Saturday, August 12, 2017

Soul Soup...

"Each day is an adventure in discovering the meaning of life. It is each little thing that you do that day - whether it be spending time with your irritatingly adorable 10 yr old, bickering over nothing with your husband, catching up with friends, dancing your heart out or just watching that humming bird flirt with the flowers - that holds the key to discovering the meaning of life. I would rather be out enjoying these things than doing too much introspection on the meaning of life. There is always that hot bowl of soup which lets me do some of my soul-searching instantly...."
                                                                                         ---Soul Soup

If you know me you know how much I hate spending too much time in the kitchen...but then you also know how much I love eating which brings me to my dilemma of how do I eat a really awesome meal cooked in < 30 minutes.

The past two weeks have been hard on K2 and me...just the "busyness" of life getting to us and not having K1 around making our familiar routines unfamiliar and we are really trying to make the best of the "pressure cooker situation" - K1's dad is having a major surgery in India today and it has us all on the edge literally. In the kitchen I have stuck to making brain dead easy recipes and last night was not very different - K2 and I had made our trek down to the farmer's market and one of our picks had been organic beets with the beet tops.



I usually make beetroot cutlets (patties) for K2 with the beets and sweet potatoes...I save the beet greens for a soup. Here's a super simple soup recipe for your Instant Pot

What you need:

  • Beet Greens ( 1-2 bunches - cleaned and cut to small pieces)
  • Other vegetables : carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, opo squash (lauki)...anything works. I used a full opo-squash and 2 carrots (mostly because I had it and wanted to add more veggies)
  • 1 cup Red Lentils (Masoor) - soaked for 1 hr
  • 1 container Low Sodium Pacific Foods - Organic Creamy Tomato Soup
  • Secret Weapon : Aachi's Rasam Mix - 1 tbspoon ( find it in your local Indian Store)
  • Chopped Onions, Chopped/Minced Garlic ( 6 cloves)
  • Optional - Coriander Leaves/Cilantro, 1 lemon


What to do

Turn your Instant Pot on Saute....add half a tsp of oil/ghee...I used ghee. Add a pinch of hing, a tsp of turmeric powder and let it sizzle -- then add the garlic and onion and let it sweat for 2-3 minutes till the onion turns brown and smells some kind of awesome. Now add in the Beet Greens, the veggies, the Aachi Rasam Powder and the soaked lentils....cook for another 2 minutes. Now add the entire container of soup and another container of water. Put the Instant Pot on Soup Mode (if it shows 30 minutes reduce to 25 minutes). Now forget your pressure cooker....go watch some TV or read a book.

Once the soup is done, you can do a quick release--- squirt lemon juice, adjust the salt to taste...I usually keep it low in salt and add lots of cilantro...I just love the freshness Cilantro adds to the soup.

Enjoy with crusty garlic bread....some kind of delicious :-)

This  served  my son and me  three soul-warming meals this week!
                                                 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Dil Toh Pagal Hai -A path to making your heart more healthy!





It's ironic that one of my conversations with a colleague was around the fact that with Aging a number of our conversations are around aches & pains, parents getting sick, us getting sick vs. births, engagements and romance gossips.

It was even more ironic that as my husband, my mother-in-law and me were walking around the lake and rejoicing the fact that my MIL had lost 19 lbs in 8 weeks and no longer had knee issues and could walk comfortably for 1 hr (she is 73), we got a panicked call from my sister-in-law...my father-in-law had suffered a massive heart attack (Posterior myocardial infarction with anterior infarction in case you were wondering). My MIL is back in India with my FIL and his condition is stable now and he is in the recovery phase. The reality is even though my FIL walks regularly, he doesn't pay much attention to diet ( he is a diabetic) and my MIL is determined to make a change to that. She asked me to send a diet chart for him and I was working on this a couple hours in the evening and hence my thought - why not share the knowledge and information.
Here are some key things to remember while planning your diet for heart -health 

