Friday, July 22, 2011

My Vegetable Garden

I sure had problem reconnecting with blogosphere. Thanks to Roma of Town Square. Hopefully I'll be able to make up for the lost time. Thought some of you might be interested in seeing some of my vegetable garden pictures. Here are some of them.

Ridge Gourd ( Turai, Beerakaya ) lots of male flowers at this point.

Lemon cuke ( dosakaya )

Bottle Gourd ( Kaddu, Anapakaya )

Chile peppers ( Mirchi, mirapakaya )

Ivy gourd plant ( tindora, dondakaya ), just got it from a dear lady in NJ.

Baby Cucumber ( Keera )

Water Melon ( puchakaya )

Okra ( bhindi, bendakaya )

Brinjal( Vankaya )

Got few other vegetables like karela, snake gourd, chikkudukaya, corn, tomatoes, onions, carrots beets, methi etc. will post them once they start producing any fruit.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

After a loong hiatus, back with some Soap !!!

I am back!! I know some of you might have forgotten me, cause its been three years since I blogged. Was working, had a baby and many other things going on. But now I am back. This time with something different to offer. Yeah! I wont let you keep guessing about the title of the post. You read it right! Its about SOAP not food this time. I have kept this secret long enough with me that I finally couldn't contain it anymore and decided to broadcast it :). Yes, I started making soap. Now you may ask, Why in the world I am making soap when such a plethora of soaps are available in the market. Well, that is the irony.The soap that we find in stores is mass produced and contain a whole range of dangerous ingredients. This can include things like petroleum, irritants, detergents and more. This is bad for our skin as well as the environment. It might cost less than natural soap, but it costs more in the long run. So I went ahead and tried purchasing natural products like Burt's Bee products for skin care, Like body wash and lotions. But it costs a fortune to indulge in those. Being a frugal that I am, decided to venture into natural homemade skin care products. It started 2 years ago. I did a lot of research. I dint shy away from trying out new recipes. It was long journey and in the process I added other homemade products like lotions, lip balms to my line of skin care products. Right now I am working on shampoo's and body washes. In my blog I would like to share more of my experiments and recipes and lots of other fun info. So stay tuned. Just take a look at some of my homemade products.

These are few of the skin care products I made. In Anti clockwise direction( for the above picture ) : Whipped Shea Butter in white tin. couple of lip really cool lip balms, Ayurvedic Hair oil for hair falling and dandruff. Lavender soap, actually it was a little lavender in color but looks white in the pic. round green tea soaps ( strong anti aging soap ), Sandalwood-turmeric soap. the soap got its color from combination of turmeric and sandalwood. Shikakai shampoo bar - the one right on top of the white jar of cream. These are the ones I hand on hand for the picture. I usually make a lot of other lotions and soaps.

Milk and Honey Soap( smells divine and pure indulgence )

Sandalwood-turmeric soap( not kidding when I say it improves youthful complexion )

Green Tea Soap ( great for mature skin )

Shikakai shampoo bar ( it has real shikakai and aritha powder and lots of other good for your hair herbs )

Really cool lipbalm ( it is cool and nourishing your lips indeed )

Whipped Shea Butter ( Great for wrinkles, scars, eczema )

The ingredients I use for making my soaps and lotions. Almond oil, apricot kernel oil, olive oil, organic coconut oil, grape seed oil, canola oil, essential oils like lavender oil, tea tree oil, sweet orange oil, peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, witch hazel, rose water, castor oil, vitamin e oil, organic aloe vera juice etc.

These are few of the nutrients or herbs I use to enhance my products. Shea butter, beeswax, Kasturi turmeric, neem powder, vattivelu( not sure about the english name ), hibiscus flower powder.

Most of my products have Indian herbs cause thats what I know about, though I try to used others too. All the skin care products I do are chemical free and almost 100% natural. definitely good for skin. I would like to run posts about the hazards of commercial soaps and creams, the benefits of natural products and uses of different oils and herbs in maintaining a glowing skin.

Untill then...

be Nourished!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fats and Oils : Coconut oil, a smart alternative to other oils

"Coconut oil is the healthiest oil on earth" says Dr. Bruce Fife, a naturopathic doctor and the author of the book The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil. Modern research seems to back up this bold statement. Once wrongly accused of increasing cholesterol levels, coconut oil is now actually being used by doctors in the treatment of a variety of disorders. Clinical studies have shown that coconut oil has anti-microbial and anti-viral properties, and is now even being used in treating AIDS patients. Studies conducted in the Philippines last year showed that coconut oil does indeed reduce the viral load in AIDS patients.

