Friday, 29 November 2013

An Asian Feast - Lotus Stem in a sweet, sticky, sesame sauce.

When I was working for a stock broking firm in another life, working crazy hours, having no sense of balance, taking pride in being a workaholic, if someone had asked me what I liked to do, I wouldn't be able to think of anything, except work! But, I have realised that  to be happy, I needed more, more of a connection - spiritual, creative, with other people, with the environment!
Over the years, I have had a chance to pursue some of my interests and it has been absolutely wonderful to meet with people who shared this passion. Whether it is a shared interest in literature, sports, music or Food!
Recently a couple of my friends and I got together to make vegan sushi and the result was a massive Asian feast - Miso noodle soup, Vietnamese rice paper rolls, Lotus stem in a sticky sweet sauce and Sushi. The preparation involved only slicing and chopping some beautiful and colourful vegetables and cooking the most flavourful sushi rice and taking a ton of pictures (well, the credit for that goes to my friend Dipti Jain!). The real experiment and surprise of the lunch was the lotus stem preparation, simple, quick and yummy with a surprising texture. I am eager for all of you to try this recipe, its really great!

Lotus Stem in a sticky, sweet, sesame sauce


3 lotus stems
5-6 dried red chillies
1 tbsp (or more) sesame seeds
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
11/2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp (or lesser) olive or sesame oil
salt to taste (although its probably not required)


Soak and wash the lotus stems well. With a knife scrape the skin away. Now thinly slice the lotus stem in a slant fashion, this helps increase the cooking surface and decrease cooking time.
In a hot wok, pour in the oil, red chillies and sesame seeds. As they begin to pop and splutter, add the sliced lotus stems. Fry them for a couple of minutes and add the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and salt if required. Stir, and the liquid will quickly become a sticky sauce. Let it cook for a few more minutes and  take it off the heat. The lotus stem should still be a little crunchy.
Enjoy hot!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Peanut butter Cookies

As a person with such a connection with food, a lot of my happy and feel good moments are related to food. And I have passed this love on to my family as well! With my daughter at home for vacation, we are creating fun and easy to make goodies everyday and enjoying them together. It is a real highlight of her day to be cooking and making healthier versions of the traditional fare, it makes her feel responsible for her health and have fun while doing that!

Peanut butter (the kind which has organic peanuts, no hydrogenated oil, salt and sugar), is a great addition to your diet, a good source of protein and good fat, which can help lower cholesterol. We are both (my daughter and I) big fans and are constantly trying peanut butter with anything from our raw oatmeal to a bowl of fruit, vegan ice cream or a humble toast. Even our vegetarian golden retriever, Bheem is a big fan. So today, I am sharing not one but 2 peanut butter cookie recipes - one for people and one for dogs!

Peanut butter cookies - for people

3/4 cup peanut butter (hydrogenated oil free)
1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp water
11/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (use only if your peanut butter is unsalted)

Mix the peanut butter, coconut oil, sugar and water until smooth. Combine the dry ingredients and add to the wet ingredients. Beat until well incorporated. Roll into equal balls on a silicon sheet or a greased tray and flatten with a fork (1/4 inch rounds). If you prefer, chewy cookies with a soft centre, like me, leave the cookies thick, as you can see I leave mine pretty thick. And if you prefer them thin and crispy, flatten them further.

Preheat the oven to 180*C and bake for 7-10 mins or until golden brown.
Let it sit on the baking sheet for an additional minute before transferring to a cooling rack, otherwise they tend to break or crumble.

Peanut butter cookies - for dogs


3/4 cup peanut butter (hydrogenated oil free)
1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil
2 tsp sugar
4 tbsp water
11/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (use only if your peanut butter is unsalted)

The same as the recipe above.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Napa Cabbage Rolls

An all in one roll is such an awesome food concept! Who ever thought of that is a real genius! Just think about it, you can customise each roll to have exactly what you like in the exact quantity you prefer. You get different yummy bits and different textures in each gloriously perfect bite. Plus, its quick to make and doesn't leave a load of dishes to clean.
These are my version of fresh and light rolls, of course the same can be made with rice paper sheets, but the crunch and freshness of the napa cabbage is just something else. This recipe lends itself well to variations, especially with the sauce or dressing. I have used a fresh pepper pickle in mustard as a sauce, but I made a simple peanut butter one for my daughter.

