Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fighting the Cold Season : Green Soup!

It is health that is the real wealth, not pieces of gold or silver or stones.... 

The gym has been a part of our life for a long time now but I started taking my exercise routine rather seriously 5 years back and even though I exercise a lot I didn't really see the weight slide off till I started paying attention to my diet.


One key thing that I have drilled into my psyche is getting the right amount of vegetables into my body..I got into the habit of eating a  salad and drinking a green smoothie most days...but let me tell you after I  had the flu, a cold salad or a cold smoothie just did not cut it...I was on the phone complaining about this to "my sister from another mother" who is a couple continents away...she suggested this awesome heart and soul warming soup. This will definitely be a keeper in my kitchen.

I love this soup and the best part I can make about 12 servings of the soup.

How to make the green soup?



Ingredients

  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp Avocado Oil ( you can use whatever oil you have on hand or even ghee
  • 2 tablespoons or more Braggs Liquid Amino
  • 2 Cartons Vegetable/Chicken Broth ( I used Vegetable Broth this time around and the brand was Saffron Road)
  • Chopped Vegetables -  1 medium sized Opo Squash ( lauki), 1 medium sized Cauliflower, 1 bunch of parsley, 1 bag of Kale, 1 Onion roughly chopped, 2 roma tomatoes roughly chopped, minced garlic ( I used the Trader Joe's kind)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Process

  1. Turn the IP to Saute and add the oil/fat
  2. Add the turmeric powder when the oil is sufficiently hot
  3. Now add the minced garlic and onion - saute till lightly browned
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and the rest of the vegetables
  5. Add the Broth and the liquid aminos
  6. Set on "Porridge" - No Release
  7. When it's all done use an immersion blender and puree the soup
  8. Add Salt and Pepper to taste
Drink a large glass of this every day. Not only does a glass give you two plus servings of vegetables - it has < 100 calories and 5 grams of fiber. 


Some interesting facts 
  1. Did you know lauki (Opo Squash) helps soothe digestive issues, urinary tract infections, reduces inflammation of the liver and keeps your heart healthy.
  2. Parsley is anti-diabetic and cleanses the system and builds your immune system
  3. I can write rhapsodies about Kale and Cauliflower - 2 things that I have been cooking with for years now ( even before they became a fad)...
  4. Liquid Aminos contain 16 of the 20 Amino Acids and is mostly for exercise recovery or protein supplementation ( highly recommended for vegans or vegetarians) - it is also a flavor enhancer.

So true is the saying that the first foundation of success is Good Health! With my Green Soup I feel like I am taking a step in the right direction.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A drink to your health : Golden Milk

Gold gives to the ugliest thing, a certain charming air...

Did you know that the flu season in US is now being considered epidemic and has peaked one month before the "real peak" season. Since October, the number of flu-related deaths has slowly crept up to 27 with the much publicized H3N2 strain of the virus. My entire family fell sick over Christmas and New Year and we are slowly stumbling back to normalcy. However, my son K2 looked a little down and when I took his temperature - sure enough it read between 101-102 yesterday...I was one worried mama.

This morning I did what my mother did when we fell sick in India...I gave him Haldi Doodh (Turmeric Milk) or more fondly called "Golden Milk/Latte" in the US. My recipe has come down our family for years and was given for fever, cough & colds and I remember my mother shoving it down my brother's throat when he hit his head and cut himself and was bleeding profusely (this was after the stitches 😉)
I won't go gaga over the taste ( I saw videos on how amazing it tastes - warming and earthy)- let me tell you that me and my brother would run around the house to avoid having to drink this...it doesn't taste all that great. Here's my son's expression drinking it today 😆
Honestly it was better than I remembered it being and all of us drank a cup of this golden magical elixir - it is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, boosts brain function and heart health and helps with joint health...more than that for me it was the comfort that I was sharing a small part of my traditional health remedies that had been passed down generations.

How to make Golden Milk in your Instant Pot?

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Spoon Organic Turmeric Root Powder
  • 2 cups of Milk (I used 1% Organic) -- if you are vegan you can substitute with Almond or Coconut Milk
  • 1 cup of Water ( you can use 3 cups of milk if you want to)
  • 8 Freshly Crushed Tellicherry Peppercorns ( black pepper helps with the absorption of curcumin and is warming in the cold/flu season)
  • Shredded Ginger (micro plane) - smallish knob - use as much as you are comfortable taking in your drink
  • 4-5 Cardamom pods (crushed)
  • 3 teaspoons of Jaggery (if you don't have jaggery, add honey when you are ready to drink, don't cook the honey as it loses a lot of it's medicinal value)
How To?
  1. I just added all these ingredients in my mini-pot (3 Qt)
  2. Set it on Manual for 4 minutes (high pressure) - NR
  3. Strain and Drink
Can you make it on your stove top?