The many benefits of coconut oil are finally reaching the mainstream.

Benefits like:

* Promoting your heart health
* Promoting weight loss when and if you need it
* Supporting your immune system health
* Supporting a healthy metabolism
* Providing you with an immediate energy source
* Helping to keep your skin and hair healthy and youthful looking
* Supporting the proper functioning of your thyroid gland

Lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acid(MCFA) which is abundant in coconut oil, and considered responsible for many of its health benefits. Coconut oil is about 50% lauric acid. The only other abundant source found in nature is in mothers milk.The medium-chain fats in coconut oil are similar to fats in mother's milk and have similar nutriceutical effects. MCFAs are smaller. They permeate cell membranes easily, and do not require lipoproteins or special enzymes to be utilized effectively by your body. MCFAs are easily digested, thus putting less strain on your
digestive system. This is especially important for those of you with digestive or metabolic concerns. MCFAs are sent directly to your liver, where they are immediately converted into energy rather than being stored as fat. MCFAs in coconut oil can actually help stimulate your body's metabolism, leading to weight loss.

There are number of good sources of organic coconut oil available online. I personally use, tropical traditions coconut oil. I liberally use the oil, in cooking, frying, salads etc. No guilt. No cholesterol. No trans-fats. No downside. Only your peace of mind.

Be Nourished!!!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Fats and Oils : Rethinking our FAT phobia

I have taken a break from my Whole Grains series for a while to start another series, another favorite subject of mine...Fats and Oils. Politically Correct nutrition is based on the assumption that we should reduce out intake of fats,particularly saturated fats from meats, whole milk, butter, ghee, coconut oil,... So we started using skimmed milk, lean or no meats, and polyunsaturated oils like vegetable oils, margarine, dalda. But statistics show that, we are facing coronary heart diseases, diabetes,and many degenerative diseases more than any other time in the history of mankind. Clearly something is wrong with the theories we are being told.

The diet gurus tell us that polyunsaturated oils are good for us and that saturated fats cause cancer, heart diseases and weight gain.Suppose you were forced to live on a diet of red meat and whole milk. A diet that, all told, was at least 60 percent fat -- about half of it saturated. If your first thoughts are of statins and stents, you may want to consider the curious case of the Masai, a nomadic tribe in Kenya and Tanzania.

In the 1960s, a Vanderbilt University scientist named George Mann, M.D., found that Masai men consumed this very diet (supplemented with blood from the cattle they herded). Yet these nomads, who were also very lean, had some of the lowest levels of cholesterol ever measured and were virtually free of heart disease. Scientists, confused by the finding, argued that the tribe must have certain genetic protections against developing high cholesterol. But when British researchers monitored a group of Masai men who moved to Nairobi and began consuming a more modern diet, they discovered that the men's cholesterol subsequently skyrocketed. Similar observations were made of the Samburu -- another Kenyan tribe -- as well as the Fulani of Nigeria.Or even close to home the Pathans of high mountains and plateau districts of northern India and Tibet, Whose diet depends largely upon butter made from milk of the yak and sheep. These Pathans are probably the most physically perfect ..very tall and free of tooth decay-- Weston Price..While the findings from these cultures seem to contradict the fact that eating saturated fat leads to heart disease, it may surprise you to know that this "fact" isn't a fact at all. It is, more accurately, a hypothesis from the 1950s that's never been proved.

The first scientific indictment of saturated fat came in 1953. A researcher named Ancel Keys proposed a theory - called the Lipid hypothesis - that there is a direct relationship between the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet and the incidence of coronary heart diseases. Numerous researchers pointed out the flaws in his data and conclusions. Nevertheless, Keys recieved far more publicity than those presenting alternative views. The vegetable oil and food processing industries, the main beneficiaries of any research that could be used to demonize traditional foods, worked behind the scenes to promote further research that would support the lipid hypothesis.

Most of the fat in our bodies and in the food we eat is in the form of triglycerides. Elevated triglycerides in the blood have been positively linked to proneness to heart diseases, but these triglycerides do NOT come directly from dietary fats;they are made in the liver from any excess sugars that have not been used for energy.your body makes fat from carbohydrates. It works like this: The carbs you eat (particularly starches and sugar) are absorbed into your bloodstream as sugar. As your carb intake rises, so does your blood sugar. This causes your body to release the hormone insulin. Insulin's job is to return your blood sugar to normal, but it also signals your body to store fat. As a result, your liver starts converting excess blood sugar to triglycerides, or fat. The source of these excess sugars is any food containing carbohydrates, particularly refined sugar and white flour. Triglyceride levels increase with increasing intake of refined sugars, refined starches, sedentary lifestyle, and hard, non-essential fats. According to researcher John Yudkin, sugar consumption is one of the quickest ways to increase triglycerides because the body turns sugar into fats to protect itself from the toxic effects of excess sugar. Sugar increases oxidation damage, inhibits immune functions and interferes with the transport of vitamin C...all leading to dardiovascular and other degenerative diseases.

