Friday, January 23, 2015

Recipe: Orange and Sesame Chicken. Bring a sLITE change in your life.

Ever since I've made the switch to leading a healthier lifestyle, my brain has been in an involuntary overdrive, analysing what I'm eating during any time on a given day. When I cheat, I go all out. But other than that I am mostly eating a high protein and fat diet along with smart carbs. What are smart carbs, you ask? Well, just eating smartly. For example, I load on carbs within 30 minutes of finishing a mean workout at the gym. I'll be explaining this in greater detail in the forthcoming blog posts.

One other important detail I have been consciously looking at is the amount of Sodium I consume on a daily basis. Most of the packaged food we eat today is loaded with Sodium and that isn't good for our body. For example, a small packet of chips contains approximately 150 calories per serving but the quantities of Sodium and Carbs, especially the ones derived from Sugar, is quite alarming. The added disadvantage of Sodium rich foods promoting water retention just makes matters worse (AKA- can't-pose-for-a-selfie-coz-my-face-looks-bloated syndrome).

I have been trying to make a conscious effort in trying to cook my own meals these days. At least I can control the amount of how much of what goes into what I am cooking. I have made the switch from normal salt to a low sodium salt and even so, I try limiting my salt intake as well. 

This healthy eating spree begins the series of some healthy recipes I cook, from my kitchen to yours :)

Orange and Sesame Chicken.


200 gm Chicken cut into medium small pieces
Tata Salt Lite (low Sodium)
1/4 C fresh Orange Juice (I recommend fresh, but you can use bottled juice as well)
some Orange Zest
1 tsp Vinegar
1 tsp Soy
1 tsp Demarara Sugar
1 tsp Garlic minced
1 tsp Ginger minced
1 tsp Corn Starch
1/4 C Cold Water. 
2 Tbsp Oil
Sesame Seeds, toasted.

Heat up a flat pan on medium high flame. Add Oil.
Coat and massage the Chicken pieces with Salt and Pepper.
Add to the Oil and sear on all sides. Keep turning. About 5 minutes. 
In the mean while. Mix all other ingredients in a bowl, except water and corn starch. Mix the corn starch and water separately in another bowl. 
After the chicken is golden, Pour both mixtures to the chicken and stir well. Reduce heat to low and let it go for 7 minutes more. Stir occasionally. 
Garnish with toasted Sesame seeds and serve warm (not piping hot) over rice/brown rice! As for me, I ate it as is :)

Do let me know how it turned out for you!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Emotional struggles of being overweight.

Just this morning, I read an article online from Deepika Padukone and her battle with depression and anxiety. Social media has been ablaze all day with people applauding her bravery, and sharing with the world their own stories of battling depression. One can't help but relate, and reminisce about their own life. The tough times, the times when one has felt alone even when they're out with a crowd,the times where you wish someone would understand but you don't really know what to do about it,since you yourself aren't able to fathom what the hell is wrong with you.

Image credits: Google Images

As far as being overweight goes, one must know that it is not an individual effort. Of course, its you out there who's doing the physical work but it is very important for loved ones around you to be supportive and motivating. An overweight person knows that they're overweight, and needs every little positive reinforcement to get them through. When I was a kid, I weighed more than the kids my age. Parents and relatives would ask me to eat less, exercise more etc. in hindsight, I was perfectly fine body wise, wore a medium size T-Shirt and pants that were 30 inches. My height was around 5 feet 5 inches when I was a teenager. When people complimented me in college, I felt weird coz it was all new to me. All I heard at home was how fat I was (when I really wasn't).

Image Credits: Google Images
There comes a time in your life when you're constantly told you're something you're actually not, when you start accepting it. I did. There was no one to hear me out. I accepted the misery and to make matters worse, turned to food for filling up that void. It got to a point where I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. I still remember going to the doctor with my Dad and him asking me if I was stressed out, and my Dad denying it coz it was not my age to get stressed. 

The one thing that worked in my favour was that I have never been a quitter. I made the most out of my situation, perhaps not the best - cut all forms of human contact with friends. I stopped socializing altogether. I started blogging and being more active on social media only because I was home all day and had to kill time. It's an important part of my expression now, what with the blog and everything, but at one point in my life I had not stepped out of my house for a period of 3 months. 

