Tag Archives: healthy food

Learning Life’s Beautiful Lessons…

Firstly, my sincere regrets and apologies for having disappeared for quite a long time.

When other priorities push your zeal to the backseat, the zeal to perform has to wait. I suppose that’s what happened with me. When life suddenly showered upon a new ‘Bucket List’ of various ‘Family Packages’, the writer in me had to wait for a while.  But the inquisitive learner in me never stopped working.

A self proclaimed ‘hard core optimist’ that I am,  I’ve come back after this break, with wonderful experiences of peeping into Grandma’s kitchen once more, ofcourse which is presently Amma’s kitchen… the speciality being the presence of the nonagenarian aachi (grandmother). I was lucky enough to play  the role of the little grand daughter again to my grandmother, getting loads of life tips, family stories and sharing non-stop giggles.  Interestingly, I seem to have grown younger with the help of the  time machine called aachi.

Sometimes, God showers lifetime experiences that one would seldom expect.

This break showered me with an experience of sharing the same roof with young at heart oldies set apart by three decades. My grandmother who is 90;  my father in the 70s club; and my mother – probably one of the most patient and pragmatic ladies, in her sixties…. taking care of everyone. Being spectators to the daily routines of the three were me and my daughter of 11.

Now… I think you would understand my over whelmed joy to just observe and immerse myself in the role of a spectator…. and daily ‘Walk the Talk’ with these interesting personalities.

More than a food enthusiast, I have become a life style enthusiast with age. These special months have enlightened me to accept things in life, and let go many worries that we dump our soul sacks with.

Wouldn’t these elders from 60-90 years have issues related to food, health, fitness, relationships and loneliness? Tackling all these, along with the inability to do things they could do a decade ago…. is truly a catalyst to many agonies. But the time their bodies have taken to age has provided their minds and hearts with the great art of graciously accepting their own old age and its limitations.

One of the many lessons I learnt was to focus on enthusiastic diversions, that would provide the fervour to tackle the fast pace of life, as well as life’s various complications that never cease to diminish with age and with growing children.  These elders seemed to have their own interests they were engaged and occupied, throughout the day.

Am I still a Blogger or an amateur Philosopher??? No, No, Not yet.  When I analyse in isolation, all through the journey of ‘dosaikal’, I had aimed for a deep rooted cultural transfer from my previous generations to my next. The precious months those passed by, have given me a sense of satisfaction and great joy of having provided some of life’s beautiful lessons to my daughter. Especially, I was witness to the transfer of unconditional Love and Passion for Life from a 90 year old great grandmother to a 11 year old great grand daughter in the most beautiful manner ever possible.

Incidentally, my previous post has also been one inspired by the energetic old lady.  This might seem like a repetition post … but the passion and zeal of life that I observed in her tied me up to sit back, relax and relish those special moments… inhaling every micro second of it.

The 90 year old seemed the most energetic among the three. Though Amma (mother), who is the care taker of the household, is the most active, beyond her physical problems, Aachi (grandmother) astonished me with her briskness and memory. This is what made me explore more on the life styles of our elders.

I started thinking about healthy life style that is emphasised by authors, dieticians, diabetologists, food researchers and amateur foodies like me too. Now,  what makes our previous generation a healthier community than us.  And is that the real truth that they are a healthier lot than us? We might be a medically developed world… but what makes us fall prey to simple and complex diseases that immobilise us from performing our routine chores? With so much knowledge available on various platforms, what makes us scroll for more and more ideas on healthy life style? Why haven’t we been able to find a path… stop the search and proceed?

Have we ignored the wealth of knowledge that our own elders provide, live and exhibit every day…as we spend so much time searching the net for remedies.  We have converted our beautiful homes into mechanical dwelling houses .. where machines and gadgets live for more hours than our human hearts.  We are driven by advertisements  -provided by Retail companies and Spiritual Gurus alike.

Going back to traditional values, observing and absorbing what our previous generations ate, actively did and very actively avoided might provide a satisfactory result. Be mindful, we are intelligent enough to separate those unwanted logics too from the lives and beliefs of our elders. But most importantly, those life style markers that might pull us back from entering into Diabetic/Hyper tension Platforms… leave aside  Alzheimer and Amnesia…. could be identified from their life style.