So, lets talk about the hero of this dish ( borrowing the Masterchef Australia lingo) - Napa Cabbage, also called Chinese Cabbage, its milder flavour compared to the regular cabbage makes it ideal for salads and raw cuisine. More over, it is high in antioxidant content and rich in dietary fibre which makes it great for reducing bad cholesterol. It is also a rich source of folic acid and Vitamin C. It is wonderful for bone health and delaying osteoporosis because of its high Vitamin K content.
The Napa Cabbage Rolls are great for a light lunch, dinner or as an appetiser when you are entertaining  or even as a salad replacement as a part of a big spread.



1. Fresh Peppercorns in Mustard Pickle

1/2 cup Fresh green peppercorns
2 inch fresh turmeric root grated
2 inch fresh ginger root grated
6-7 cloves of garlic
5-6 fresh thai chillies
2-3 tbsp mustard seeds ground
2-3 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp jaggery
1 tsp sea salt

Mix all the ingredients and store in a glass jar. Tie a muslin cloth under the lid and keep in the sun for a few days to cure. The store in the fridge.

2. Peanut Butter Sauce

2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tsp soy sauce
1-2 tsp mustard sauce
1 tsp maple syrup

Whisk all the ingredients together.


8-10 napa cabbage leaves (for the rolls)
2 napa cabbage leaves finely chopped for the filling
red, yellow and green bell peppers finely sliced
3-4 fresh basil leaves
1 avocado cubed with a splash of lemon juice
some finely sliced ginger
1 cup bean sprout noodles (or glass noodles)
a few shreds of nori (seaweed)

Spread the sauce or pickle. Add the other ingredients. Hold lengthwise and chomp away!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Raw creamy tomato basil soup

My soup addiction has been going on for weeks now and its amazing that there is so much variety in taste and ingredients that make the humble soup such a spectacular lunch! And, for this recipe, I used some of my home grown bounty of tomatoes and ghost chillies. The act of growing your own food,  cooking with and eating it, makes one have such gratitude for the food. There also comes an appreciation for organic produce and for keeping the nutrition in the food intact by keeping it raw or just lightly cooking it! This kind of mindfulness about our food helps in better assimilation and nourishment. 

The recipe for this Raw creamy basil soup is available at the guest post that I did, over at Susmitha's awesome vegan blog - "Veganosaurus" -

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Horse gram, broccoli, shitake soup

I have to admit, I have a soup thing
going on. I am eating some kind of soup everyday for lunch. Now, the great thing about soup, is that it is all encompassing. It works well as clear, thick, chunky, stew like, with noodles, with beans, with tofu... It is difficult to find anything more versatile than the humble soup,   almost every cuisine in the world has its own unique take on it. Moreover, every kind of vegetable has a soup dedicated to it - tomato soup, cream of spinach, beet borscht, mushroom, sweet corn etc.

The interesting ingredient of this soup is Horse gram, fairly well known in the south of India, this lentil is extremely rich in iron and protein. It also helps reduce insulin resistance and makes it a wonderful addition to help with diabetes.


1/3 cup horse gram (soaked overnight)
1 tsp vegetable bouillon
2 cups broccoli florets
1/2 cup dried shitake mushrooms (soaked in water)
1/2 red bell pepper cubed
1 tomato quartered
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic grated
a big piece of ginger grated (the size depends on your love for ginger)
2 cups water
2 tsp olive oil


In a saucepan, heat the oil and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté for a few minutes and add the soaked and rinsed horse gram and the water. Let it boil for a few minutes. Now add all the chopped vegetables, the shitake and the water it was soaked in along with the bouillon. You don't need salt because the bouillon has some. Also if you can't get your hands on the bouillon, you could add vegetable stock or just a bay leaf and black cardamom at the point of sautéing the onion.
Let the soup heat up but not boil. Turn the heat off. This ensures that the veggies are not overcooked. Even the horse gram has a bite to it and is not over done.
Enjoy on a rainy afternoon!

Friday, 30 August 2013

Pizza !!!

Nothing spells celebration or fun, like Pizza does! If I want to get my daughter all excited and make her weekend fun, its pizza time at our house! It is the best accompaniment to a movie, a cricket match, a beautiful sunday afternoon, a fun night out and pretty much every thing in between!

