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!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Quick & natural skin toner

I have been trying out several different things in the past few weeks, some are beginning to take shape! I have started work on a vegan cookbook along with my hugely talented sister in law, Lisa! Working on a plant based foods presentation and demo at a newly opened vegan restaurant in the city, around the end of this month and training my 4 month old golden retriever puppy! So, you see why I haven't been here for a while.

All families, especially Indian families have a big repertoire of recipes, family favourites, grandma's remedies and beauty potions. I thought it would be great to share some kitchen skincare recipes that have been useful!
This particular one is simple , calls for only 2 ingredients and can be stored in the fridge for about 4-5 days. It works as a toner for daily use and especially comes in handy if you have acne prone skin.

1 small cucumber peeled
1 medium sized tomato

Blend together till its a smooth puree. Pat on skin with cotton (do not massage). Keep it on for 5-10 mins and rinse.