  1. Focus on Portion Control (we have started eating in salad plates vs. dinner plates)
  2. Eat more vegetables and fruits (especially cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and green leafy vegetables like spinach, amaranth and methi greens and high fiber fruits like Apple and Pears...one banana a day is great if you are not a diabetic or on the border line)
  3. Select Whole Grains but limit your whole grain servings to twice a day ( steel cut oats, barley, quinoa and if you absolutely must have rice swap white out for brown)
  4. Limit unhealthy fats (basic thumb rule - say no to red meats, don't eat too much fried food, use ghee in moderation or not at all, we have swapped out whole milk for 2% and limit the amount of dairy, we have more yogurt than milk because it gives us the protein and is probiotic and good for the stomach, we use coconut oil in moderation for cooking - 750 ml lasts  3 people about 6 months in my cooking ( I pressure cook a lot in my Instant Pot) 
  5. Choose low-fat protein sources - Egg Whites, Tofu, Beans & Legumes ( I make a lot of sprouts or beans salads, dals/lentil soups), choose chicken and fish over other fatty meats.
  6. Reduce the sodium in your diet...flavor with lemon, pepper and all the wonderful warm Indian (or non-Indian) spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon etc.
  7. Plan Ahead - make meal plans, diet charts - do your grocery shopping mindfully
  8. Supplement as needed - Fish Oil, Flax Seed Capsules, Garlic Capsules, Red Yeast ( all work for heart health) - what's more important is find out what works for your body!
  9. Have a hurrah - it's OK to get a treat occasionally, you don't have to go cold turkey, treat yourself to foods that you miss once in a while, don't binge on it though
Here's the diet chart I built for my Father-in-Law. Reality is I have kept it easy with a focus on the tenets I have above - lesser carb, more protein and heart healthy foods (flax seeds, green tea, oatmeal, high fiber).


Do ensure that you take a probiotic and give your stomach the time to get used to eating more vegetables and legumes...it might take a couple weeks. Consult your doctor before starting any diet, I am not a registered dietician or nutritionist. My mother-in-law is a practicing doctor and she stuck to my diet plan and believes that it really helped her in the two months that she was here (but then again, she is my MIL and she might be forced to say nice things ;-) )

Try this delicious Chickpea and Coconut Milk Ishtew (non-fat/light coconut milk) - you can make it in your pressure cooker or Instant Pot. If you are in the mood for some meat try this heart-healthy Haleem recipe (again made in my trusty pressure cooker or Instant Pot).

You heart will thank you!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

How Sunshine Returned to Joyland?

Cancer in my dictionary is a bad word...it stole away from me my champion, my best friend, my motivator & my role model...my father. So, I have watched cancer from far with trepidation and fear...knowing that it's this evil beast that can strike at any time...When SC walked into my office last week and shared this book with me How Sunshine Returned to Joyland?, I didn't really want to read the book, this is about someone's baby having cancer...could I really deal with it?


The book sat on my night stand a couple days untouched and my 10 yr old attracted by the beautiful artwork asked me if we could read it together. I couldn't chicken out or find an excuse to say No, so we started reading the book.

  • We read it once, he said - Ma, she draws really well. Is she only 6 years old?
  • The second time we read it, he said - so the darkness was this ALL (blood cancer), Ma she is brave. Can you google me her picture?
  • The third time we read it, he said - can I keep the book?  
I feel I am very inadequately attempting to share the emotional journey my son and I made in those three readings of this story about Aparajitta Dutta, this brave 6 year old who fought cancer head-on. The struggles that she  and her parents went through are many, but the reality is that her story is an inspiration for parents across the globe whose brave kids are fighting cancer.

The lessons she teaches simply in her book are lessons we can all find strength in :

  • Dream Big
  • Smile
  • Enjoy the Present
  • The Magic of Happy Thoughts
  • The gift of true friends


Hats-off to her parents who are thinking beyond just their own child and focusing on greater good - funding cancer research for childhood cancer and also setting up a support network for parents whose children have been diagnosed with cancer. All proceeds from the book are going towards St.Jude Children's Research Hospital

If you want to read the book, you can buy it on Amazon here  
If you want to donate to the cause - Brave Kids Fight Cancer you can do so here

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Going back to the roots...

                                         
I landed in Bhubaneswar on a cool clear day in February...having been stuck inside a tin can they call an aeroplane for hours I was more than ready for a visit outside and we ended up at the "Adivasi Mela" 



I ended up picking up Palua or Arrowroot along with a few other herbs (turmeric, bhel patra etc.) at the Mela and it was a glimpse into a part of the culture that I hadn't been exposed to in a long time. Palua is a root vegetable and has numerous health benefits - easy to digest, good for digestion, immunity boosting, treats urinary tract infections,fights food borne pathogens and soothes dental issues among other things...



The Palua sat in my pantry for a couple months and then finally today I dusted out my degchi (cooking pot) and made some delicious kheer(i) which my son  slurped down in the matter of minutes.