Fats have more than twice as many calories as carbohydrates, foods such as sugar, wheat, potatoes and fruits. Conventional wisdom says that reducing fats in the diet is essential for people who want to lose weigth. That sounds logical doesn't it? But its not true. In real life , eating fats helps you lose weight--but only if you make a deep cut in carbohydrates you eat Fats have more calories but fats satisfy your hunger four or five times as much as carbohydrates. Thats one of the several reasons why eating fats help people lose weight.

According to Udo Erasmus: 1. Fats are digested slowly and prevent hunger from recurring quickly. Protein and carbohydrates are digested in half as much time so overeating is encouraged. 2. EFAs increase metabolic rate and help mobilize and burn excess saturated fats. 3. The body loses the craving for food when its need for EFAs is satisfied. 4. A poor diet lacking essential substances fails to still hunger, leading to overeating and weight gain. 5. Contrary to popular opinion, not all fats make a body fat.Healthy fats can halt and even reverse many degenerative diseases such as: atherosclerosis, hypertension, allergies, cancer, skin conditions, yeast conditions, aging, arthritis, diabetes, asthma, obesity, and some addictions.Bad fats and sugar are responsible for most of the conditions listed above.

On contrary, today most of the fats in our diets are polyunsaurated, primarily from vegetable oils derived from soy, corn, safflower and canola. Modern diets contain as much as 30 % of calories as polyunsaturated oils, but this amount is far too hight. Excess consumption of these oils cause many health problems like : immune system dysfunction, damage to the liver, reproductive organs and lungs, digestive disorders etc.

Hopefully these facts and finding help you in making a better choice for you and your percious family.

Be Nourished!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Whole Grains : 4 - Sprouted Grain Puttu

I know the name sounds like a combination of latest health fad and traditional favorite. It sounds so because it is so :)) Anyways, this is my mom's recipe. The procedure seems long but its not tedious. But if you make enough of it, should last a while. Well, I don't mind waiting long time if it is so good for health. Especially, if its four different grains which are sprouted should be healthy for your body.
The four different grains she used in this recipe are : Ragi, Jowar, Bajra, Wheat. All the four grains are taken in equal proportions soaked overnight and sprouted till the shoots show off but not long enough. In India there is enough of sunshine to dry off the sprouted grains, But here, I usually use a dehydrator to dry or spread the grains on cookie sheets and place them in a oven and set at its lowest temperature. It would normally be 170 f or 200 f . Keep stirring once in a while to prevent the grain from burning on one side. It might take around 12 hrs, But don't worry it doesn't use up a lot of electricity. Once the grains are dry, you can store them in a air tight container and just run enough grains in a mixer or blender to make puttu every time you do it or you can make flour all at one time and freeze the flour or else it might get rancid quickly. My mom made this primarily as my son's weaning food, last year. But we eventually ended up using for all of us , because it is so healthy.

4 - Sprouted Grain Puttu with coconut and Rapadura

You can use this 4 sprouted grain flour to make a thin porridge like Ragi Malt by Indira of Mahanandi or into Puttu by Priya of Priya's Kitchen. Also you can add or omit any grain and use any proportions. Just use your imagination to make different combinations of grains. I one time used spelt and rye instead of wheat. I usually make a lot of flour ahead and freeze it in ziploc bags. Then I just use the flour straight from the freezer. Also I never tried eating puttu with kadala curry, the way Keralites eat. But while growing up, I was used to the sweet version of puttu with jagery and coconut. Now I add Rapadura by Rapunzel , which is nothing but jagery in powder form but organic. My husband usually likes to eat it with milk like a cereal, but me and my tot like to eat it just like that with little ghee.

Be Nourished!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Whole grains : Blender Barley Oat pancakes

Clockwise : pearled barley, steel cut oat groats, hulless barley, rolled oats

In this post I would like to share my favorite 'heart healthy' pancakes.The recipe doesn't use the conventional flours of these grains, but a blender method is used to get the goodness and full benefits of whole grains. I came across this recipe from a cookbook from our local library long time ago and it has been our family favorite since. Using barley makes you full quickly, so it is a good diet food.