Absolutely - the process takes roughly 15 minutes

As I mentioned before - this is an acquired taste but if you acquire this taste, I promise you - you are adding a powerful arsenal to taking care of yourself. I raise my cup to your health.

Friday, January 5, 2018

New Year New Recipe : Healthy Lamb Stew

"And then there are some days when a salad would just not cut it and what I want in my belly is a hot, flavorful meaty stew..."

There is an incredible chill in the air...it's drizzling away steadily and there is a foggy ghostly ambience in the air that is faintly depressing.

As I was watching yet another episode of "Criminal Minds" in my dark room, I knew I just had to put something quick and hearty on the table. We don't eat lamb too often but there was a really good sale on at our local grocery store for organic boneless lamb stew meat, so here I was with a pound and a half of lamb. The house smells incredible and I am off my "rainy day funk" and there are a few meals to tide us over.

Healthy Lamb Stew

Prep time: 15
Cook time: 2
Total time: < than 45 minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients
  • 11/2 pounds boneless lamb meat, cubed 
  • Lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 Large Organic Carrots, diced
  • 2 whole organic celery stalks, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced, 1 knob Ginger grated
  • 2 Tomatoes (medium) diced
  • 4 medium sized potatoes
  • Bay Leaf ( I have ground bay leaf powder that I use)
  • Fresh parsley, chopped for topping, lemon juice
How I made it?
  1. Place the lamb in a glass bowl and marinate with lemon juice, minced garlic and garlic, Black Pepper
  2. Bring lamb out of fridge at least 15 minutes before you plan on cooking. (marinate overnight for the best flavor)
  3. Turn Instant Pot on Saute Mode. Add pieces of lamb and brown on all sides ( the lamb rendered some fat which is why I didn't add any oil for cooking)
  4. When all of the meat is browned, add the onion, carrots, celery and potatoes. Cook for about five minutes, stirring often, until vegetables start to soften.
  5. Add the tomatoes, ground bay leaf powder (optional), nutmeg and and cinnamon
  6. Cook for 3 more minutes, add 2 cups of water/broth
  7. Now turn the Instant Pot to manual 20 Minutes (high pressure), No Release
  8. Once it's all done - Serve topped with fresh chopped parsley (which I didn't have BUT it still tasted AWESOME) and lemon juice.
Enjoy with crusty bread or even tastes great with a scoop of quinoa or brown rice.



Sunday, December 31, 2017

To a wonderful year ahead...

New Year's Eve. 
Looking to a fresh start. 

A new chapter in life waiting to be written. 

Me and my Instant Pot...

Recipes to be cooked up in my head,
Then tried spontaeneously...
Health to be discovered...
But for today...I am carving a spot by a nook by the TV, 
'coz my Oatmeal is not definitely one grandma made me...
It fills my soul with warmth,
To hear the 11 yr old say...Ma can I have another bowl...
As I usher in 2018!
domino effect or chain reaction is the cumulative effect produced when one event sets off a chain of similar events. The term is best known as a mechanical effect, and is used as an analogy to a falling row of dominoes...our 11 yr got the domino effect started at our place...it started with a harmless cough and then morphed into a particularly virulent flu that he passed on to both parents quite graciously...we are still coughing our intestines out but feel almost human at this point. It was a quiet holiday for us this year and when our son asked for Oatmeal for a New Year's Dinner, I was more than happy to comply.

Not my Grandma's Oatmeal (Oatmeal Kheer)


What you need?

  1. Bob's Redmill Steel Cut Oats - 1 cup
  2. 3 cups of water
  3. Whole Earth Stevia/Sugar sweetener - 4 spoons
  4. Organic Condensed Milk ( use 1% milk if trying to keep it healthy, I was trying to make it a yummy healthy dessert for my son) - to taste - I used 4 tablespoons
  5. Black Currants, Raisins, Cranberries, Almonds
  6. Pinch of Saffron
How to make it?
  1. Add the Oats, Water a pinch of salt, the sugar and all the dry fruits and nuts. Put the Instant Pot on Porridge setting and forget about it.
  2. Once done (don't do a quick release) - stir in the condensed milk to taste and then add a pinch of saffron ( or some powdered cardamom)
  3. Enjoy!
My father had told me something once which I hold close to my heart - he had said don't do nothing just because you can't do everything...everytime I feel like binging on junk food or feel the ankle ache and decide I want to skip my Zumba/BollyX class...I push myself to do  something! Happy New Year...may the year be filled with happiness, hope, health, food and dancing!