How do you make Palua Kheeri? Here is my 5-step fool proof recipe to making this recipe in a degchi
  1. Start your cooking range, place degchi and pour about 3/4th liters of milk (I used 2%) and start heating
  2. Make a slurry of the Palua in cold milk ( about 3 tbspoon worth)
  3. Grind cardamom ( 6 pods) and sugar to taste ( I added this) and add in the degchi
  4. when the milk starts boiling, gently add the slurry and keep stirring
  5. when the consistency of the kheer thickens (like picture above)...it's done
Here is my 3-step fool proof recipe to making this recipe in an Instant Pot
  1. Make a slurry of the Palua in cold milk ( about 3 tbspoon worth)
  2. Turn on your instant pot, add 3/4th liters of milk, add the slurry, Grind cardamom ( 6 pods) and sugar to taste ( I added this) and add to your IP
  3. Keep the instant pot to Porridge Mode and let your kheer cook. Stir - check sweetness and consistency.
You can eat it warm or cold...Enjoy!

What I have learnt rather late in life is that - it's the simple things that take you back to your roots and sometimes it just doesn't need to be complicated.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Self Care Series : While you were sleeping...

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?”  

                                                                      circa 2006, tired mom getting some Zzzzz time
While I was writing my last blog post I was shocked to find out that the risk of death from stroke and heart disease was significantly higher in people who get less than six hours of sleep a night ( think 48% higher).

I had watched Arianna Huffington talk about sleep about 4 years back at a Women's Conference ( you can see the jist of it in this Ted Talk by Arianna Huffington ). She insightfully quoted "sleep your way to the top" and rediscover how to live a more productive and joyful life  by getting more sleep. According to AH,  for men, sleep deprivation is an act of virility and one-upmanship and goes on to talk about examples at the work place of how "lack of sleep" was being worn as a victory badge (don't shoot the messenger guys...instead look at yourself and scan yourself and see if you indulge in those behaviors).

How to get more sleep?


1. Get checked for medical problems that might be waking you up - these include issues like Obstructive Sleep Apnea ( did you know people with OSA had 3 times the risk for Type 2 diabetes). My dad suffered from OSA and sure enough he had Type 2 diabetes.
2. Set up your environment for sleep — have a comfortable bed, a dark room (or an eye mask, if needed), and quiet (use earplugs, ambient music).
3. Set up your evening for sleep — do a quieting half hour before bed - they say don't take a device to bed but for me the Kindle is my version of a physical book, so I read for 1/2 hr before bed. 
4. Set up your days for sleep — get sunshine during the day and keep the room dark in the night. Get some physical movement aka exercise, so your body doesn’t want to move when it’s time to sleep.
5. Prevent hunger and low blood sugar. A bedtime snack including protein and some complex carbohydrate (a small bowl of oatmeal, some nuts, even a small piece of dark chocolate) might help you stay asleep. I swear by this smoothie recipe of mine (it's a play on the Ethiopian Drink Telba) - 1 Banana, 2 tablespoons roasted flaxseeds, 1 teaspoon cacao nibs (optional) , 1 cup of water or more depending on the consistency you want and 1 tsp honey to sweeten (I added Stevia, as I am trying to cut down on sugar). It's high in protein, fiber and essential minerals like Magnesium and potassium (it's good for you heart too!).
6. In consultation with your health-care provider, consider proven sleep supplements such as magnesium and melatonin. On high stress days, I take 5 mg of Melatonin to ensure uninterrupted sleep. I take a magnesium supplement every day called Natural Calm   and have been taking this supplement for 4 years now.
7. Get help with anxiety, stress, and depression, if you think those might be problems. I think everyone goes thro' phases and sometimes the depression and anxiety might just be a chemical imbalance ( for me a couple years back it was a severe Vitamin D deficiency) or even if it is a deeper seated issue, its better to meeting it headlong vs. let it fester.
8. Accept that sleep is important. It’s not being lazy; it’s not shirking your responsibilities. Your body needs it. You may have to spend some time in the day clearing up things that are worrying you, like taking care of the kids so that you can relax and heal at night. Sleep is especially important for kids and setting them up with good sleeping habits is critical to their well-being.
I look forward to shutting off the lights and having this free entry into a "land of dreams"... I especially love getting up in the morning rested after a good night's sleep. How did you sleep last night? 

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Self Care Series : Different Strokes

"Nearly six million die and another five million are left permanently disabled. Stroke is the second leading cause of disability, after dementia. ... In the developing world, however, the incidence of stroke is increasing."