Why I repeatedly go back to my grandmother is for her memory to narrate stories and  name members of the unbelievably huge extended family that she hailed from. At ninety, to squat and draw ‘maakkolam’- the intricate drawings on entrances with rice flour paste and chopping vegetables with ease is a sight of astonishment.  This is not only a physical ability… but the mental vigor to keep working, help and share the burden of the daughter-in-law. There is an inbuilt mechanism of stress busting, by chatting and diverting her mind into many other simple daily chores… and the remarkable fact is that… this stress busting technique comes unknowingly and is triggered unconsciously… no therapists to guide.

So, the simple moral I learnt is to observe our previous generations, inhale the best techniques that make them live a life with lesser ailments, or live a life that makes them feel there were lesser ailments or no great ailmemnts at all. It is a mind technique that came genetically, that we fail to inherit because of the so-called advancement in science and life style.

After this extensive food for thought, its time for real food for the tummy. With the same passion of zeal, I believe to have inherited from my grandma, I started exploring a few spots in Chennai and here are a few delicacies that I experimented in my kitchen…
 

Walnut Crackers


 

Amazingly perfect bread

 
Puttu

 
100% whole wheat Buns


 
Healthy roasted mixture


 
Pudhina Panagam (lime and mint -jaggery coolant for summer)


 

Green Apple Mint Juice

Thanks to my little angel, who brought me back from the awestruck state of mind to reality- to write more for her and for myself.

Home made Plum Jam with Unrefined Cane Sugar (Preservative Free)

 

100% whole wheat Bread and Jam without store bought Pectin

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This post calls for some great adventure in the kitchen. From a person who started off highlighting traditional Tamilnadu dishes, with an open mind to learn cuisines of different countries, Baking Bread and Making Jam is of course an adventure. But it has certainly been a fruitful adventure.

Everyone aims at Healthy Food for the Family. Aiming at providing healthy food might mean many things –

Cooking-

a. food from scratch
b. with fresh, healthy ingredients
c. with unrefined food products like whole grains, lentils or unpolished stuff
d. that inculcates balance in all nutrients – carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins and fiber
e. that sticks to traditional foods
f. that involves less time to cook

and any other version that suits you and your family and more essentially the Family’s Palate.

My preferences of making food, starts from scratch and follow a traditional Tamil Grandma’s Household style.  Satisfying the taste buds that long for foods from different parts of the world, through specialties which can be cooked at home – from scratch with minimal ingredients, has been no less than a  beautiful, adventurous journey across the world.

So, my recent passion has been Baking Bread – 100% whole wheat and 0% all purpose flour. And connected to it, came the Making of Jam with no added preservatives or store bought Pectin.

 

The Nutty Bread

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Cooking Healthy Food might seem like a difficult task in hand. I chose the simple method of clinging on to all the above, especially understanding traditional foods – be it from any country or culture.

Simpler than this can be to just avoid processed food. That might not sound practically simple, but I assure, it is certainly a simple affair with loads of care and patience in choice of food stuff bought from the store.

When you go farther away from Earth, less the gravitational force and hence you float. A visit to the Local Super Market can be like a visit to Space, away from the true necessities of healthy living. While it pulls you or sucks you in, you float in the amazing aura and aroma of packed, refined junk basic items.  As your heart and brain is immersed in the tempting outer world of packaged nonsense, we tend to pick the most fancy ones, easy to cook and less time consuming. The next possible misery would be to fool oneself in the health benefits that has been quoted in the pack, and come back to the original world- Home, with more unwanted processed stuff.

It is so easy, we pick what we want, depending upon what had already tempted us and the beloved kids through advertisements. Now, we are proud owners of all those beautifully sealed packets – but, the proud owner of the super market is surely ‘The Winner’. That Super Market is indeed a Special SPACE where Losers are also satisfied souls.

