Friday, 15 June 2018

Remove Plastic- Own a Cup Instead!

June is the plastic month of the year where every one of us are talking about how to remove plastic from our life. This one product- man-made product has taken our world into a whirlwind. It has become an evil necessity, which we can’t live with or without. But its ok, I have a plan to make it more sustainable. Let’s embark on this plan together.

So, ladies (and you gents if you are reading me, but I highly doubt it) let’s do this together. Let’s make a list of disposable plastic materials we use in a month. Let’s recycle some from the list. And then let’s try to replace some in the list. For example, my list was-

  • 1.       Plastic water bottles, especially for my avengers’ 5 year-old-fan.
  • 2.       Plastic tiffin boxes
  • 3.       I have replaced most of my carry bags from plastic to cloth, but its still available for most.
  • 4.       Sanitary pads.

Now with great persuasion, I have taken my 5-year-old to like matt finish steel bottles. Today he happily takes that to school, while his plastic spider-man bottle bit the dust a few weeks ago. If nothing works for a mom, it’s the safest bet to take- out of sight is out of mind.

My husband could take glass tiffin boxes, but the little son still wants some cartoon on it. So, this time I bought a plastic on outside, but steel on inside tiffin box for him. Once the school reopens, we will find out whether I was successful or not in this attempt.

Now for the last and the final bit, I can now very confidently claim that I have replaced most kinds of sanitary pads in my house. And instead have started using a miracle silicone-based product, called Menstrual Cups.


If you truly want to do something for the environment, then with shaky baby steps, go towards this product. Let me begin by first tackling some myths surrounding this product-

  • 1.       ‘it feels unhygienic to insert something inside my vagina.’ Now this is the most classic myth that I hear from most of my friends when I approach them to talk about menstrual cups. It is the other way around when it comes to hygiene issues. Menstrual pads are unhygienic. They come in contact with air, and hence germs get a moist warm place to breed. Instead the menstrual cup seals the cervix, and in the limited air supply nothing substantially harmful can breed inside your body. By far it is the safest and the most hygienic sanitary products available in the market.
  • 2.       ‘too big to manually insert it.’ That’s a fair concern, it is a bit big, especially if you have had a child and you need to use the larger size like I do. But when you have a very natural lubricant flowing out of vagina(aka- blood, no yuck pls), it just slides inside with no effort. I tried it and then only am I writing about it. Even if you are scared, just try it out once. If you don’t like it, its ok. All I request is to not give it up entirely. After all, let me remind you that removing plastic from your life is and should be a goal you feel dearly for.
  • 3.       reusing poses to be a greater problem. I feel yuck to boil it all the time.’ Well, for this one let me start with an example. Do you think Swara Bhasker’s character in Veere de Wedding was concerned about boiling the toy in the Masturbation scene? Or do you as a mom or wife or a girl boil each fruit and vegetables before putting it into your mouth? Both these answers tend to go towards a 'no', so similarly, you don’t need to boil the cup every time you tip its contents out. Just wash it in clear water and its ready to be inserted again. When you open a new pack, its just then that the boiling is mandatory. After that, it’s up to you to boil or not to boil.
  • 4.       the thought of pulling out a cup full of menstrual blood … naaahhh’ on this one I have nothing to say. This is a reality and using a cup does make you come closer to your body. It is to see and witness this amazing system which is the reason life sustains in this world.
  • 5.       I won’t feel comfortable to exercise in the cup.’ Another myth, our vagina is mostly a very sensitive opening, but once you get snugly past that, there is no feeling. You won’t feel something in your legs if you have a tampon or a cup inserted inside. You wont even realise something is inserted until the body gives you the sign that it is full. Any physical exercise would be much more comfortable if compared to pads. Pads with friction and the moistness would lead to a delicate rash. This would never happen with a cup.
  • 6.       And saving the best for the last- ‘would the vagina stretch too much if I use it’ well after having a baby and still enjoying a happy sex life, I don’t think inserting a cup would change anything to do with parameters of the holy grail. This is not such a big thing, that your vagina has to stretch out to accommodate. So, fear not. I think I safely can put this out as a myth.
I think I have covered most of the myths about this wonderful product. Silicone is a highly elastic material which gets folded quite small and can be quite comfortable to take a shape once inside. If you get past the initial hitch, trust me you too would love the product. The sanitary pads that we use are 90% plastic with super absorbent polymers and non-woven plastic components. Some even come laced with much harmful chemicals which promises to turn blood into gel and keep it locked. This is not natural. And something that is causing so much of harm to environment, can’t be safe for us to use. If plastic bothers you, stem it out of our systems first. The picture below depicts a dump yard, full of diapers and sanitary pads from one small area of a metro city, for a week. We can truly take baby steps to change this reality.