I do think, both the crust and toppings+sauce are equally important. And, I realise how strongly people feel about the crust! Some like a deep dish, some like it stuffed, for me, its the really thin and crispy crust that does the trick.

Today I am going to share a rather fun and easy way to make the perfect pizza. It ensures a crunchy and light crust, without any of the kneading, rising and waiting! The flavours are balanced and the pizza, perfection itself. The sauce keeps well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, so if you have it on hand, it can all be put together pretty quickly. You can go ahead and use your preferred vegan cheese, I haven't, because I like my pizza without cheese. Another great addition is a bit of arugula or fresh basil on top after baking, they add a bit of fresh nuttiness and a healthy dose of greens. Unfortunately I didn't think of it while taking the picture, only while greedily gobbling it down :)

Ingredients (makes 6 pizzas)

Crust -
Get a pack of tortillas. Yes, you read it right, tortillas. This will be the base of the thin crust pizza. It will ensure the right crunchiness and lightness and won't be doughy and heavy. They also bake and crunch up  real quickly.

Sauce -
6 medium sized tomatoes
5-6 cloves of garlic chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp marjoram
2 tsp basil
7-8 peppercorns freshly ground
sea salt to taste
1 tsp date palm sugar

Topping -
1 small red pepper diced
1 yellow pepper diced
1 small zucchini diced
1/2 cup steamed pumpkin
12 plum tomatoes (cut or pierced)
4-5 basil leaves
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
a pinch of salt


For the sauce, puree 5 tomatoes and chop 1. Heat the oil and sauté the garlic. Add the puree and cook for a few minutes. Add the chopped tomato herbs, spices, sugar and salt. Simmer and cook till the sauce thickens. You know the sauce is done, when you move the spatula in the pan and the watery bits don't separate from the chunky ones. Turn off the heat.

For the topping, heat the oil and sauté the vegetables for a minute. Add the pepper, salt and balsamic vinegar. Cook for another minute or two and turn off the heat.

Preheat the oven to 250*C. Now, lightly brush some olive oil on the tortilla (on the side that will go on the pizza stone or oven rack), this will make the crust brown evenly and be crunchy. Spread a bit of sauce (not too much, otherwise it could become soggy), leaving the edges. Now add the toppings.
Bake till the sides are brown and serve hot. Celebrate :)

Friday, 23 August 2013

Traditional Wisdom - grandma, auntie, mama and Ayurveda!

I was speaking to my mama this morning, and we were discussing traditional post natal diets and how they not only help the new mother heal her own body but also helps the baby avoid colic. When I had my baby, my mother painstakingly prepared special hot meals for me, lightly cooked green leafy vegetables, gourds and squashes of different kinds, lightly spiced with peppercorns and garlic; calcium rich sesame chikki and gaund or edible plant resin laddus for strengthening bones and increasing lactation.
Our conversation got me thinking, growing up, there was a home remedy for almost every minor ailment or condition - sore throat, cold, pimples, flatulence, migraines, motion sickness... Most families have a similar arsenal of traditional wisdom passed on over generations and some acquired over the years!

Although modern medicine is certainly a boon and the advancements made in science and medicine in the last 100 years have been phenomenal. The focus has not been on preventing disease, just managing it. We have increased our life expectancy but not the quality of our lives. I believe the secret to good health, lies in clean, plant based foods. Ayurveda is based on similar principles and has an extensive wealth of food based wisdom, to prevent and cure disease.

Today I wanted to share some traditional recipes and ingredients, which have its roots in Ayurveda, that can help cure and relieve minor ailments and conditions.

1. Ginger tea - fresh ginger root, grated or pounded and boiled with water. This is great for digestion and that is the reason it features in so many Indian recipes that have beans, lentils, cruciferous vegetables or heavier to digest ingredients.
It is also helps relieve migraines and other headaches. It is believed that ginger may block prostiglandins, which stimulate some muscle contractions, control inflammation and impact some hormones. Therefore migraines may be prevented and stopped by ginger stifling the action of prostiglandins.
Nausea due to morning sickness, headaches or motion sickness gets relieved with ginger tea or chewing on a piece of candied ginger!