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Happiness Program


The basic tenet of  what is taught in "Art of Living" is that - Every emotion has a corresponding rhythm in the breath and that regulating the breath can help elevate the individual and help relieve personal suffering. I had attended my first Art of Living class in Chennai almost 15 years back and for the 2 weeks that I practised the art and science of breath religiously - I felt energized, happy, stress-free...and then life came by...work load, releases, management issues, work trips, dinners/lunches, a baby, illness in the family...think of an excuse, I probably gave it ALL to myself in my head and it worked. 

When I went for the Diwali Mela this year and S handed me a flyer for an "Happiness Program - Art of Living Course" at Oracle I was intrigued. I wanted to try again...so with high intentions and zero expectations I started the AOL course yesterday - two days in I am so glad I did. Let me start of with some caveats :

  • I am content with status quo
  • I believe I have everything that makes me happy in the present moment available to me already
  • I don't believe emotions are good or bad...I believe happiness is a choice that I make for myself
The reason I wanted to put these caveats out here, is I want to emphasize that you don't need to be in a place of pain, trauma, depression, distress to need to (or want to!) go to programs such as this one. It could just be you open to new thoughts, willing to be re-energized, be given a new tool to enhance your health and wellness....

A key part of the AOL program is this breathing technique called the Sudarshan Kriya and this breathing technique has a multitude of researched benefits. I have tried to list a few below - 
  1. Increases Deep Sleep > 200%
  2. Production of Well Being Hormones (Prolactin) > 50%
  3. Reduce Stress > 50%
  4. Reduce Depression > 70%
  5. Increases Mental Focus & Immunity
  6. Reduces Cholesterol & Blood Pressure
The first day after I did Sudarshan Kriya - I had severe headache and I had my sinus flare up and then my mother reminded me that the Kriya actively works on your body to flush out the toxins and this flush out manifests itself in different symptoms for the participants...the key is to ensure that you are consistent and accountable around your practice. I will definitely do a couple more blog posts on AOL, mostly to keep myself honest and accountable. I will talk about physical and mental changes that I am observing as the practice progresses - it will be a public online journal of sorts.

Here is the one thing that struck me as oddly strange this week during practice was apart from the two teachers who were Oracle Employees and me (from Oracle) - the two other participants were non-Oracle folks. I understand that we are all engrossed in the busyness of life but when such an opportunity presents itself to us it's sad that we focus on making excuses to ourselves and others. We are reluctant to invest the time and energy into ourselves...which I think is a very tactical approach vs. taking the long play approach of "if I don't take care of myself, I am the one who will suffer in the long run". I do see a lot of healthy and happy folks BUT at the same time I see people who are stressed, unhappy and not really focused on taking care of themselves. I would say Give yourself the permission to be Happy and Well. Attend one AOL session and see where the journey takes you.

I think there is another session of AOL happening on Dec 18th...reach out to the teachers.   In the words of Sri Sri - “But joy is never tomorrow; it is always now.” My "now" includes my first Kriya Home Practice early in the AM tomorrow...what does your "now"include.

Monday, October 16, 2017

#MeToo

"#metoo - whether it was close at home or outside on that public bus (where the older "gentleman" copped a feel) or at work where you are told "you will get promoted after you come back from maternity" and yet life makes you stronger and more resilient - you take the learning and pass it along to your next generation. You teach your young man to cook, clean and help but more importantly to empathize with and respect women. That for me is true progress" 
#Metoo Campaign - is just a "tip of the iceberg" - 9 out of every woman I have talked to at work or personally has a gender discrimination or harassment (or both) story to share.  There is a monumental amount of work to be done in confronting this climate of  gender discrimination and harrassment—one in which women are belittled and undermined and abused and sometimes pushed out of their industries altogether. But uncovering the colossal scale of the problem and having women speak up is revolutionary in its own right.

In anticipation of  a "bright future" where equality is not just a buzz word but something we consciously add into our psyche AND   Diwali I made one of my favorite desserts with a healthy twist - "Sakkarai Pongal" with a blend of quinoa and brown rice. This recipe is definitely not a #metoo but one of it's kind - easy to make, healthy and an acquired taste (my family loves it!). The ghee used in this recipe was also made in my Instant Pot ( I use Organic Valley  butter).

