Friday, January 30, 2015

Recipe: Cauliflower Couscous. When Couscous went Paleo!




I'm so grateful that Tata Salt Lite actually gave me the opportunity to speak for the cause, since I had been going through a writers block for the longest time. Since leading a fit and healthy lifestyle is a choice that I have made, this bodes well for me as well as my readers (I hope!) these little changes actually make a big difference in our lives. You can totally avoid the sodium loaded French fries when you go out to eat and opt for the humble baked potato without salt, and sprinkle your own low sodium salt on it as required. I have noticed that I am able to click better selfies, my clothes fit better, and I feel less lethargic when I keep my sodium intake in check. Of course, it's a little bit of everything like I always say. Eating healthy, working out and keeping your water intake and nutrition in check.

To tell you a little bit about what Paleo is, Paleo is short for Paleolithic lifestyle. I am not going to call it a diet, because it isn't. It's a lifestyle. We eat what our ancestors ate in the Paleolithic times. I have what you call a semi Paleo lifestyle, what with the food writing and everything else. But it does help me make an informed decision about what I'm eating. If you're interested, Google it right away!

Since couscous is a refined carb, I used Cauliflower as couscous for this recipe since its unrefined and is more nutritious, and also easier to digest for our body. I make this recipe so often that it is a house favourite! The gentle crunch of the cauliflower, the sweetness from the raisins, the saltiness from the olives and the smokiness from the chili flakes makes this a perfectly balanced treat!







Cauliflower Couscous
Serves 2
Takes 15 minutes
Recipe credit: watched on food network


Ingredients:

250 gm Cauliflower florets
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
5-6 Olives, roughly chopped
Mixed nuts, roasted on a pan. I used almond and pistachio slivers
15 Raisins/ Cranberries
Tata Salt lite, to taste
1 tsp Chili flakes
A handful of chopped coriander
1 tbsp Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, to drizzle on top

Method:

Pulse the cauliflower florets in a blender till they resemble the texture of couscous.

Heat a pan on medium high, add oil. Start with the shallots and chili flakes and give them a minute till they are sweet and translucent. Add in the cauliflower and sauté for 2 minutes.

Season with Tata salt lite, and sprinkle some water over the cauliflower. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low. Let it cook for 2 minutes. Lift the lid and give it a good mix.

Transfer to a plate and top with the nuts, olives, lemon juice, raisins, coriander and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. You can add anything else you like, for example cumin powder, sumac, even grilled Apple would taste great!

Let me know how you like this!

10 Myths about Fitness/Eating Healthy. A Max Bupa health insurance initiative.

image credits: Google Images
 Do you guys remember those badges that came with Herbalife? "Lose Weight Now, Ask Me How", they said. I may have tried close to every fad diet on the planet before coming to an informed and practical conclusion that there are no short cuts to fitness. Everything is long term, and one needs to modify their lifestyle and stick to their routine. Here are the top 10 myths on my list about fitness and eating!

1. You cannot workout while on your period: This is one of the most common (and irritating) myths ever. An intense cardio workout can help you beat the period pain as well as reduce the flow making your life easier. All the hormones that are released as soon as we start PMSing are actually beneficial for an amazing workout. If you are a lifter, you will notice that you can actually lift heavier weights during this time of the month! And to think of it, you probably won't feel all that guilty about that huge slice of chocolate cake you rightfully devoured!

2. You need to starve yourself to lose weight: Let me start by saying that 'losing weight' is actually the wrong term. You wanna lose fat. We need to be more aware about muscle weight and fat weight. Losing pure fat from the body is the best way to get leaner and fitter. I know many people who go on water diet, juice diet, the infamous General Motors diet, Atkins and what not, but the fact is that the lesser food your body gets, the more fat it stores thinking that you're probably starving. It saves fat as a viable source of energy in case you have to starve for days together. If you want to lose fat, you have to eat often. Think about 8 small meals a day. This way your metabolism will also be better.

3. Weight lifting makes women bulk up: No, people. Women are designed to look a certain way, and weight lifting will only make us leaner and fitter. I know women who are heavy weight lifters yet petite. If you do want to bulk up, there is another way to go about it. But the gist is that naturally you will not bulk up if you lift weights. Weight lifting also comes with an after burn which means you actually burn way more calories than your normal cardio routine, up to 24 hours after exercising that particular muscle group.

