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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.

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

Day 7: This moment

I have been listening to Practicing Mindfulness, an introductory course to meditation on audible. It has been there ever since I got added on to the audible few years’ back, this particular topic never got my attention until very recent.  It does not end without saying that how serious was I in getting into yoga, purchased the books, researched few yoga institutes in India for teacher training course.  That thought gradually faded when I was told that I need to have a regular practice of yoga asanas for at least 6 months. I joined yoga class, but I was extremely intermittent, maybe that’s not the right term to use, I would go to 3 classes per year at the most. Anyhow, that never progressed any further.

I digressed too much; coming back to the audible book that I am currently listening began after few days into my yoga practice. The topic of meditation is not alien to me.  As a child, we were told to meditate, pray and sit still for longer hours in front of god during special occasions, and yes – there weren’t many distractions back then either. As the author says, we never usually stay in the present moment, our thoughts vacillate back and forth from past to future. Paying attention to present is the most difficult task. As he makes such statements, instantly my mind wanders to evaluate itself.  So, when I come back to listening, I missed out on so much and had to rewind the cursor back to the position where I lost it. He also says that, sitting with your thoughts is the most difficult thing to do. It brings varied thoughts ranging from great to worse, thoughts like anger, frustrations, grudges, resentments, goodness, serenity, happiness, pending tasks, past, future, things to do and many more that makes you want to react immediately and if you do, which you normally would leave you restless.  To avoid such thoughts, we would put the TV on, or keep ourselves busy with something or the other but does not entertain the thought of spending time along to sit back and watch our thoughts and not act on them instantaneously. That is the hard part and that is why author says it is not as exotic as the media projects itself to be.

The author also adds that, our mind is a muscle that we need to work on. For instance, if one wants to bitch about something all the time, your mind wants to do that all the time. That is why they say, the more you practice, the better you get it. Apparently, the same thing happens with our brain muscle too. Growing up, we were told to have only good thoughts all the time, without any reasoning or knowing how that helps us to stay healthy. Happy thoughts generate positive vibes and organically it surfaces to your face and radiates through.  Now, the question is how ? ..and that is why it is considered as a challenge? Living in the moment is certainly not as easy as it sounds.

How about you? What your thoughts on mediation, do you practice it? If so, how do you feel about it? Has it helped you in any areas of your life?

P.S: This is part of 500 word challenge, if you skip a day, you pick where you have left and continue. That is exactly what I did.  And yes, there were no edits done.

Day 3: Morning Huddle

Exactly two weeks back, I found out that there are yoga classes in the early morning in a private setting. I prepped myself up by trying to go to bed early and wake up early. It took almost a week for me to wake myself up early and made it to my first yoga class. That day was productive. Knowing myself, well enough that, what I want is not what happens.  So, I have decided to not set any goals what-so-ever and decided to take one day at a time. Every single day, I have this plan to drop it off!  Four days into these yoga sessions, my muscles were so sore, I was in pain and all I wanted to do was take a day off from work and do nothing. But, one day lag will set me back, I trudged on in that pain, in the cold (yes, it’s Fall season and very cold here).

It’s been a week, due to cold weather here, I fight with my inner self every single day to get out of the bed, to get ready and get to class. Just last week has been great so far.  I have accomplished many things at much faster pace at work than I usually do. Early mornings are quiet, with fresh mind you would task yourself to finish one thing at least before people roll in and drag me into inane number of scheduled and impromptu meetings.  That one pristine hour for your self-nourishment is totally worth waking up for. Plus, I have been disciplined in cooking somewhat healthier food and getting a good night sleep.

Any yogi’s here? I have always wanted to yoga, in fact the first post of my this very blog speaks about yoga I’ve done in Bryant Park for free and how I wished I could incorporate it in my everyday life routine. I guess, one can wish for many things and not take any steps. Also, they say, it takes 21 days for your body to get used to get addicted to. And just yesterday, the TV show I was watching mentioned it takes 28 days to get into a habit and that your body starts craving. 21 or 28 days, if you truly want it, you will find a way out. I am not there yet in this aspect. But, I do feel proud of my little accomplishment, despite the cancellation of my yoga class once in the last one week, I have managed to get in 20 minutes of yoga.  Being independent to some extent, gives me a new ray of hope to continue on the path that I have always hoped for. Only time will tell.

How about you all? Do you have any such routines for your fitness? And what kind of foods do you eat? I feel bloated in the mornings and that leads to difficulties in performing some poses.  One suggestion, I got though was to eat light for dinner and eat ahead of bed time. That itself is very challenging for me. I love to eat, and eat heavy!

I’ll leave you all with the quote that resonates with my present state of mind.

“Man is a creature of habits. When you do yoga, you unlearn your habits.”  – Bharat Thakur

P.S: It is part of 500 word challenge, one of the rule is to not edit as you write. So, pardon me with all the mistakes. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

DIY’s and me

I could have just googled what DIY means, I have heard the term a lot without knowing the full form of it. If you are in the same boat as I am – it is “Do It Yourself”. So, I have been scouring through internet for something or the other all the time. My interests on green living, making my own food,  lately, my spare time is usually spent on chemical free living – not entirely, but I am still exploring and slacking at the same time. My current interests have been in making my own home cleaning products, essentials rather for our regular use – laundry detergent, body lotions, shampoos, body wash, deodorant, tooth paste and all-purpose cleaners.