Akshay Kumar starrer Pad-Man has gotten India to talk about periods and menstruation. I salute Arunachalam Muruganantham for what he achieved out of a simple emotion of love. Sir, however difficult your name is for me to pronounce, as much difficult is for me to comprehend you deed. I am just taking your fight on the urban level, a bit farther. Hope we do understand and more and more people join me in this fight! Cheers!!


POST SCRIPT- 

Maybe I started the article mid-way. But as the greatest non-conformist in the world, I chose to end it. Actually, I started this article with an assumption that everyone would know about this product. But I stand corrected as the amazing girl gang of my niece bombarded me with very relevant questions about this product. So here are some excerpts from all of my conversation from last night-

1. Define Menstrual Cup- A menstrual cup is a hygiene product which needs to be inserted in the vagina during menstruation. It is made of flexible medical grade silicone and shaped like a bell with a stem. Its purpose is to prevent menstrual blood containing uterine lining from leaking onto our clothes. The stem is used for insertion and removal. The bell-shaped cup seals against the vaginal wall just below the cervix, hence making the process extremely leak proof. Every 6 to 12 hours, depending on the amount of flow, the cup is to be removed, emptied, rinsed, and reinserted.
After each period, the cup should be boiled for at least 5 minutes and stored in a clean box for use the next month.    

2. Menstrual pads vs cup- yes one cup costs 600 INR average, while a pad costs 10 INR. But, you can’t reuse the pad as you would with a cup. And the cup is completely chemical free and is made of food grade silicone which is great in reusing and is quite biodegradable unlike pads.

3. To be used only after marriage or after the girl has had sexual intercourse- no even young girls can use it, completely safe and won’t interfere in the reproductive system later on. Its just that you need to be eased on to this product. Talk to friends, family and doctors and then decide whether you are ready to try this revolutionary product or not.

4. Size issues- a general rule of thumb would be to opt for small before you have had a baby. Opt for large if you have had a baby.

5. Leaking? - Negligible, in fact you will get to know when its time for it to emptied out. Trust your instincts.

I feel now my article is complete. If you have any other question, drop in a comment or mail me at antara1061@gmail.com, with a subject title- ‘menstrual cups’.

Cheers!!

Monday, 2 April 2018

Fat to Fit- Take a Break with Frappe!

Break is as important for me, as is work. And I guess we creative people understand the value of these 2 things together. Routine can never lead up to outstanding results in life. Its what we learn from these breaks, that provides the fuel to the feed. And I make it a habit to take a break in everything I do. Today I am writing about how to incorporate break in a rigorous calorie counted diet, and why it works well.

So, we started with a fairly balanced diet, wherein now everyone of you know my aim, and the health goal I need to achieve. I don’t have a strict timeline. But before the summer hits us hard, I need to lose a couple of kgs, and inches too. But for all of the last week and this, I am on a break. I don’t have a set meal plan for this break. I am eating regular meals, which is high on protein, but less on carbohydrates. But I ate 2 gujiyas last week, along with 3 glasses of wine. But of course, within a span of a whole week. So see, I want my body to not feel restricted. In fact, the restrictions play on the mind more than the body and trust me it never leads to good. Instead I want to lose weight while keeping my body and mind completely satisfied. That is holistic weight loss, and that will make sure I keep the weight lost for years to come.

Confused, I don’t blame you. It is a bit confusing when you let go. It is a natural process that you and I can’t change. But I would try simplifying a bit further through these easy to read pointers-

First step is always to initiate our body into the weight loss journey. We start slowly, taking care that we don’t suddenly remove a major nutrient from our diet. That’s why my first meal plan was perfect. It had everything, but in the right form and quantity. See, I am a working mom who doesn’t have the luxury of fussing about myself all day long. So, I need to keep myself hydrated and well fed, in order to make sure a good environment in my restaurant and home is maintained. The very first problem serial dieters face is irritability and temper tantrums. And mind you, these tantrums are never normal or forgivable. The first meal plan is right here.

