were 45 g, mere 0.6g of fiber and accounts for 206 calories. Now, I am not sure which one is better, especially when you want to get maximum nutrition and yet maintain or lose weight. The fiber seems to be of importance in many aspects of health. This website seems to give some level of accuracy on how much daily intake of fiber is required and how to account for it here.  And here is another website that lists top 10 sources of fiber.

So much for that, I decided to use up steel cut oats that were sitting in my fridge for ever. I quickly grind a cup of oats, add veggies to it and let it sit for few minutes and there you go.

Recipe1:

1 cup oats – powdered.

1/4 of medium sized cabbage – thinly sliced

Green chillies, bit of cilantro/coriander(optional) leaves and salt per your taste

Nuts of your choice – shredded. (optional)

Recipe2

1 cup oats – powdered

Spinach  or parsley or tomatoes – grind it along with oats or separately and mix them together

green chillies, bit of cilantro (optional), salt – as per your taste buds.

Nuts of your choice – shredded. (optional)

How to: Mix them together, pour water enough to be able to make pan cakes. Let it sit for 10 minutes, turn on the stove with your pan and start making spicy fiber rich quick meal breakfast pancakes.

If you would like to add eggs to above recipes – you can – they turn out great too. Similarly, you can add any combination of vegetables, nuts and they turn out super delicious.

Serve warm with – any kind of green chutney or coconut chutney or peanut chutney or even hummus – it tastes great. Or you could just have them as is without anything on the side.

If I find myself with some time in the mornings, I will quickly make them and have it.

Of course, you can even make sweeter version with banana’s and berries as well – I am sure it tastes as good. I just prefer spicy aspect of it. Nuts gives that extra added crunch while eating. I just fell in love with this quick and easy recipe.

Any nutritionist out there? or make conscious food choices for nurturing your bodies, what measures do you take to include healthy diet without surviving much on vitamin supplements?

 

Home made food – is it a tiresome chore?

The other day, I hung out with a friend of mine and mentioned that she hired a cook who cooks once every week. That has been a great relief for her and how she managed to stay out as she thinks that as chore that she does not enjoy. Since, I complained about how stressful cooking everyday has been and suggested that I hire the same person too.

It got me into thinking – is cooking really that stressful for me or am I bothered by something else?

  1. Grocery shopping – I do not have a car and walk 3 miles every single day to work. So, I just pick up few vegetables every single day through out the week. This has been bothering me, especially stopping by a grocery store every single evening, picking groceries, carrying them home, organizing them in the refrigerator is chore that I really burdensome.
  2. Then cooking 2 different dishes every single day – for simple reason, I love variety and always rack up my brain and browse various websites for recipes.
  3. The most difficult part – cleaning dishes – I create too many dishes to be cleaned, I cook, and on the side I clean, by the time I am done with preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner (yes, three different) for two, It took away at-least 2 hours of my time leaving me beyond exhausted.

Then, why do I prefer home made cooking?

  1. I shop consciously, very rarely do I get processed canned food home for all the health benefits they speak about.
  2. I love to create out-of-my-comfort food dishes apart from my regular one’s. I also use less to no oil and try to not over cook veggies. I am vegetarian by choice and I try to cook with almost every veggie that I can lay my hands on. Sometimes good, at times bad, but overall they are mostly edible.
  3. I compost – have been composting so religiously, the results are yet to come.

How can I save myself from being exhausted?

  1. I recently switched to weekly for fresh-grocery shopping (includes fruits and veggies) and monthly for other required groceries, just like my parents who did on budget. There are always exception, when we have guests, or if I want to make something interesting in between or if we run out. I am still analyzing the needs. – I would save myself from adhoc shopping and strain to carry them home. I just feel relieved with this plan in place. Hopefully, it helps me to get-away-from-plastic bags pretty soon.
  2. Meal planner – I just downloaded a free meal planner where I would be making a list of what to cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the entire week. It helps me with prep work too and hopefully saves time. I made it this week and I hope to improve my efficiency better.
  3. Washing dishes – there is no short cut yet, unfortunately, I do not have a dish washer and have to clean right then and there and some how need to learn to minimize the usage.

If nothing works, well, I plan to hire the cook on a need basis. It is always nice to treat myself by giving myself a nice break. I should at-least try once and see how it goes.

Overall, I do feel stressful at times and often wonder if I could make so much money where i could hire someone to come in and help me. But, at the same time, it also gives me satisfaction to some extent that I can indeed cook and feed myself. Eating out everyday is not my cup of tea even though I have done it for months in the past. I am slowly but steadily getting into the groove.

How about you folks? how do you do your meal planning? do you enjoy ? if yes – why and if not- why not? What is your ideal cooking/eating strategy?

Cranberry Chutney

Being from south, it is all about chutneys. My mother made chutneys all the time. My north indian friends were surprised on many things that I made it as matter of fact. In the process of such things, I decided to make chutney out of cranberry. Also, I found out that cranberries goes by some name in India as well and are available.

As most of you my dear blog readers know that, I buy most of my fresh grocery at farmers market and came across the fresh and eye catching cranberries that I could not resist and ended up buying.  The taste of berries is extremely sour, it tasted like, when you bite into extremely sour raw green tamarind – that is exactly what it felt like. I decided to make a chutney and use it on the side for dosa’s, chapathi’s, rice and just to munch on plain chips. It turned out to be delicious.