I lost a 59 yr. old uncle yesterday to a stroke. This was my mother's younger sister's husband. He had the symptoms of a stroke - Sudden numbness of his leg on the left side, trouble walking & loss of balance and severe headache. He ignored it for 2 days...he was rushed to the ICU on the third day and they found a large brain clot on the 5th day and did a brain surgery to remove the clot on the 7th day...he spent the next 30 days in a hospital, half the time on a ventilator and finally drew his last breath yesterday at 4.30 AM.

Did you know?
  • Nearly 800,000 (approximately 795,000) people in the United States have a stroke every year, with about three in four being first-time strokes.
  • Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds.
  • Every four minutes, someone dies of stroke.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability and the leading preventable cause of disability.
  • More women than men have strokes each year
  • South-East Asians are more at risk than other races
Who is more at risk?
  • People with high Blood Pressure
  • People with Type 2 Diabetes
  • High Cholestrol (especially high LDL)
  • Obese or Overweight People
  • Desk Jobs or leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Bad Food Habits - red meat, eating too much carbs & sugar to your diet
What can you do about it?
  • Sleep Well - 7-8 hours every day
  • Manage your stress - meditation, yoga, read books, take quiet walks, listen to music, practice gratitude
  • Managing your weight - ensure your BMI is in the healthy range
  • Diet - this is a topic I am very passionate about - making sure you eat healthy is No.1 to keeping a lot of these diseases at bay. Eat more fruits and vegetables, Eat legumes and lentils (sprouted if you can sprout them at home), Limit Dairy & Meats, Eat more nuts and seeds, Consciously add more fiber to your diet, Cut down on fat, carbs and sugar in your diet.
  • Regular Exercise - Try Shruthi's Bolly X Class in the Oracle Gym!
  • Smoking & Alcohol - No smoking and either no alcohol (or alcohol in moderation!)
  • Recognize the symptoms of a stroke and go immedietely to a doctor if you suspect that you are having stroke symptoms
                                                                                             circa 2002
I know it's easier to give advice and very hard to follow in real life...it has taken me years to get disciplined about exercise, sleep and food...it's second nature now. I am putting a picture up from 15 years back...I loved...no love... food ( fried food, chips, cookies and indian sweets)....and I didn't really like exercising and it shows in this picture of mine. I don't believe in "before and after pictures"...the reality is the After is "Work in Progress"...it's still a journey and the key is I am learning to live life happier, healthier...sharing this information with the hope that you do something positive for your health today!



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tanishq's Diamonds NOT a girl's best friend!

Tanishq the Indian's say is what Tiffany's is to the USA. Hear my story and you will definitely know that "Diamonds can be a girl's best friend but avoid Tanishq at all costs"

My 40th birthday which happened a couple years ago also marked the 1st year anniversary to losing my father and getting a promotion. Having lived a very minimalistic life until that point (and because my Dad was always urging me to do something special for myself) I was ready to  treat myself to something special to mark the milestone. I ended up buying myself a solitare diamond ring. It made me feel wonderful - a gift I bought for myself...no other person involved (almost like coming of age...). My ring was a great companion for 3 years. Two weeks back with normal use, my entire solitaire with it's cushion fell out of the ring setting. I thought the diamond was lost but with the help of some wonderful people I located the diamond (after 15 panicky minutes....can't imagine next steps if the stone was lost !!!)




 I contacted Tanishq hoping to understand next steps...the first tenet of their mission is - Total Customer Orientation... or so I thought. I was so wrong...

I sent my first email to a senior executive at Tanishq and heard nothing back and sent a follow-up email...NOTHING !!!

I am now getting my ring reset at a reputed local jeweller in San Francisco  and paying $300 ( ~ Rs. 20,000) for fixing poor quality issues of the manufacturer. The jeweller concluded that the workmanship on the ring was really shabby ( 2 solders where the ring needed 6 solders if we are getting technical) and hence the solitaire had fallen out...When I read forums on Tanishq, I saw this as a complaint that a lot of people had about stones falling out of the setting.

I want to highlight this as an example of not just NOT standing behind the quality of your work and brand but also of a total customer disorientation and apathy to what a customer is going through. If you are thinking of buying from Tanishq for brand name and reputation - take my advise look locally and pay lesser elsewhere...

Diamonds may well be a girl's best friend but as I have sadly discovered...not a Tanishq Diamond !!!