Wednesday, 30 January 2013

eat in peace

We have all progressively become busier and busier, I am yet to meet an adult man or a woman who is not extremely busy! We all want to achieve a lot, work hard, manage the household, spend time with our kids, socialise and even vacation with a vengeance ! It is almost taboo to appear as though we aren't busy all the time and actually have time to enjoy it all. Even our food doesn't escape this lack of time! We eat like we fill fuel in our cars, its mechanical, on the go, just to keep the engine running. Coffee in the car, sandwich on the go, bowl of cereal while checking mail. Its just another chore, an item on a list to be ticked off.

But, we are not machines, we are complex, intelligent, emotional creatures and food involves a complex integration of hormonal, neuronal, physiologic and metabolic controls. Moreover our state of mind, moods, how and where we eat also affects our food and how our body responds to it.

Few years back I was reading this book by Rujuta Diwekar -"Don't lose your mind, lose your weight", and there is some great advice there! For me the big lesson was a really simple one, and yet it changed my entire approach towards food.
She talks about eating food in a calm state of mind. The reasoning behind it, is that when you are disturbed, agitated, sad, angry or stressed, the body perceives it as a threat to its survival and doesn't produce the digestive juices required to breakdown and assimilate the food, instead the food gets converted to fat (we have acquired this evolutionary intelligence over centuries to survive drought, famine and floods). Stress caused by work situations, relationships, traffic, lack of sleep etc leads to the secretion of cortisol. The function of cortisol is to lower the metabolic rate, prevent fat burning and help convert food to fat.

So, I tried it, eating with a calm mind, focusing on the food, its taste, its appearance, its smell and even on how I felt eating it. If I was upset or agitated, I first calmed myself, concentrated on my breath and ate only when I was at peace or could focus on the food. Initially I ate alone, so that I was not distracted by conversation or other's moods, situations etc. This took sometime to become a habit but has improved my relationship with my body and my food tremendously. This practise ensures that you never overeat or indulge in emotional eating. The food gets digested well, nutrients absorbed, there is no indigestion, acid reflux etc due to poor digestion. And most importantly, you enjoy and appreciate every bite. Unmindful eating leads to overeating because you are not satisfied till you are stuffed, eating in a  positive, peaceful and mindful manner satisfies you with a much smaller portion size, adds to your sense of well being and nourishes your body. As you practise this for a while, you will realise, that you are more in sync with your body's needs (your body will crave the nutrient its lacking, e.g. if your activity levels increase, the body craves more protein rich foods etc). Of course this helps you lose weight too...
So try it, eat in peace!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Happy Pongal!

Today is Pongal or Maker Sankranti depending on where you come from. Its the day when the glorious Sun God begins its ascendancy and entry into the northern hemisphere and thus it signifies an event wherein the Sun God (which signifies knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom), reminds us to turn away from the darkness of delusion and begin to gradually grow in purity, wisdom and knowledge.
Of course, all festivals are basically about family, friends and Food. I associate each festival with a special dessert and sometimes an entire meal. Holi means gujjiyas (sweet fried dumplings) made by mum, which just melt in your mouth, Karvachauth, which is a fast that wives keep for the husband's good health, always mean a rich, creamy black dal (ma ki dal) which is my absolute favourite and Pongal, is no different. That brings us to its namesake Pongal , a glorious, smoky flavoured jaggery, rice and lentil pudding. 
This is one of the few light Indian desserts, probably because its considered more of a breakfast than dessert.
This is a rich, dairy free version of the South Indian delicacy. The pudding is thickened and yummified with a sesame, almond and coconut paste which increases the nutrition quotient of this already healthy dessert. 
Sesame seeds apart from being great in taste, are a very good source of calcium, magnesium, zinc and copper. They are great for bone health, help lower blood pressure and even prevent migraines and PMS. Every reason to include them in our daily diet.
So, here it is, Pongal - hoping that we all achieve health and happiness this year.
1/2 cup rice
1/2 cup moog dal
4 cups water
1/2 cup jaggery (or more depending on personal preference)
2 tbsp sesame seeds
5 almonds
1/2 cup cashews
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
3 tbsp virgin coconut oil

1. In a pressure cooker, pour 2 tbsp (out of 3) coconut oil and roast the lentils till they are light brown and emit a distinct aroma of roasting.
2. Add the rice and 3 cups (out of 4) of water to the lentils and pressure cook to a extra soft consistency.
3. Bring a cup of water to a boil, add the jaggery to it. After the jaggery is completely liquified, add the cooked lentils and rice to it.
4. Make a paste of the sesame, almonds and coconut.
5. In the remaining coconut oil, roast the cashews on low heat to brown them.
6. Add the paste and cashews to the sweetened lentils and rice mix. After all the elements are incorporated and it comes to a boil, take it off the heat.
Enjoy as breakfast or dessert! Happy Pongal!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Sweet Potato Love

I am in love with sweet potatoes! At the age of 26, I was introduced to them at a hip restaurant, at the very fashionable Rodeo Drive in LA - sweet potato fries!  To this day, I have no memory of the rest of the meal, but I remember distinctly the chunky, golden brown, mildly salted, amazingly delicious sweet potato fries. I am a changed woman ever since. Now, I can never ignore them at the supermarket isle or the farmer's market and I have to try them at a restaurant, if the menu mentions it. I am officially hooked!