4. Fats are bad for your health: I should have probably put this one up as the number one myth. People avoid Oil, Butter, Ghee, Cheese like the plague - but get this right, to lose fat, you need to eat fat. The good fats that come from dry fruits are essential for the body. Think about Extra Virgin Olive Oil to drizzle on top of your salads (never cook with extra virgin olive oil, it is poisonous when heated). Ghee is an excellent lubricant for our joints and is great for health. Of course, all these must be consumed in limited amounts and not as an overdose.

5. Fat Free food means no calories: Fat free labeled foods probably contain more calories than the full fat versions of many boxed products, if not equal. The fat that is removed from these foods is often replaced with Sugar, and that is the worst kind of overload you want to be putting inside your body. We must make it a habit to read the nutritional content of whatever we purchase from the stores, and check how many grams of what it has. Oftentimes you can see that foods say they are low carb, let's say they have 4 grams of carbohydrates but check the line below it for how much of those 4 grams is derived from sugar, and you will be shocked. This fat free marketing gimmick is truly shameful!

6. Slimming Pills aid weight loss: The next time you see a slimming pill ad on TV, please switch the channel. They must be taken under medical supervision and only if nothing else works in the favour of your fitness goals.

7. Margarine is healthier than Butter: I am tired of watching my loved ones lean over to a "lite" spread over the real butter, just because they think it is healthier. While Margarine may have fewer calories than butter, it is high in trans fats which are very harmful for the body. You're better off eating the real deal!

8. Eating Fruits after a meal is a good habit: Another common mistake in today's households that is causing far more harm to our health than we can imagine. Consuming fruits immediately post dinner or lunch is very bad for the health. Fruits are high in natural Sugars that instantly convert into triglycerides if consumed immediately after a meal. The ideal time to eat fruits is as your first meal, as soon as you wake up, since the body needs a sugar hit after all that repair mechanism it went through all night while you were sleeping. If you'd like to consume fruits during a day, have them as a meal on their own, 2 hours after you have had your previous meal.

9. Carbohydrates are bad for health/fat loss: Carbohydrates come in two forms. Refined and Unrefined. The Refined carbs are the ones laden with Sugar (Refer No.5 above) and must be avoided by all means. If not avoided, they must be consumed in limited quantities. The Unrefined carbs are actually good for health. These include fruits and vegetables, which are rich with fiber, minerals and antioxidants and must be consumed on a daily basis.

10. Vegetarians do not get adequate protein as they do not eat meat: This is not a fact. Vegetarians do need to consume a wide variety of legumes, peas, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds and soy to make up for it, but that definitely does not mean they lack in protein!

This wonderful initiative was started by Max Bupa health insurance, who has taken it upon themselves to educate the world, and go around busting myths and make everyone's life easier. You can check out their website http://www.allfactnomyth.com/ where all the queries are updated in real time. Their very cute mascots Sathya and Mythya tell us why Health Insurance is a necessity these days, and I couldn't agree more with them. Seriously guys, there is no use of anything if one is not covered for health. They have made some really cool videos as well, you can have a look at one of them right here!

That was my list of 10 myths. Do you have any? I'd love to know! Do leave me a comment!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Recipe: The Healthy Elvis Pancakes. Bringing in a sLITE change.


I love Elvis. We all do, don't we? Elvis loved his Peanut Butter sandwiches with Bananas. I may have made the Elvis sandwich a couple hundred times at home, over the years, but there is hardly a way to make them retain the goodness sans the fat and processed carb overload. So I thought of reinventing them as pancakes, but then again, there's flour and sugar.

I have been experimenting with a lot of new ingredients in my kitchen off late. A person who experiments may not always be successful but they eventually do strike Gold! Everyone I love cooking for is an ardent pancake lover and let's not kid ourselves, whole wheat pancakes just aren't as good. After a lot of thinking, I decided to grind up instant oats and use the flour instead, and like I said earlier, I did strike Gold!

Like Tata Salt Lite campaign says, it is all about bringing in a sLITE change in our lives, small changes that make big differences. Imagine the amount of excess Sodium, Sugar and sugar derived Carbs we would avoid by making simple choices. It only takes few minutes but it makes a world of difference.

I used instant quick cooking oats for this recipe but steel cut oats are your best bet. A cup and half of quick cooking instant oats yields a cup of flour. Just blend it till the consistency is really fine, et voilà! While the brand of Oats I used is not gluten free, you can easily find gluten free Oats in the market and pulse them in the blender for a great gluten free breakfast.