2. Cucumber - grated and used as as face mask, relieves the skin after a day in the sun. You could also use the juice as a cleanser and toner regularly for good skin! 
Of course its wonderful to eat cucumber or juice and drink it. It is a valuable source of antioxidants like Vitamin C, betacarotene and manganese and a host of other flavanoids.

3. Ajwain or carom seeds - These seeds are just magical. Its great for lactating mothers, as this helps with digestion and wards off constipation and the infant doesn't get colicky. It is also believed to heal the muscles of the floor of the uterus and help recovery after the delivery.
It is anti bacterial and anti fungal and helps relieve congestion from phlegm. Just roast some ajwain seeds and make a few small poultices and keep it near the pillows while sleeping.

4. Black Peppercorns - It is one of the most popular spice and is a part of so many cuisines around the world. It is also a carminitive, a substance that helps prevent the formation of intestinal gas, as it helps stimulate hydrochloric acid production.
In addition it also helps relieve fever by promoting sweating. Traditionally, a pepper rasam (which is like a watery tomato soup), is the tasty and comforting way to relieve the flu.

Tomato Rasam  
Ingredients - 3-4 tomatoes, a handful of tur dal (split pigeon pea), 4-5 curry leaves, mustard seeds -1 tsp, pepper powder -  tsp, red chilly powder-1/2 tsp, jeera powder- 1/2 tsp, coriander powder-1/2 tsp, salt to taste, a tsp of coconut oil.
Process - In a pressure cooker, cook the dal and tomatoes with water. Whisk the cooked dal and tomatoes well, you can also strain it, if you prefer it smoother in texture. Heat the oil, add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and spices, let it crackle and add it to the dal mix. Add the salt and boil. Taste and you can add more pepper or other spices if you prefer. You could drink it or mix with some red rice and eat it.
Pepper also has remarkable antioxidant and antibacterial effects too. The outer layer of the peppercorn stimulates the breakdown of fat cells, helping weight loss, while providing energy to burn.

5. Turmeric - It is a potent spice that dominates Indian cooking and Ayurveda for very obvious reasons.  It is anti-inflammatory, and helps in the treatment of Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis. 
It is wonderful for immunity and for a boost of antioxidants. It can be consumed in the powder form or the fresh root. A pinch of turmeric in a glass of water every day is a great idea for all of us!
Turmeric also has preventative benefits against neuro degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
There are so many other preventative and curative benefits of turmeric like - cardiovascular protection, improved liver function, reduced risk of childhood leukaemia, inhibiting cancer cell growth and metastases, cancer prevention, cholesterol lowering, relieves rheumatoid arthritis and helps fight cystic fibrosis.

As a parent, I do worry about the kind of side-effects some of the prescribed medication have on my child and my family. And while some things do require medical attention, a minor cold, cough, congestion or headache can be managed in the kitchen.:)

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Soba Bean Fusion Bowl

Greetings from sunny California to all of you!!
I am enjoying the luscious fruits of this beautiful land - juicy peaches bursting with nectar, sweet and generously plump strawberries, glossy red cherries and of course greens and beans of several kinds...
Trying out new varieties of fruits and vegetables like Pluots (a mix of plum and apricots), black velvet plums or dinosaur kale, new recipes and cuisines!
Today's recipe was a result of being inspired by new discoveries, these beautiful Squash Blossoms and rediscovering some old favourites like garbanzo beans and buckwheat soba noodles in a new avatar - a true fusion food, that is satisfying, easy to prepare and yummy ! This fusion bowl has a definite Asian flavour because of the ginger and soba noodles but at the same time has an Italian quality brought by the creamy garbanzo and the squash blossoms bring in a Mexican touch!

Soba Bean Fusion Bowl

1 cup cooked garbanzo beans and few cups of water used to cook the beans.
1 tbsp tahini (or ground sesame)
1 bunch buckwheat Soba noodles (cooked according to instructions on the pack)
3 squash flowers, quartered (optional)
1 carrot, diced
4 small yellow peppers
2 leaves dinosaur Kale chopped roughly (can be swapped with spinach)
1 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1. Put the water from the beans to heat and add the tahini.
2. Once it begins to boil, add the vegetables and ginger and let it boil for 2 minutes. You could add more water if necessary.
3. Turn the heat off. now, add the beans, noodles and the squash flowers.
4. Add salt and pepper and stir.
5. Serve hot, with scooped avocado.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Tea & Sympathy