Obesity and increasing health issues at a very young age throughout the world are things of real concern. This anxiety and uneasiness made me bake my own whole wheat breads and buns. The additional benefit of home made 100% whole wheat breads and buns  is the abundant patience instigated in the family. Truly, the chunky breads and buns need endurance to be consumed, after so many years of soft/store bought/ s0-called whole wheat bread.  Yet, the aroma of baking bread that fills the house and the satisfaction of having a healthy whole grain meal has become an addition. It has become our Sunday breakfast after a 6 day breakfast plan with power packed pancakes. https://dosaikal.com/2014/04/19/power-packed-pancakes-whole-grain-dosais/
My own… Dinner Rolls and Breads

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and buns…

 

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While I need to perfect my bread baking efforts, before I post a few breads and buns that I make, I thought of the best accomplishment for breads – Jams and Jellies – easily the most sort after store bought item. Have a glance on the package of Jams available, there would be a long list of ingredients for storage purposes. Why not make our own Jam with the minimal ingredients – truly only two needed – sugar and fruit.

What about Pectin, an important ingredient needed for the consistency of jam? This has been a learning experience.

http://healingcuisinebyelise.com/2012/07/questions-answered-is-pectin-healthy.html gives a detailed analysis on Pectin.

 

According to the USDA, fruits contain the greatest amount of pectin — all fruits are made up of at least 5 to 10 percent pectin. Peaches, apples, oranges, grapefruit and apricots contain the highest amount of pectin among fruits. For example, one small peach contains 0.91 gram of pectin, while 1 cup of apple slices contains 0.654 gram of pectin. http://www.livestrong.com/article/289067-list-of-foods-high-in-pectin/

 

The learning fact is that fruits can be direct sources of Pectin, to attain the exact consistency in Jams and what can be skipped is the store bought Pectin. The danger of commercial pectin is that it might be a chemical combination with artificial sweeteners.

 

Pectin Fruit content

Courtesy: http://healingcuisinebyelise.com/2012/07/questions-answered-is-pectin-healthy.html

 

Hence, for a healthy food style, just choose unprocessed food. A visit to super market is a necessity. But, having healthy choices makes all the difference. What is healthy is something to be understood with Precision.

Additionally, it also means preserving foods with natural preservatives – unbelievable natural ingredients available in your kitchen – also available in small shops and super markets – but not as a processed version but as a basic unprocessed raw material. Amazing isnt it? But what remains most important is that ‘We Need to Make Our Choices’ for a healthy life style.

That’s why it is time for a Jam with fruit and sugar alone. When I had beautifully ripe Plums, that also had a sour touch to it, I chose to make a jam with plum and unrefined cane sugar – no refined white sugar either…Hurray!! Why bother about Pectin from store – Plum has all that is needed to fix the jam. And that was a true Success – with a capital ‘S’.

Come along… let’s see how I made it.
Plum Jam with Unrefined Cane Sugar (No Preservatives or store bought Pectin)

 

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Ingredients

  • plums deseeded and chopped – 1200 gms (approximately 6 bowls)
  • molasses/unrefined cane sugar – 500 gms

 

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Method of Preparation
Part I
To disinfect the plums, take a big bowl of water with turmeric and salt. Leave the fruits in the water for 1/2 an hour.

 

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Part II
Before cooking the plum, there are two other things that are essential in the making of Jam-
a) Plate in the Freezer
Place a plate in the freezer and a few spoons- we need to check for consistency later by placing the jam in the chilled plate.

 

b)Sterilize the bottles with lid

 

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  1. Wash the bottles and lids to store jam very well with no food particles sticking to it.
  2. Take a big bowl and place the washed bottles and lids on sides.
  3. Fill water in the bowl immersing the bottles.
  4. Let the water come to a full boil.
  5. Close with lid and let it stay till the jam is done.

 

Part III

 

  1. Remove the plums from turmeric-salt water. Wash well and pat them dry with a clean cloth.
  2. De-seed and chop them into small pieces. Smaller the pieces, more blended the jam would turn out.
  3. Smaller pieces combined with slightly bigger chunks in-between, taste delicious with a candied flavor.
  4. Take a hard bottomed, wide bowl and drop in both ingredients -plum and sugar.

