Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Good Life with a side of Banana Bread

I watched a TedX "The Good Life" by Robert Waldinger recently (what with 2016 TED happening in Vancouver one must choose to live vicariously). Robert asked a "simple question" what is your most important life goal?   When millennials were asked the question - the top 2 goals were  #1 Getting Rich #2 Getting Famous (move over Oprah, Bill Clinton...)

He talked about a 75 year study done by Harvard on what keeps you Healthy and Happy and the results were breathtaking -

# Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period
#Social Connections are good for us (family, friends and community) Socially disconnected people are, according to Waldinger, “less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner, and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely.”
# 1 in 5 Americans will report that they are lonely
# It's better to be single than to be in a relationship filled with conflict
It’s not just the number of friends you have … it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.” ( dang - there goes my justification for my 800+ Facebook friends and 2000+ Linkedin friends)
If you want to watch the talk you can here :

So when K2 and I  saw the ripe bananas on the counter today we did a little happy dance, K2 knew there was baking in our very near future. Here's to "the good life" with a made from scratch Banana Bread which will honest to god have you reaching for a second piece (or in the case of my son his 3rd).

Servings: 10 Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 45  minutes
1½ Cups Bob Red Mill’s Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
2 Ripe Bananas
¼ Stick Organic Butter
1 cup of Milk or use water  (I used 2% milk)
1/4th Cup Truvia Baking Blend
½ tsp. Salt
1 Large Organic Egg
1 tsp. Baking Powder
4 tbsp.  Walnut Pieces
2 tbsp. Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp Vanilla Extract

1.     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
2.   Combine mashed bananas, milk, Vanilla Extract, Truvia Baking Blend,  egg, and butter together in a bowl. Mix flour and baking soda together in a separate bowl; stir into banana mixture until batter is just mixed. Stir salt into batter. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan.
3.    Fold in the Chocolate Chips and the Walnut Pieces
4.    Bake for 45 minutes in a well greased  9*5 Loaf Pan .Run a knife through it, if it comes out clean the cake is done – otherwise bake for increments of 5 minutes.

      Pour yourself a glass of milk and take a big bite of your banana bread. Let's eat and drink to your, health, family and friends (now get off Facebook...I know I will be ;-) )

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Much Ado about Protein : Part Deux

“Whether through grains, beans, or even fruit, there’s plenty of protein in a plant-strong diet.”  
                                      ― Rip EsselstynMy Beef with Meat
I was born and brought up in the South of India ( Madras) and my fall back diet goes back to Dosas, Idli and Adai  - I have over the years tried to tweak these recipes to make them more protein rich and low in carbs. Here is my go-to Adai recipe for the busy week days - seriously easy to get on the table in less than 15 minutes ( I usually make my Adai in the Waffle Maker - 1/2 a minute per Adai)


Servings: 15 Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes
½ Cup Black-Eyed Peas
½ Cup Green Moong (with skin)
½ Cup Moth Beans or Matki
1 Cup Rolled Oats
¼ Cup Fenugreek Seeds (Methi)
3 Cups Shredded Red Cabbage
1 Onion
Ginger (as per your taste)
Green Serrano Chilies (as per your spice requirements)
Salt, Cumin Seeds and Hing (as per taste)
  • Soak the first 3 ingredients  and the methi seeds overnight. Add in the oats first thing in the morning
  • Blend all ingredients to Idli Batter in your food processor ( I do this in my trusty Blendetec)
  • Preheat the Waffle Maker( I use a Cuisineart Waffle Maker)
  • Spray the Waffle Maker (I alternate between Spectrum High Heat Organic Canola Oil Spray and the home use Misto Spray filled with Spectrum Oil)
  • Pour a ladle of the Adai Mix in the Waffle Maker
  • Serve hot with the Jhatpat Peanut Chutney 
Servings: 10 Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 5 minutes
1 Cup Raw Peanut
¼ tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
8 cloves Garlic
1-2 Sprigs of Curry Leaves
6 Dried Red Chillies (less or more
Hing, Jaggery, Salt and Tamarind (to taste – I usually start with 1 tablespoon Jaggery and  1 tsp tamarind extract ( tamicon) )
  •  Roast the Peanuts for 2-3 minutes in the microwave ( careful not to  burn!)
  • Put the hing, curry leaves, cumin seeds, garlic, dried red chillies in a microwave safe bowl
  • Spray with some oil & Microwave for 1-1 ½ minutes (careful not to burn!)
  • Add the peanuts and the spice mix along with salt, tamarind paste and jaggery to the blender
  • Blend with 1/4th cup of water (add more if needed)
  •  Enjoy with the Adai

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cancer Sucks...find the power in pink!