My parents got tired of my being a couch potato and enrolled me into a slimming center, and after a lot of fighting I agreed to go. That's where they completely diagnosed my body and started to dig into what was the root cause of my obesity. I was asked to see the counselor they had. We spoke for few hours and then she asked me to call my parents, but guess what, they didn't come, because they thought it all was bullshit.

My therapist asked me to take a stand, and make life better for myself. She said I was bordering on depression and I need to address what the cause of my obesity is, lest the problem be recurring my entire life. She asked me to enroll for group activities, dancing, where I will be able to interact with actual people more often. She encouraged me to go out and socialize. It took me 5 months to convince my parents to let me join a gym (I don't blame them, I had been a no-show for a good year and a half with a gym membership before). They agreed to let me join for a mere 3 months, and I had to earn that membership by showing them progress. This time around, I was hell bent. I didn't want to end up depressed. What I was going through wasn't even depression yet it felt like hell. I started going for Zumba and eventually took up Salsa and Bollywood Dance, followed by kickboxing. Soon enough, the scales started dipping too. I met some amazing people at my gym who were all aiming for fitness, and it felt amazing. I lost 35 kilos.

I let myself go and took myself for granted, and 30 kilos later, found myself in the same spot again. How did I let myself get back to this again? Being told I was getting fat, I was looking ugly. Being pushed to the point where I didn't even care anymore and turned to junk eating again. It was too late when it hit me, but better late than never. I knew I had to live through it again. Only this time, I had the support of my friends and loved ones. I have a man who joined the gym with me just so I won't feel alone when I workout. I have the best trainers who ask me to stick to my cardio and skip weight training on days when I haven't had enough sleep. I have readers who actually read what I write. Really, I feel thankful. 

My parents have always been the tough love kinds, and I don't think it's their fault that they did not understand what I was going through. It's just how our stupid and judgmental society works. Guests passed a comment about my weight, and they started taunting me. My mom took me to a dietician when I was 14 and the doctor asked her to lay off, I was just growing up. Thankfully they did, but the damage had already been done. I won 'miss personality' in my college, and more than anyone else it was hard for me to believe so myself. I just wish my parents actually paid heed to what the doctors were saying. For the love of sensibility, they have a degree and they know what they're saying. Indian parents only take what they want from the doctors advice and follow their own methods. I see the scenario has changed now, and I am hoping it would only get better. 

People feed their kids with all kinds of unhealthy crap at home, and when they're undergoing bodily changes as they grow, they think their kid is fat. I saw a kid take low fat steamed veggies in her tiffin box the other day. That, my friends, is the other extreme of this situation. You need to provide adequate nutrition to your kids, they're growing up. Please don't put them on a fad diet. Oh and while we're on that subject, do encourage kids to go out and play, not sit at home and play on their phones and tabs and computers but go out, run around, have a few falls and play real games like football and cricket. 

Last but not the least, I'd like to say that if you know anyone who's battling obesity, try being a little sensitive towards them. If you have a person going through the same who you care about, try being there for them. Congratulate them on their effort, motivate them. If you take a box of chocolates for your friend who's chronically obese and trying to eat healthy, you're part of the problem too. A little thought wouldn't hurt. They may not be open to advice (they're probably getting advice from many other channels) so just try to be the listener, it really helps. 

Oh well, nostalgia strikes again. I'm gonna need to take a breather. But I'm here to listen, if you have anything you'd like to share with me, please, be my guest, I'm happy to help. If you feel low, if you need motivation, I'm only a comment away. If you feel like you want to talk to me privately, don't hesitate to email me on exploreyourkitchen at gmail dot com.

Signing off on a happy note, I'm coming up with some real healthy recipes for you guys! Stay tuned!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Cheers to 2014! Welcome 2015 with Major Changes.

Happy New Year Everybody!

Well, let me start off by saying that 2014 was not bad at all for me. I got to learn a lot of things in the food world, recipes and otherwise, from just being a home cook to branching out, baking, taking corporate orders, being featured on TV and in newspapers, and working as a consultant with bakery start ups. With all the food reviewing and food writing, a little part of me was always whispering to self, asking me to look at my body, and contrary to popular belief that Food Bloggers suck coz they get free food, I am a very good example of how it all affects our health in a bad way. 