It just sounds so easy to just purchase ready-made considering the time I have in my hands with a full time job that has been demanding so much more than usual 9-5 lately. I still have evenings and weekends, but as you know, winters and energy levels do not go well together.  I just want to wrap myself up in a cozy comforter and watch some movie or read a book.

I digress, so DIY’s, I have used soap nuts to wash my hair once, do the laundry – thrice so far, and washed dishes few times with it. It requires me to prepare the soap nut liquid every week and not to forget using it. My DIY body butter – lasted for about a month or so and I am very satisfied with the results.  I have used lemons & baking soda to clean the rest room twice. I got vinegar to use it for all purpose cleaning needs, which I never got around to it. Repeating the same process until it gets incorporated into lifestyle routine is just not easy, for the un-organized me, it sounds like more work than just purchasing it. But, I feel good when I do such things.

The other thing probably bothers me is – I did not make notes on the natural recipes that I found online and it is time consuming and painful to repeat the search process again. This time around, I am planning to make notes and keep that one or two recipes that worked best for my needs and do it once or twice a month.

For the food, after writing it about here and the suggestions I got, and some changes that I made now made my cooking homemade food therapeutic. I have been enjoying making my meals. Or perhaps, I prioritized what is important to me at the moment and just focusing on it.

How about your DIY projects?

Whipped Body butter – Home made

I spoke about making my own body butter in one of my previous posts and source from which I got the recipe was also posted there. I ended up getting all my ingredients – all of them raw, unrefined, organic(?as they say) shea and cocoa butters. Also, got organic coconut oil and sweet almond oil. On top of these expenses, I invested in getting 4 essential oils worth $85 and I feel I have over paid. To get the ingredients, I used amazon and read numerous blogs, reviews and cost effective ways to get them. I felt good about all of the main ingredients except that I felt being ripped off for essential oils. But, it seems like they are really going to last longer as you barely use not more than few drops.

I did the measurements of all in equal quantities and followed the exact same procedure of what has been described here (one, two). I have added combination of tea-tree oil for controlling acne and lavender for fragrance. The final product looked beautiful, like the one you get in stores, it’s whipped and the fact that this is equally edible made me so much comfortable to apply it on my skin. It surely felt moisturizing. The most important fact is – it is natural, chemical free and organic and it is nourishing.

Cons: what they do not disclose or discuss is:

It is bit greasy on my skin, and when I apply on face, it is much more (Yes, I use same lotion for everything and very generous too, I try not to use too many different products) – I do not know the results yet as how my skin will be in next few weeks or so. I will keep you posted.

It became bit hard, despite keeping it at a room temperature and storing in some what cool dark place, it is not as smooth as it was when it was whipped.

What I learned from the process:

It should be prepared in small batches until you get the desired results. Only after I made this and found how hard it has become, that I looked for ways to make it smoother. This is when I found this blog which lists out what we could do differently to make it more smoother and non-greasy but moisturizing body butter. I will apply those tips in my next batch when ever I am done with the current.

That cocoa & coconut oil are considered comedogenic, which means that they usually clog the pores and not good for acne prone skin. But, I have the history of using coconut oil on my face, for it’s anti-bacterial and anti-fugal properties, it might not be a problem. And cocoa is known to be a great anti-oxidant,  has restorative properties and soothes sensitive skin. Also, I have added tea-tree oil for acne combat. It is very important to know your skin type before you invest your time and energy in making them.

Even though every one prefers lavender, I find myself to be agnostic about it and did not find myself to use it again. The irony is that I spent the highest amount on this particular essential oil. I have always liked lemony, citrus flavored freshness smell and read some where that cocoa & lemon does not go well together. Next time, I will try it without cocoa and add lemon oil to it.

Results:

I will have to give it at least few weeks before I conclude. I am experimenting on myself before I consider gifting it to any one. The shelf life? – since all the ingredients are shelf stable, they say it should not go bad for 2-3 years, but I will be using it all up in couple of weeks.

Dear readers, do you make your own beauty products? Where do you source your ingredients from and which brand of essential oils have you used ?

Body lotion – at home?

I have been following this blog – Trash is for tossers which I have spoken about when I came across this in one of the new’s article. Not sure, if I agree with everything she does or says but I definitely fell in love with the idea of making my own body lotion with just 4 ingredients. Three of which I switch on and off and use it (coconut oil and cocoa butter & shea butter), this recipe is a combination of those three and plus another one. Recipe here, and same recipe here from another blogger, which I will be doing during this upcoming christmas holidays. Pretty excited. So, i went ahead and ordered hand mixer as well. I have been thinking of ordering this electric hand mixer for numerous other reasons and finally this motivated me to get it.

She also has some other suggestions on making your own tooth paste, deodorant which I will try it out in the future. Right now, I will be running out of coconut oil and cocoa butter soon and found to be perfect time to implement it. I still do not know where to scour the ingredients from, I will be heading to whole foods, if not, I will most likely get my ingredients from amazon.

Do you have any suggestions as to where to buy these organic unrefined ingredients – sweet almond oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil. Just the idea that it is chemical free and edible makes it more interesting to try it. I am so looking forward for this.

Do you make any of your products on your own, be it own cleaning products, make up related, or fragrances or anything that you have ever done?

 

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?