Recipe:

  1. Box full of cranberries – the bigger size (approximately 500 grams)
  2. Salt for taste
  3. Garlic  pods – it depends on how much you want it, I have added 2 small sized whole garlic pods
  4. 15 – Green chillies –  according to the level of spiciness.
  5. Sugar – 2 tbsp, to bring down the extreme sourness.
  6. Oil – 2 tbsp to sautee them.

Procedure:

  1. Put the pan on stove, add oil, after it warms up, add ingredients from 1 to 5 and let it cook in medium flame until they become soft.
  2. After it is cooked, let it cool down, add it to mixer, add sugar and grind it until it becomes paste. Adjust spice, salt or sugar according to your taste.
  3. You could also temper with oil, red chilli, mustard, cumin, curry leaf and onion to add flavor for much richer taste. I choose to stop at step 2.

Result:

Cranberry Chutney

Cranberry Chutney

Used:

I have used it as a spread on chapathi’s and bread.

I have added yogurt to it and made it as a sauce for dipping.

It lasted for about a month for me, yes in the fridge. Spicy, tangy, the delicious cranberry chutney was absolutely mouth watering.

Cravings..

It has been slightly over a week that I cooked at home. Have been grabbing lunch at work and dinner’s with friends. With the unexpected expense with home repairs,  eating out everyday indeed has been challenging financially. Just as we try to manage this crisis, the check that we gave last month to a person has decided to deposit at the very crunch time made the whole thing more challenging. Every time, the time came to hang out with my friends makes my heart bleed. Lately, hanging out with friends has been turning out to be very expensive. I am spending the money I do not have. How do I politely decline such going out in such situations? may be I should be honest about our situation and suggest alternatives instead? . It does not help the fact that with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner and holiday season surely brings more expenses.

I digress, enough of my rantings about current financial crisis. It has been 10 days and I was craving for some home made food and specifically a particular summer sour soup that my mother used to make with fresh tamarind that was available during that time. So, I set out to cook some chickpea-tomato curry and soup along with rice.  The food turned out to be delicious, it sure tasted great. Cravings and deprivation does bring some sense of longing to some simple foods isn’t?

 

Moroccan Beet Salad

As part of CSA farm share, I received 5 beets, and I was pleasantly surprised by many options that were quite similar when I looked for salad recipes on youtube. Every recipe I saw had at the least either 60 minutes of baking or 60 minutes of boiling. I sure was not ready to spend so much time cooking. I choose to use the pressure cooker and boiled it until there were 3 whistles. Voila it’s ready.

Ingredients

5 medium sized beets – slightly cut and pressure cooked until 3 whistles

1 yellow onion – medium – finely chopped

Cilantro/Parsley – 1/2 cup finely chopped (or you can add more depending on your taste buds)

Olive oil – 1tbsp

Lime juice – 1/2

Salt, pepper & cumin – as per taste (yes all three)

1/2 -Jalapenos (optional) – finely chopped

Procedure

  1. Peel off the outer skin of boiled beets, cut them into equal size proportions -1/2 inch square cubes.
  2. Mix – finely chopped onion, cilantro/parsley, olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper & cumin – mix it. I have added jalapeno as well for extra spice.
  3. Mix beets from step #1 & step #2 – adjust the ingredients according to your taste buds.
  4. Refrigerate it for 2-3 hours before serving it.

It sure was one delicious salad that I had. You should definitely try. Great summer salad. Very refreshing. Sorry, again, I had no picture. Also, I tried with non-red beets.

Here is the video where I sourced my recipe from except for the way of boiling the beets and jalapenos. Rest of the procedure is almost same.

Cooking with Alia -Moroccan Beetroot Salad

Cauliflower Salad

When ever I am void of topics, sharing recipes seems to be my to go.  While looking for simpler, raw version, I came across this recipe on youtube by Rawvana (not our rawana from ramayan) and it turned out to be super delicious, which I will be making again and again in the coming days. Very filling, healthy and delicious. You crave for a rice, and diabetic, then it is a must. Check it out yourself.

And this for myself and all of you people who are lazy to check the video out.

set#1

Cauliflower head medium size – 1

Jalapeno pepper – 1

onion white – 1/2 of small (alternatively, you could use one or two stems of scallions)

Lime/Lemon juice – 1 medium size

Cilantro – 3 stems

Salt – according to your taste

Cumin powder – 1/2 tbsp

Set#2

Red Bell peppers – 2 small – diced into small cubes

Green bell pepper – 1 medium – diced into small cubes

Avocado – 1 – sliced into small cubes

Procedure

  1. Remove all the stems of cauliflower, just have the head and grind that in the food processor, after it is 3/4 done, add jalapeno, lime juice, scallions/onion, cilantro, cumin powder, basically all of remaining items under set#1 and continue processing in food processor until all of them are thoroughly mixed and chopped well and take it into a bowl.
  2. To the contents from bowl from step #1, add the diced bell peppers from set 2 and mix it well. Adjust – lime/spice/salt/olive oil if you prefer, according to your taste buds.
  3. Just when you are about to serve, cut and add avocado pieces and sprinkle bit of lime juice on top of it to avoid getting it darker.

Voila – it is so delicious, so filling and perfect quick recipe for dinner or any pot lucks. Enjoy.

Pictures straight from my kitchen.

Cauliflower salad.. yummm

Cauliflower salad.. yummm

With Flash

With Flash

Let me know if you got a chance to try it out and how it turned?