Sitting with my girlfriends and enjoying a cup of tea and conversation is perhaps one of the most fulfilling and satisfying experiences for me. It is such a mundane event and yet, one where we can share our deepest emotions, laugh together, live in the moment and in the span of a couple of hours feel connected to, and feel for each other. 
As adults caught up in our fast paced and busy lives - work, home, children, spouse and the mandatory socialising, this slow paced activity of making and sharing tea is relaxing and warming not just for the body, but for the soul.
What is so therapeutic in this seemingly ordinary tea? Companionship, camaraderie, receiving someone's full attention, some empathy, advice and a good laugh! In other words friendship!

As children our life revolves around our friends. And yet as we get older, it gets so easy to be caught up in trying to be responsible adults, working so hard at life, that we forget to nurture our friendships.

Every positive relationship in our life, nourishes and protects our spirit. We are social beings, we need each other and it is important for our emotional, spiritual and physical well being to feel loved, cherished, to be understood, to be heard, to feel valued. 

And there is more to it, when we surround ourselves with friends in a relaxed atmosphere to share a laugh, we relax, the tension leaves our muscles, stress hormones are reduced, immunity is strengthened by producing more infection fighting antibodies, pain is diminished, brain function is enhanced in both sides of the brain and we are protected against heart disease.

A secret to good health! Celebrate your friendships, laugh out aloud and call your friend(s) for some tea and sympathy.
Today I wanted to share two of my favourite herbal tea recipes. A lovely mint tea, which is dairy and caffeine free and great for your digestion.

Fresh Mint Tea

3 cups of fresh water
12-15 fresh mint leaves

Boil the water, let it cool for a minute and pour it into the teapot. Now add the fresh mint leaves to the pot. It needs to steep for a minute before you pour the tea into the cups. Enjoy!

And, a spice tea which packs quite an oomph. Also wonderful for a sore throat!

Spice Tea

2 inch piece of ginger
1 clove
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
3 cups of fresh water

Grate the ginger with its skin, lightly pound on the clove. Boil the water with all 3 spices for a minute and let it steep for a few minutes more. Ready to serve!                                                                

Friday, 17 May 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Ice-cream

If you love peanut butter and chocolate, (honestly, what is there not to love?) you will thank me for this rich, creamy, home made, healthy version of the best ice cream combo in the world.
I came upon the idea to make this recipe, quite by accident or rather the universe nudged me in the general direction and I seized the opportunity :). I have had organic, salt, sugar and hydrogenated oil free, peanut butter in my fridge for a few weeks now, and I just have not had the chance to eat it. Plus have been thinking about making a chocolate recipe and nothing seemed very inspiring or I didn't have all the ingredients, if it did. This morning, right after breakfast, I had to have something sweet, and a sudden inspiration hit me, peanut butter chocolate ice-cream! So, I threw in the ingredients together in the Vitamix, and voila!!!

2/3 cup peanut butter (if your peanut butter is sweetened, you could reduce the sweetener)
1/2 cup raw cacao powder (if you don't have that, regular cocoa would have to do)
1/2 cup extra virgin coconut oil
4 tbsp agave or your favourite liquid sweetener
3 small bananas
a pinch of salt
2 cups ice

Churn all of the above together in a blender. Eat some immediately:) and store the rest in the freezer.
You could add fruit while serving, I had mine with bananas and mangoes!
Before eating, let the ice cream sit out for a bit, its best enjoyed at a soft serve consistency.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Monsoon noodle soup

The rains have finally arrived and it has cooled down considerably! Such a relief, phew!! In India, no matter where you live, its impossible to be untouched or unaffected by the monsoons. There is a particular romance to it though. It begins with a long wait and an almost physical longing for the rains to arrive and then comes the first rain, the invigorating smell of the damp earth, the sound of the raindrops pitter pattering on the roof, and everything looks beautiful and pristine!
The rains always bring for me, an urge to eat something hot, watching the rain, maybe getting a little drenched :). So many of my childhood memories involve food, this is no different, my most distinct memories of the monsoons are in Delhi, dancing in the rains with my friends and waiting for the  corn on the cob cart to pass by, so we can all have the hot, coal roasted corn, smeared with lemon, chilly powder, pepper and salt, yum yum !! Or sitting in my minuscule apartment in Mumbai, sipping  ginger tea and eating a hot vada pav (a street food version of a burger), and listening to the melancholy ghazals of Jagjit Singh!
And today, a steady drizzle and a cool breeze accompanied by the occasional thunder and lightening and a bowl of pipping hot noodle soup, a perfect monsoon evening in Bangalore.
It was the fastest noodle soup I have ever made, with very few ingredients and yet, so satisfying. A definite rainy day recipe!