Barley is one of the oldest cereal grains, used traditionally for making beer and also made into
bread and gruels. It was the main food of the Greeks, who valued barley's ability to give physical strength and mental alertness. Barley water, is said to be easy to digest and a tonic to the liver. Pearled barley lacks most of nutrients, because the thick outer layer is removed. Look for Hulless barley.And it is important to soak them.

While Oats are first discovered growing wildly in barley fields in Russia, northern Africa and the near East. Oats are rich in B vitamins and in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. They contain more oil than any other grain. Oats are low in gluten but contain more phytates than almost any other grain. Thus, it is very important to soak oats before preparation.

Barley & oats both contain beta-glucans and other viscous soluble fiber components which reduce absorption of fats and cholesterol. Also, the fiber tends to bind to bile acids, which are removed from the body rather than recycled, thus requiring the conversion of more cholesterol to bile acids. Thus both grains are very good in lowering blood cholesterol.Also barley helps reduce the blood glucose levels, thus it is good for diabetic people.

Blender Barley oat pancakes:

Oat groats - 1/3 cup (3/4cup if rolled oats)
Hulless Barley - 1/3 cup
Water - 1/2 cup( for soaking)
Whole eggs - 2
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Honey - 1tbsp
Whole milk - 1/2 cup
Baking powder - 1 1/2 tsp
Butter for greasing.

Pancakes stacked on the plate

Method :

Soak the oat groats and barley overnight. In the morning add eggs, salt, honey. Blend till smooth. Add gradually - milk, baking powder and blend. Let the batter stand for 20 to 30 min. Heat a cast iron pan and grease with butter. Pour a small laddleful of batter and when bubbles start forming on the cake and edges start getting hard, flip it to the other side. Finally flip them to a plate when done and stack them to keep warm. I usually make a few extra and freeze them for a quick snack to my tot. The frozen pancake can be popped into a toaster to reheat and it comes out nice and crispy.

Be Nourished!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The less celebrated : Amaranth or Rajgara paratha

Amaranth or Rajgara

With my constant desire to do a unique post which is healthy and yet different, I stumbled on amaranth. Amaranth is not a true cereal grain. The plant is an annual herb.It is a multi-purpose crop. The tender leaves of the amaranth plant are relished as a green leafy vegetables.And the grain is used to make parathas, poori's, pakoras, cutlets , kadhi etc.There are approximately 60 species of amaranth and there is no definite distinction between amaranth grown for the leaf (vegetable), and the seed (grain).Amaranth seed is high in protein (15-18 percent) and lysine and methionine, two essential amino acids that are not commonly found in grains.It is high in fibre and contains calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorous and vitamins A and C.Amaranth also contains tocotrienols (a form of vitamin E) which have cholesterol-lowering activity in humans. Amaranth consists of 6-10% oil, mostly in the germ. The oil is predominantly unsaturated and
high in linoleic acid important in human nutrition. The amaranth leaf is equally nutritous as well. Containing higher calcium, iron and phosphorous levels.

Western science considers amaranth as a Nu-world grain from Mexico and other parts of South America. But amaranth has been an ancient grain in India. Nobody knows, how it came to India or may be it was taken to South America. But our ancestors were nourished by this wonderful grain. Rajgara meaning 'royal grain'.I came across an article which said, it is possible to sprout amaranth. So, I might try sowing amaranth seeds next spring to see if I can get amaranth plants for the leaves.

Amaranth or Rajgara parathas:

Rajgara flour or freshly ground grain - 2 cups
salt according to taste.
Ginger, grated - 1 inch piece
Sesame seeds (til) - 1 tsp
Green chillies, - 2 ,finely chopped
Potatoes - 2 , boiled and mashed
Yogurt - 2 tbsp
Ghee - 1 tbsp + for applying on parathas
Fresh coriander leaves -2 tbsp ,chopped

Amaranth or Rajgara parathas


Place ragjara flour in a bowl, I was not sure about the freshness of store bought flour, so made my own flour in a blender. The grain looks like a poppy seed. flour smelled like amaranth leaves. Mix in salt, ginger, sesame seeds and green chillies. Add mashed potatoes, yogurt, one tablespoon of ghee and coriander leaves. Knead into a semi-soft dough using water. Cover and keep the dough aside for an hour. Divide into small portions. Roll into balls. Dust with flour and pat into a round diskette on a dusted surface. Heat a tawa. Shallow fry the parathas on both sides applying ghee as required. Serve hot with yogurt. Amaranth or rajgara parathas with yogurt was our lunch today.It was a tastey and wholesome lunch :).You can also substitue yams
for potatoes in this recipe.

Be Nourished!!!