Doctor: “When was your last mammogram?
Me: Umm..never
Doctor: You are over 40, its a good idea to get it done
Me (defensive): I don't think they are that effective and don't they hurt like crazy?
Doctor: I understand, you are afraid but a mammogram is not that big a deal
I procrastinated almost a year and a half and finally a bit sheepish showed up in the hospital for a scheduled mammogram.As I waited for my turn on the squishing machine, there were butterflies in my stomach - I sent panic texts to one likely source of support (N) and one unlikely source of support (M). As the minutes hand on the watch slowly crept past a very kind-looking woman came and took me in for my mammogram - it lasted all of 5 minutes and it really wasn't a big deal...a little uncomfortable but not too bad. The standard  monologue afterwards had me a little shaky - if you do get called in for a follow-up test it ain't a big deal (yeah right!) - but for now let's just assume all is well.
Cancer sucks...and it's affected me (lost my father to it) and close ones in more ways than one - so any reminder about it is not welcome in my world. Yet, as  I looked at the stats, the incidence of Breast Cancer in women far exceeds any other kind of cancer by a wide margin - 810,170 women were detected with cancer in 2015 in the US and almost 1/3rd of it was breast cancer.

So my one call to action for any woman over 40, if you are reading this blog post please, pretty please schedule a mammogram (if you haven't done one yet!)...show yourself a bit of love.

On my way home today, I saw that the Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom...spring is truly in the air. 

And a saying of Martin Luther King ran through my head as I walked into my house - The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at a time of challenge and controversy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Simple Living : A Chai Break...

"Life is like a cup of tea, its all in how you make it"

I am reading a book that attached itself to me in the musty smelling library (love that smell of books!)  - it was called the Handbook to Happiness. One of the things mentioned in it is Happiness comes to people in different ways - for some it is a habit, something that comes to them instinctively. While for others it's something learnt not instinctive and for others it's that elusive unicorn - so close, yet so far away. One thing that the book talked about was reflection and relaxation as a path to happiness-  A Chai Break is my time for that reflection and relaxation.

I usually drink a blend of teas from Teavana - Maharaja Chai Oolong and   Samurai Chai Mate and I add unprocessed sugar rocks to the blend - so that the brew is slightly sweet. Takes me back to India with the cinnamon, pepper, cardamom, ginger and cloves notes...a chai that warms me with it's spices. 

I try and have a healthy snack with my chai - today it was roasted Makhana tossed in Chaat Masala. Roasted/Popped Makhana is something I discovered in India about 4 years and I was
hooked - it's lotus seeds and the taste is almost like popcorn (for me it's way way better!). Lotus seeds or Makhana are a great source of protein and fiber - they are low in sodium and are a recommended snack for folks suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. They have a natural flavanoid called kaempferol which prevents inflammation and aging. They are also high on phyto-nutrients that help fight diseases. In Ayurveda it is believed that Makhana has astringent properties with specific benefits for the kidney. I didn't know about any of these health benefits when I first started eating the popped Makhana seeds...I just thought they were super delish.

So do you take a Chai Break? 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sometimes all you need is a little bit of love...(and some Dal Baati Churma!)

A little bit of love, can go a long way sometimes 
A little bit of love is really all you need
When life gets tough you need
A little bit of love sometimes

This was the week when Celine Dion's song kept playing on and on in my head - It was definitely a hard week - you know the hard ones where your body is screeching slow down and the routine speeds up...sudden deliverables galore, a last-minute customer presentation, customer escalations, dreary number crunching , people putting you in a box ( no one puts Baby in a corner!) ...and the constant snack and lunch box packing and the dinner  routine AND suddenly you are ready to scream - Enough! A Vacation right about now sounds like such an amazing idea. 

Did you know I always always wanted to vacation in Rajasthan - it's one of those wonderful states in India that I never ever visited. I will get there one of these days...this video sort of sealed the deal for me (what can I say I am a very visual sort of a person :-) )

In the interim I had a mini food vacation to Rajasthan. My friend "S" has her Ma visiting and in the past couple weeks I have been showered with a lot of affection and the most amazing food (stuff I have never really eaten before) like Dal Dhokli and Dal Baati. 

As I ate the Dal Baati today there was a flavor explosion in my mouth - Aunty had - stuffed the bati with mashed potatoes and peas - boiled them and then baked them in the oven. She slathered ghee on Baati and then you crushed it and ate it with the dal (lentils soup) - it was definitely a "vacation" at home kind of an experience for me (and after the hard grueling week - this is exactly what I needed!)

Our vacation memories always include food, where we ate it, who we ate it with, how we felt when we ate the food and the flavors we enjoyed - we are always able to recreate that wonderful feeling of warmth, love and memories through food. And sometimes all you need to make that hard week go away is a little bit of love and some amazing food !!!