Soba noodles (buckwheat), you could use rice sticks or glass noodles too.
5-6 florets of broccoli
2 big chilly peppers (less heat)
5-6 shitake mushrooms (dried)
2-3 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp oil (sesame, peanut or olive)
pepper to taste


Boil the noodles according to the instructions on the pack and keep aside. Soak the dried shitake mushrooms in hot water to rehydrate.
In a hot wok, pour the oil and add the sesame seeds. Add the broccoli, peppers and mushrooms (without its water) and stir fry for a few minutes.
Now, add the water from the mushrooms and the soy sauce and pepper. Add a little more water and taste the broth to check for taste (salt is not required because of the soy).
Let it all come to a boil, add the noodles and turn the heat off.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Mangoliscious !!

There is a reason that Mangoes are called the king of fruits! The aroma, the rich sweetness and the lusciousness. Its worth the wait, when the season finally arrives and we are greeted with so many different varieties of mangoes, each with their own unique flavour! Alphonso remains the gold standard at least for our family, to measure the taste, sweetness and flavour of each of the other varieties of mangoes that we  try.
Mangoes are nutritional powerhouses too. Incredibly rich in Vitamin A and flavonoids, mangoes are great for eye health and good skin. Fresh mangoes are also a good source of potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Vitamin B6. They are great for the body's immunity and resistance against infections and help scavenge the harmful oxygen free radicals.

This recipe is a healthier and vegan version of the famous cheesecake!! I was a big fan of the frozen cheesecake, and for the longest time did not even venture to try (making or eating) a vegan version of it, fearing that it would never match up. But this recipe makes the creamiest and most perfect dream cakes (read vegan cheesecakes).
So, do you want to know the secret? CASHEWS!
Nuts are good for us, but cashews, are real stars, in taste as well as their nutritive value. They have a lower fat content than most other nuts and about 75% of their fat is unsaturated fatty acids, plus about 75% of this unsaturated fatty acid content is oleic acid, which promotes good cardiovascular health, even in diabetics! Also a good source of magnesium, they are great for bone health.

This recipe is a version from the amazing 'my new roots' blog. I made a mango dream cake in honour of the mango season, but feel free to try it with any other fruit.

So, here is the recipe...

Raw Mango Cashew Dream cake
1/2 cup raw almonds (pecan or walnuts will also work)
1/2 cup pitted dates (soaked in 2 tbsp hot water for an hour)
¼ tsp quality sea salt
1 ½ cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup raw coconut oil
1/3 cup raw agave nectar
1 cup chopped mango, preferably Alphonso 

1. In a mixer, process the dates, almonds and salt, to chunky consistency. Line a pie tin with cling foil and press down the date mix like a crust.
2. Warm coconut oil and agave in a small saucepan on low heat until liquid and whisk.

3. In a powerful food processor / blender, place all filling ingredients (except the mango) and blend on high until very smooth and silky.
4. Pour about 2/3 of the mixture out onto the crust and smooth with a spatula. Add the mango to the remaining filling and blend on high until smooth. Pour onto the first layer of filling. Place in freezer until solid.

5. To serve, remove from freezer 30 minutes prior to eating. Run a smooth, sharp knife under hot water and cut into slices. Serve on its own, or with fresh mango.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Give Yourself a Chance to Love Healthier Foods

I am very excited for all of you to read this guest blog post, by my sister in law, Lisa, who has always been a great source of culinary and personal inspiration to me!! An exceptional baker and traditional Italian cook, she loves recreating the classics in a healthier, vegan avatar! I am so proud to be working with her on a Vegan Cookbook, and creating some lip smacking, healthy recipes. Here, she shares a little bit of her journey and her simply awesome Chocolate Sorbet recipe!!!

"Give Yourself a Chance to Love Healthier Foods", Lisa Dentino .