Just like every other recipe that I have been posting recently, I am leaving plenty of room for imagination and experimentation. Use your favourite fruit purée, chocolate, dried fruit, nuts, even cheese! These may not be the softest pancakes you've ever eaten but they contain no sugar, possibly gluten free, creamy, and not to forget, healthy! These are great as a post workout snack!






The Healthy Elvis Pancakes
Serves 2
Takes 15 minutes


Ingredients

1 cup Oats Flour (to make flour out of quick cooking instant oats, refer to the paragraphs above)
2 Eggs
2 tbsp Peanut Butter, melted
2 medium Bananas, overripe, mashed
1 tbsp Date Syrup/Honey
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Tata salt LITE
1/2 tsp Cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp Nutmeg powder

Method:

In a big bowl, mix the Oat flour, baking soda, Tata Salt LITE, cinnamon and nutmeg powders together.

In another bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Make sure the bananas are well mashed and the eggs are whisked well.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix with a wooden spoon. Lumps are okay. Do not over mix. Let it stand for 5 minutes,

Heat up a non stick pan on medium low heat.

The batter must now be fluffy and tight, loosen it with some milk to a dropping consistency.

Grease with a pat of butter if you like. Place 2 tbsp batter in the centre and work it into a round shape. Cook for a minute or so, till you see bubbles appear on the side. Flip this darling pancake and let it go for another minute.

Stack up a few pancakes and drizzle with honey if you like. I topped mine with caramelised Banana slices and some honey. Oh, and do remember to serve them warm. They get tough if you let them stand for too long.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Recipe: The Whatever-You-Get Braised Omelet.



Off late my schedule has been full of eggs. I'm an egg lover, but I may have exaggerated myself when I said I could eat eggs for every meal. It gets repetitive after a while and one can easily get bored. That's when the real challenge sets in. What sets the challenge in the Iron-Chef-America mode is being pressed for time, multitasking.

The best thing about eggs are that they are so versatile, you can almost add them to anything- a stir fry, rice, or a simple scramble or omelet. The quickest and easiest version of eggs with an attitude is what I call the Whatever-You-Get Omelet.

As for braising, after spending over a decade trying to perfect the omelet, watching them serve me a perfect one every time at leisurely brunches and breakfast buffets and me trying to replicate the same only to end up with brown omelet every single time, I have resorted to braising my eggs and they're perfect every time. Braising is basically cooking your eggs in steam, and you'll end up with the best omelet ever if you get it right!

The Whatever-You-Get Braised Omelet
Serves One
Takes 10 minutes

Ingredients:

2 whole eggs/ 4 egg whites.
1 tsp Oil + 1 tsp Oil.
Tata Salt LITE to taste (low sodium)
Pepper to taste
Whatever you get. (Seriously. You can add some leftover Chicken or Veg. Mixed greens are a great option too. I used Broccoli, Lettuce and Spinach, some shredded chicken and half a Tomato. You can go as crazy as you like, be it mushrooms, different kinds of cheese, boiled Corn kernels,even leftover rice sautéed in spices!)
A slice of Cheese. I used White Cheddar
A splash of milk (approximately 1 tbsp)

Important apparatus: a non stick pan with a lid.

Recipe:

Whisk the eggs with Milk, Salt and Pepper. Set aside.
Heat up the non stick pan on medium high heat. Prep the veggies and keep them ready. Also keep the Cheese peeled and ready (you're welcome, bachelor readers, I'm laying it out step by step for you :P )
Add 1 tsp Oil to the pan followed by Chili flakes and veggies. turn heat to high and sauté for 2 minutes. Remove in a separate plate.
Put the pan back on heat and turn the heat to low. Pour the omelet mixture in and stir lightly in the pan. Gently whisk around, and then top with all the yummy veggies that have been sautéed, chicken, cheese, herbs!
Sprinkle few drops of water around the insides of the pan and immediately cover it. Let it stay for 3 minutes. The steam generated from the sizzling water will braise the omelet and will cook it from the top as well.
Remove the lid, and transfer the cooked omelet to a plate. If you think the omelet is too runny for you, give it a couple more minutes with a covered lid.
I drizzled the top of my omelet with Chili infused olive oil and had it as is, so filling, so healthy!

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.

Ingredients:

200 gm Chicken cut into medium small pieces
Tata Salt Lite (low Sodium)
Pepper
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.

Method:

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!

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