Prior to food tastings, I had actually managed to get stronger and fitter and was on my way to optimal health. I let my priorities change, and at one point I was doing as many as 30 reviews a month. Yes, I was eating out every day. I have other complications other than my obesity as well, be it PCOS or a family history of diabetes and hypothyroidism. For close to 3 years straight, I let all this affect my health. Sure, I tried to eat healthy, work out a bit, here and there, but depriving oneself only works up to a certain extent. I have been the butt of many fat jokes and as much as I laugh them out with everyone else, only I know how much it pierced my heart. I used to come back home and wallow in sadness, and turn to the one thing that I had in abundance - Free (unhealthy) food. 

After promising myself, my family, my loved ones time and again that I will do something about it, I would eventually fail. I would get back to my old ways. Around October 2014, I realized that this was it. It was not just the food reviews. Even when I avoided going for them, I would devise new ways to screw with my system. I needed a lifestyle change. Nothing temporary. Whatever I had to do, had to be for good. Just then I received an email from J W Marriott to participate in their fitness transformation program. I figured why not, I probably needed the push and the advice from their expert fitness team. I started prepping for it early with regular gym workouts. Just the normal cardio and circuit training, you know. 

I would love to write in detail about my experience so I am going to save that for another blog post, but in short, it changed my life. That was on 22nd November 2014. Here is a chart of my progress since then. 

Impressive, right? The best part is that there is no diet. There is no magic trick. I have modified my lifestyle. I am eating everything, going for reviews, eating all the free food out there, but just being smart about it. I figured that my lifestyle change should also include a change in my blog, so here it is.

What's gonna change?

I am going to be posting a lot of healthy recipes. I will be talking about my body changes and workout routines. I will also be talking about how to eat out smartly. I will still be doing food reviews, but they will be focusing on the health aspect as well, other than the taste etc. 

I am embracing everything with an open mind. But of course, I have had to make some compromises but when the results show, I don't even regret it. 2015 is going to be the year of changes, and I am seriously hoping to change the way all of us couch potatoes eat! 

See you guys in the next post!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Of Dreams Coming True - DBS India's Chilli Paneer.

Oftentimes, I am posed with the question from the people I meet - "Why aren't you into blogging/baking full time? You're good at it. You should totally make the switch". I always smile back at them, secretly thinking to myself that I wish it were as easy as just saying it. Or thinking it. I wish it were easy to just get up and say 'I Quit'. I wish it were easy to make a new beginning without letting fear stare me in my face. That being said, Flying is my one true love, where I feel I belong. But a really cute story made me believe in dreams, and if it weren't for flying, I would have actually taken the leap of faith and taken peoples' suggestion. I'm talking about DBS Bank India's cute-sy short movie, Chilli Paneer. The movie link had over a million hits, so I just had to check out what it was all about. 

Chilli Paneer is the story of a Food Blogger from Singapore named Ken, who visits India on a family business trip. He bumps into Asha, who as it turns out is an ardent follower of his blog. They bond over food and in no time their love for food turns into feelings towards each other. A crazy idea, a dream to open their own restaurant, and soon enough they are gathering funds with the help of DBS Bank to open up their first restaurant together. It almost makes you feel like you're living the dream along with Asha and Ken, from picking the colour of the walls, to picking the right curtains, hiring the most appropriate Chef, dealing with light fixtures and other malfunctions, and eventually naming the restaurant. Then there's the whole angle of the typical Indian parents who aren't very happy with their daughter's choice of man and would rather have her settle with a well qualified desi guy who probably lives in his own predictable bubble. The grand opening shows some prominent food blogging faces in Mumbai, all attending the serene soiree and enjoying themselves to the fullest. A sigh of relief combined with a victorious smile, Ken and Asha raise a toast to each other where Asha finds a diamond ring in her champagne. The first part ends with Asha looking deep into Ken's eyes, and Ken looking back at her, reassuringly. 