What I cook and the way we eat has drastically changed over the past few years. We always thought that we were very healthy eaters since we were vegetarians and ate lots of fruits and veggies, but once we started really observing what we ate, we saw we were making a lot of poor food choices by eating foods that were processed, stripped of nutrients, or had unnecessary added sugar and salt. So, I started gradually reducing the sugar, salt and fat/oils in recipes that I made. In baked goods, I started swapping out half the white flour for one or more nutrient-dense ingredients like whole wheat flour, almond flour, soy flour, or oat bran, substituting eggs with flaxseed powder and water, and looking for healthier sources of fat. We reluctantly said goodbye to the fried Indian snacks that my South Indian husband got us hooked onto and started choosing healthier snacks like unsalted, raw nuts and seeds, and unsweetened and unsulfured dried fruit and berries. We started eating more beans, grains, sprouts and salads, and I started designing recipes and desserts around super foods like avocados, sweet potatoes, berries, walnuts, chia seeds, bok choy, kale, broccoli, flax seeds, and raw cacao powder. The biggest change we made was cutting out dairy (milk, butter, yogurt and cheese). We were really surprised at how easy this was to do. Once we started eating healthier foods, our taste buds adjusted to eating minimal to zero salt and sugar. The taste of milk, yogurt and cheese became unpalatable and they became more difficult for us to digest. So, the final elimination of dairy products just sort of happened and we stopped craving them ever since.  

As part of our healthier lifestyle makeover, the type of food that I buy has drastically changed. Living in California where we have access to a great variety of locally grown nuts, fruits, beans, seeds and vegetables all year round, has made the switch super easy. Probably the single most important rule I follow now is that I always buy foods in the purest and most natural form possible. For example, when I buy cashews, I buy raw, organic cashews, not cashews that have been roasted in oil and salted. I buy olive oil and coconut oil that are organic, unrefined, extra virgin and first cold pressed. The maple syrup I buy is tapped from a maple tree. And so on. I buy a wide variety of organic fruits and vegetables. I also buy a lot of beans, nuts and seeds, most of them organic and from local farms. When I do buy packaged items like cereal and bread, I always read the ingredients on the back to see that there is a respectable level of protein and fiber and the lowest amount of sugar and salt possible. I don’t buy anything in a can and I never buy anything with food dye (yellow # 5 etc...), palm oil, cottonseed oil, refined oils, or high fructose corn syrup.

Those who know us well, know that we live to eat and that we don’t restrict our food intake. Our friends know that when they eat at our house they will be served something unconventional, like chili with chocolate, cheesecake made from tofu, cookies with sweet potatoes, or creamy broccoli soup made with cashews. Most of our friends are not vegan, but they are always surprised by the fact that there is no dairy in what I serve them. Almost always, they ask for the recipe, and quite often ask to take some leftovers home. Friends also tell us quite often that we look much younger, especially friends we haven’t seen for a while. We believe it’s because we are eating smarter. And just so you know, I am 3 dress sizes smaller than what I was a few years ago. More importantly, my cholesterol levels, blood pressure, sugar levels and overall energy are that of someone half my age.

So, if you are thinking about how you might make some healthier changes for you and your family, there are so many great ways to start. One great video that I highly recommend is Forks Over Knives Take advantage of great blogs like Manasa’s that can offer great recipes and sources of inspiration for a healthier lifestyle. As human beings, we can adapt to new things if we give ourselves the chance. So, do give yourself and your family the chance to fall in love with healthier foods.

Here is one of our favorite vegan desserts. By the way, it’s cholesterol free, it has a low glycemic index and it’s full of antioxidants. Most importantly, one bite and you’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to Paris!

Chocolate Gelato

  • 3 ripe (Haas) avocados (approx. 2 2/3 cups - cubed)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. raw cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder (or carob powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon cayenne (optional if you like spicy)
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup & ¼ cup agave syrup
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1. In a food processor or mixer, process the avocados until they are smooth.
. Sift the cacao powder, cinnamon and cayenne and add it to the avocado mixture. (If you cannot find cacao powder, Hersheys unsweetened baking cocoa powder will do.)
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until the texture is smooth.
4. Transfer mixture into a container that is suitable for the freezer.
5. Freeze for several hours before serving.



Thursday, 21 March 2013

Lets breathe....