 

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4. One can also substitute molasses with cane sugar.

5. Let the mixture boil in open bowl, do not close with lid.

6. The procedure would take 45 minutes to an hour to reach the required jam consistency

 

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7. Check in between with the plate in the freezer- swipe a spoon of jam on the plate and cut into two halves. If it sets well and isn’t flowing on the plate, jam is done. Else, cook for some more time.

 

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8. When the jam has reached the required consistency, switched off flame.

9. Pour into sterilized hot bottles directly from stove and close lid tightly.

10. Do not pour hot jam in cold bottles, otherwise the bottles would crack.

11. Leave the jam to cool by itself. Do not engage in cooling by other means. That would affect the setting of the Jam.

12. Enjoy with home made bread or bun. Also try in tarts or pies.

 

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Home made Healthy Caramel Popcorn (with palm jaggery) – A Promise Kept!

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While on our recent flight, when my daughter asked for a caramel popcorn snack, I obviously restricted her not only due to the white sugar caramel.. but I could imagine a long list of unnecessary components dancing their way into the box. I was and am truly scared of the butter… too much salt… baking soda…. corn syrup… preserving agents and other unknown ingredients in the pack. I know I sound quite obsessed with healthy food. And as always, I promised her to make a healthier version of Caramel Popcorn at home.
Though in a while relaxing my obsession, I bought her a pack of caramel popcorn and tasted to find the original taste and texture of it. Crispy, buttery, salty, perfectly sweetened with caramelized sugar –  it definitely tasted good. Reading the ingredients, I couldn’t control the guilt of having those unwanted preservatives and unknown elements included in the pack to increase its shelf life.
Now, to keep up the promise..(by the way, I am approximately 75% good at keeping up my healthy promises in the kitchen), I decided to try a healthy caramel popcorn version not altering the taste of the packed junk that we had.
Off late, I have been quite successful in making peanut and sesame candies with jaggery syrup. With that confidence of getting the right syrup consistency, I went to fetch cane jaggery from my storage. In a corner, I saw the ‘chukku karuppatti’ specially bought from Thiruchendur Temple.

 

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Chukku Karuppatti is a flavourful/healthy combination of palm jaggery and dry ginger, moulded for storage in a hand-made palm leaf box. It is a household remedy for cold, cough and indigestion. So, you guessed right… caramel would be made from ‘chukku karuppatti’ – ‘dry ginger palm jaggery’ – that would aid in digestion too!
Here’s how I made it .. from scratch… with dry corn and no added ingredients. I prefer the taste of popped corn made from the humble pressure cooker than one made in a microwave.
Palm Sugar Caramel Popcorn – flavoured with dry ginger

 

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Ingredients

for pop-corn

  • dried corn (to pop-up) – 1 cup
  • oil – 1 tsp
  • salt – 1/2 tsp

 

pressure cooker popcorn

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for caramel

  • chukku karuppatti/palm jaggery with dry ginger – 1/2 cup

Cane Jaggery can also be substituted for Palm Jaggery

healthy brown syrup

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Method of Preparation

coating popcorn in palm syrup

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  1. Melt 1/2 cup palm sugar in 1/4 cup water either in minimum heat or by just stirring
  2. Keep the palm sugar aside at this melted level
  3. Before making caramel, it is better to make popcorn as the thickened syrup would harden quickly
  4. In a pressure cooker, take 1 tsp oil and salt; add dry corn and mix well
  5. Close the lid without the whistle and let the corn pop up in a few minutes
  6. Pop corn is ready
  7. Open the lid and keep aside and start making caramel
  8. For caramel, in a wide bottomed pan, take the already melted palm sugar and make a two string consistency syrup
  9. If one feels the quantity of syrup is too much for the quantity of popped corn, take the extra syrup and store for any other candy next time
  10. Immediately add the popcorn in the syrup and mix well
  11. Crispy Caramel Popcorn is ready
  12. Cool and store in an airtight container.

 

 

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It is truly a great feeling of satisfaction and pride to have fulfilled a promise given to your young one!