The second part of DBS Chilli Paneer is far more interactive that the first one. Ken and Asha decide to open a second restaurant, away from their city, all the way in Goa. The short movie showcases Asha in various scenarios through Ken's perspective. Of course, all along, both of them are in touch with their DBS Bank representative through their iPads, discussing financial possibilities, loans, making the best decisions as they travel the city. The interactive options let you make a choice, whether you'd end up doing something completely random, like open up a restaurant on a boat, or buy a huge place from an egoistic restaurant owner, or just decide to lay low, for whatever happens, happens for the best. Based upon your choices, at the end of the movie you get to know something about your personality. As for me, I would totally end up opening the second restaurant on the boat. 

I don't know if there is going to be a part 3 to the movie, but I seriously hope there is, because it makes me believe in things. Maybe this time from Asha's perspective, showing Ken react to different situations, cooking some good food or even writing a cook book. I can take it for granted that the DBS Bank representative is going to be there with them, all along. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Happy Anniversary Yauatcha!

December is the month that makes me the happiest, what with the Christmas cheer, the mornings with a nip in the air, playing Secret Santa, baking goodies, planning how to party on the new years eve while secretly analyzing my own growth over the entire year. I am looking forward to all those Christmas Special movie nights, watching Home Alone movie marathons, and all the other RomComs, from Serendipity to Sleepless in Seattle... I already have a smile on my face as I am typing this. This December began on a rather fantastic note, as I received an invitation from one of my favourite places to dine in, Yauatcha. Yauatcha is not the place that needs any feedback, but is nice enough to still ask people and actually give the suggestions an honest thought. The scrumptious food is only an added advantage. I have never really eaten an average tasting dish here, everything is cooked to utmost perfection.

From the 1st December 2014 to the 15th December 2014, Yauatcha is celebrating their 3rd anniversary, and celebrations include all-you-can-eat Dimsums and Wine between 3 PM and 7 PM. Along with that, they have also revamped their entire menu and I was lucky enough to give it a try!

The Yin Yang Dumplings were filled with three kinds of Mushrooms and were delicately cased together so they would melt in your mouth as soon as you put them in your mouth. We also tried Prawn and Seaweed Dumplings which were nothing short of exceptional.

The Charcoal Lamb Buns were light and steaming but one bite into them and I felt that depth of the tender lamb, which was so delicious that it made everyone at the table shut their eyes for a moment and savour the pure burst of flavour. This one is definitely going to be regularly ordered!

The Crispy Sugarcane Chicken and Prawn Roll was the most wow dish served to us, presented with a lot of personality in the form of biting into a sugarcane stick while chewing into the roll, just so that underneath the crisp exterior and the tender middle, there is a sweet and juicy hit, something you would never imagine to work on paper, but hey, my palate loved it!

The Crispy Prawn and Edamame Rolls were innovative and tasted like nothing I had ever tasted before. The dish is served with a sauce alongside, and you can choose to have the sauce poured over the rolls or eat them as is. I tried them both with and without the sauce and I prefer the sauced up moist and yet crunchy goodness!

The Stir Fried Pumpkin Prawns were pure genius. The Prawns are coated in a batter made out of puréed Pumpkin and fried till tender, and the Pumpkin batter makes them taste so good!

We next tried the Lamb in Kam Hyeong sauce. I have never had Lamb so tender in India. The curry was heavily spiced but was not overwhelmingly loaded with unnecessary spices at the same time. 

Yauatcha is one of the places where I feel that the Vegetarian selection does as much justice to the customers as the Non Vegetarian ones, if not more. The 4 style vegetables proved that yet again. We had them with the Chicken and Egg White Rice, in a bowl, with chopsticks, relishing every little morsel. 

I got to try the much talked about Raspberry Delice for dessert. I have to say this, it was not worth the hype. I agree that it is a pretty looking plate but it was too sweet for my liking. That being said, while it was not up to the Yauatcha standard, it still beat the many desserts I have eaten at random places. It was still yummy!

I also tried the Jasmine Tea Cake and I have only one word to describe it... WOW. The light and airy mousse cake came with a side of ice cream and the whole plate was like a marriage made in heaven. If I had to pick one dish to recommend from Yauatcha it would definitely be the Jasmine Tea Cake, and also the Pumpkin Prawns. 

I also tried the Macarons from the dessert display at the ground floor but I was not too excited about them, I guess my Macaron love probably lies in Delhi... Or maybe Paris!

Here's wishing Yauatcha a Happy Anniversary once again and thanking them for having us over! It is always a pleasure visiting you guys!


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