I have been practising yoga for over an year now, and its only recently that I have become conscious of my natural breathing and how flawed it is! It has been an absolute revelation! I never realised before, that I held my breath so often and for so many reasons, it seems to be an instinctive reaction, to stress, to pain, to fear, to anxiety, to everything.
When I am holding a yoga pose and it hurts, I tend to hold my breath, till the teacher reminds me to breathe. If my daughter has fever and I am taking her temperature, I cannot breathe till the thermometer beeps. If we are driving and there is a lot of traffic (which is all the time), I tend to hold my breath. Even if I am focussing on something, reading or writing, I hold my breath.
To add to all this breath holding, even the quality of my breathing is not so great. Apart from the times that I have consciously taken deep breaths (when I have been asked to by the doctor during an examination or before writing an exam), I tend to not use my diaphragm while breathing at all. This kind of shallow chest breathing is necessary only in extreme emotional arousal or physical challenge not for everyday stress and anxiety.

It is surprising that we are born with this innate wisdom, to eat only when hungry, to breathe deeply and as we learn the ways of the world, we unlearn all the knowledge that mother nature sent us with. Have you seen babies breathe, full breaths with their bellies expanding and contracting? Thats what I am talking about! I have not seen very many adults breathing like that, but the ones that I have, look calm, peaceful and radiate a distinct aura.

Breathing deeply has many benefits, it allows the body to create more energy by oxygenating our blood, cells and organs. The waste and toxins are eliminated more efficiently, helping the body detoxify. It improves your metabolism, also leading to weight loss. Promotes better and more restful sleep. Also, the more obvious and instant benefits are that it helps us reduce and manage stress and anxiety.
Breathing also has an effect on our digestion, yes everything we do impacts our food! When we breathe deeply, using our diaphragm, the contracting and relaxing of the abdominal muscles provide a massage to our small and large intestines, helping the intestinal muscles do their job efficiently! Additionally, since deep breathing relaxes us, the blood flows to the digestive organs, where its needed, helping digestion (when we are stressed, the blood rushes to the brain and muscles, digestion stops and body is in fight/flight mode).

So lets Breathe...

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Bake your own Bread

There is something therapeutic and warm and inviting about the smell of freshly baked bread. Like, all will be well in the world and that, we will overcome all our worries! I obviously love bread! To the extent, that for me the high point of travelling to a new place is to sample the local bread - Goan Poi, Maharashtrian bhrun, the airy French Baguette, handcrafted Turkish bread, the Californian sprouted grain loaf and many yummy more...

Bread is so versatile, you can make it with all kinds of grains, nuts and seeds and also eat it with everything from curries and soups to a humble peanut butter- banana sandwich, which incidentally I cannot live without!
The recipe that I am sharing today is a tried and tested basic white bread (from the book
"Cooking Light Way to Bake") that has been veganized, and once you learn to bake this well, then a whole wheat or multigrain or any other variety of bread gets much easier to bake and experiment with. Although this is white bread, it is still preservative and chemical free. So, enjoy!!!

1 tsp sugar
1 package active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
1 1/4 cups warm water divided
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
olive oil

1. Dissolve the sugar and yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes. This step is called proofing. Soon the mixture will start bubbling.
2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife. Add the remaining 1 cup water, flour and salt to the yeast mixture. Stir until a soft dough forms.
3. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (for about 7 mins, use a timer to ensure proper kneading).

4. Place dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil, turning to coat the top. Cover with cling film, and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 45 mins or until doubled in size. Gently press 2 fingers into dough, if the indentation remains, dough has risen enough.

5. Punch down the dough, cover and let rise for 30 mins.
6. Punch down again and cover and let it rest for 10 mins.

7. Now roll the dough into a rectangle over a floured surface. Roll up tightly and press firmly to eliminate air pockets. pinch the seams and ends. Place it in the loaf pan coated with olive oil , seam side  down. Cover and let it rise for 30 mins or till doubled.
8. Gently brush with olive oil. Bake at 250*C for 12 mins and then reduce the temperature to 220*C and bake for another 10-15 mins, until the loaf sounds hollow (you can tap on it to check).



9. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
10. Cut a slice, spread some organic (salt, sugar and hydrogenated oil free) peanut butter and slice a banana and ENJOY!