Here's my quick and easy recipe for Sakkarai Pongal -

 Sakkarai Pongal ( to bright futures)


Ingredients

  1. 1/2 Cup Quinoa/Brown Rice Blend,  1/2 Cup Moong Dal (toasted)
  2. 1/2 Cup Powdered Jaggery ( I used 1/4 cup jaggery and 2 tsp Stevia)
  3. 2 tablespoons ghee ( use more or less, based on your preference)
  4. Cashews and Raisins, Crushed Elaichi Powder (Cardamom)
Method
  1. Put your Instant Pot in Saute Mode -  heat the ghee and fry the cashews and raisins golden brown. Remove and set the fried cashews and raisins aside
  2. Now to the same pan add the toasted quinoa/brown rice blend and moong dal (or this might be a good time to toast it :-) )
  3. Add two and a 1/4 cups of water and set on "Rice Mode" - natural release
  4. When you open your instant pot you will see that the Pongal has a semi-watery consistency. That is perfect !!! I add the powdered jaggery and mix it into this mixture thoroughly ( I don't make the jaggery water mix separately...if you have the time and the inclination please feel free to do that additional step). 
  5. I then add the crushed cardamom powder, raisins and cashews
  6. Enjoy with your family !!!
Happy Diwali!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Troublesome Thursdays!

Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don't always like.                                                                                              --Lemony Snicket
Thursdays are always a drag for me NOT Wednesday...it starts off at a crazy pace for the week - at work, the school lunch run, the hundred other little things that need to be completed. My Thursday started of with a "series of unfortunate events"...the racoons getting into our garbage and having a midnight party...which means you are on your hands and knees picking up garbage first thing in the morning (yeah! yeah! I would rather you picture me in an LBD with perfectly coiffed hair and a moisturized made up face ;-) ), the HOA gardner blowing all the leaves on to my clean porch (what!) and my son losing the binder that had an important paper he had to return to school...an hour into the morning and I am ready to jump into bed and pull the comforter over my head and will the day away...

Then slowly things right themselves out and I have the chai made, a load of laundry running, the son's hot chocolate is on the table, the instant pot did it's magic with my 15 minute sambar on the side and my son's  lunch box was a yes on the checkbox and soon I was off to work and with hours of work down my belt...yup! all is right in my world now and I am ready to face the rest of the day. And while I take a quick walk after lunch, this beautiful view is what I get to see "every single day at work"...so for that I feel #gratitude



I am excited for this week to be over and the next one to begin - I will be attending the GraceHopper Conference in Orlando ( Thanks MC for making this a reality for me :)) and I can't wait to hear all those amazing women in tech share their ideas.

15 Minute Sambar

You need :
  • Chopped Onion (1/2), Chopped Garlic (3-4 Pods), Chopped Tomato (1)
  • Frozen Vegetables Bag from Whole Foods (Carrots, Peas and Beans - 1/2)
  • 1 cup Toor Dal (soaked in hot water)
  • Aachi Sambar Masala (Indian Store)
  • Imli Pichku ( pouch of tamarind )
  • Other items : Turmeric Powder, Hing, Whole Mustard, Curry Leaves, Ghee
Steps :

  1. Turn the IP to Saute Mode -  Add in 1/2 spoon ghee, add the hing, now splutter the mustard seeds and curry leaves. 
  2. Add the Chopped Onions and Garlic and brown it in the instant pot.
  3. Once onions are browned, add the turmeric, aachi sambar powder, chopped tomatoes, frozen veggies and soaked dal. Add 2.5 cups of water, more if you like your sambar a watery consistency
  4. Give it a whirl, add salt to taste and the tamarid paste
  5. High Pressure 7-10 minutes (depending on how mushy you want your sambar - I tend to go longer) - No Release
Once done - enjoy a bowl  by itself, its delicious, my dinner usually is a big bowl of Sambar and a cup of greek yogurt. It's really filling.

Tips & Tricks : 

  1. Double the Quantity and save some for the next day! I always do and it tastes better
  2. Pack Quinoa and Sambar for a quick hot lunch for your kids (add a dollop of ghee, they need it)
  3. Add a cup of Quinoa and an extra cup and half of water - it's an easy version of BesiBelaBhaat


How has your Thursday been going...:)