Today I wanted to share one of my all time favourite sweet potato recipes (I have to thank my friend Kiiran for this, she makes it for me whenever I visit her), which is actually my version of the Gujrati classic, "Undhiyo". So, the traditional version is very rich in oil but all the same has many other vegetables. This is a lighter version with the focus on the queen of starch!

Many of us look at all starchy vegetables with circumspect, mostly because food starches are converted into simple sugars by our digestive tracts. This also results in a spike in the blood sugar levels . Sweet potatoes on the other hand, actually improve blood sugar regulation, even in type 2 diabetes sufferers.
Sweet potatoes are very rich in vitamin A and while passing through our digestive tract, even reduce the risk posed by heavy metals and oxygen radicals. The antioxidants in it also provide protection against inflammation related health problems.

Here it goes,


2 large sweet potatoes peeled and diced
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
10 cloves of garlic
1 inch piece of ginger
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 green chillies chopped
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
2 tsp carom seeds or ajwain
1 tsp sugar 
salt to taste
1 tbsp coconut oil (olive oil is fine too)
10 pieces bakerwadi (This is a Maharashtrian fried snack, Chitlebandhu is a good brand. It is optional in this recipe. But it is a little fun element in the recipe, a bite of a surprise)


1.Put the diced sweet potatoes in a glass bowl, add a little water and microwave it for 10 mins on high or parboil it.
2. Meanwhile, grind the peas, chillies, garlic, coconut and ginger to make a coarse paste.
3. In a pan, heat the oil and add the ajwain, let it splutter, then add the sweet potatoes. When they are almost done, add the paste, bakerwadi, a bit of water and mix everything.
4. Cook for a couple of minutes and add the salt and sugar and the cilantro.
5. Stir everything together and take it off the heat.
6. Enjoy with rotis (indian flat bread).

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


Our body is a self-healing organism, if we nourish it with clean, plant based nutrient rich whole foods, it has the innate intelligence to heal and repair itself.
My goal through "Cure yourself with Food", is to bring this awareness home, and for people to look within themselves, their lifestyle and food choices, to have a healthier, younger body, prevent disease and cure themselves of disease.

Some testimonials from people I have worked with:

Sharmin Sekhri, Bangalore- 

"Manasa suggested the 2 month diet plan to me as part of a weight loss and general wellbeing plan. The plan and recipes were extremely easy to follow and were filled with high fibre and whole meal grains. Once I explained the recipes to my cook it was very convenient and easy for him to make and easy for me to procure the ingredients as everything was locally available.
I had a feeling of excess flatulence in he first 2 weeks but Manasa explained to me that this was natural as the diet includes a high intake of fibre and raw fruits that our bodies are not ordinarily used
to.  True to her word this feeling disappeared within 10 days. The major change that this diet plan brings is a reversal of food habits –there is a concentration of small meals /juices starting from
breakfast through the early part of the day until lunch. Post lunch there is a decline of solid foods and complex carbohydrates; however there is feeling of fullness throughout the day. In fact by early
evening I was feeling too full to even consume the fruit juice and soup dinner prescribed in the plan! And once I had eaten that – that was that!!
The change in food intake gives you a fantastic feeling of wellbeing as the juices are fresh, there is no refined food and you feel that you are filling your body with all the unadulterated goodness that
nature has to provide. The plan takes into consideration your lifestyle and the availability of fresh ingredients in your locality.

I lost 2.5 kilos in first 3 weeks so that put me on the path towards achieving my weight loss objectives as well. There is a perceptible difference in skin tone and the skin has a noticeable glow. My friends
could see the difference and the compliments motivated me to continue the plan"

Sathyan Rajan, Bangalore-

"I am a Type 2 diabetic but that has never cramped my style. I have a stressful work life and an active social life. I cannot diet, but when I added the fruit and green smoothies to my regular routine, I felt more energy, I looked and felt fresher and my blood sugar count is bordering normal. "

Atoshi Shyam, Bangalore-

"Thanks manasa, for introducing me to your 11 day plan and a new lifestyle. It has really helped me solve my health issues .All your recipes are yummy too"

Lakshmi Saranath, Hyderabad

"I love the smoothies . I don’t really feel like being on a diet of sorts and it works wonders. I am almost as addicted to it as I was to candy ;) . Thanks for introducing me to the a different world of healthy eats"