Second step was to initiate the body on burning some insane fat deposited in some invisible corner of my body, and hence; a slightly more calorie reduced meal plan. Now this well-structured meal plan was great for me as in a week, with right amount of exercise and activity, I shed 1.5 kg with this. The second meal plan, if you haven’t already seen it, is right here.

Third step was to be comfortable in the 3 kg loss that I did within these 3 weeks, right after I was back from Goa. And that’s why, I rested all of last week, where in I indulged in my favourite treats, still managing to keep the weight to constant till today. Today grudgingly, I will stop my break time and get to a meal plan. But for you my readers, you break has just started. Enjoy to the fullest, but just keep following the golden rules of the game.
  • 1.       3 drinks of alcohol only in a day, that too just once a week.
  • 2.       6 glasses of water need to go in along with it.
  • 3.       No carbohydrates after 7 pm.
  • 4.       Sweets in moderation only, properly portioned.
If you can go without any wine, then my blessings are with you. However, I couldn’t even stop at 2 so I mentioned 3 here. I drank 3 glasses, while watching Baywatch on amazon prime. And frankly, it was a good Saturday spent, so no complaints. The day you drink, steer clear of sweets. Also, try to drink or eat irresponsibly only for lunch. Evenings need to be boring.
So going with the theme of cheating, here is my recipe for the day. I created a fat free frappe, with real sugar and cream, but took the fat out with the help of science, not chemicals. It is one of my video productions, and the measurement of any ingredients mentioned here doesn’t matter. With the summer approaching, this along with a shot of Kahlua could very well be a killer treat for a person like me. Cheers!

Ingredients
Whipping cream- 200 ml
Sugar powder to taste
Ice cubes to taste
500 ml of Recently boiled water
Instant espresso powder – 2 tbsp or to taste


Cheers!

Monday, 19 March 2018

Fat to Fit- Khandvi in the Week 2 Plan!

A week has past since I came back from my holiday in Goa. Holidays for me is a time to let go. I didn’t think calories or flab, and enjoyed every moment on sand as if it were my last moment on this beautiful earth. I didn’t have a worry. Went inside the lagoon fearlessly while I knew, I couldn’t swim. But now I am back, and after a week of carefully moderated meals and a bit of exercise thrown in, I am a kg lighter, and back to my goal of losing another 3 to 4 kgs in the next 6 weeks. Now would be the time for all of you to join in, if you want to begin on this journey with me.

Last week, I had shared a simple balanced meal plan. That plan was for all, everyone who wants to be healthy and is roughly 5 feet 2 inches tall. Today, I am leaping into deeper water, writing out a meal plan that I would base on my health goals, metabolism and my nutrition essentials. I understand if such a personalized meal plan is being published, then obviously my personal goals and parameters are to be spelled out first. So, its more of a personal rant which would follow in the next paragraph, which I would suggest you to read before u start on this plan along with me. Make sure that you customize the plan accordingly to suit your nutritional intake.


I am a healthy woman who can be described verbatim as being ‘petite.’ I have a BMI rate of 24.1, which though falls in normal category, still I would want to lower it furthermore. My health goal is not to just lose weight, but to achieve a higher metabolic rate. My second health goal is to defeat my chronic condition of Low Blood pressure, which for times more than my liking, cripples me to be on house arrest. There are no medication for the same, and so rest and protein rich food is the only way out of this condition. So undoubtedly, my aim at forming any meal plans for self is to ensure that I have enough protein in my diet and enough physical exercise to digest the difficult protein off my body. My biggest problem area in my body has to be my face, which just fluffs up in a kgs. gain, and comes down only when I loose around 3 kgs. The second problem area is my back, which accumulates a lot of fat, as if overnight I have grown 2 bulges which makes me look as if I am stooping even when I am standing upright. Sigh…

Honest confessions to internet is not easy, but well if I started on this journey, I better continue on it till end. So, coming back to my plan; this week I plan to keep it simple yet doable. I don’t want to include any high-profile superfood in my diet. Simple homemade Indian food and bonus recipe at the end for you to get it right.

Meal Plan for week 2-

7 am- Early morning starts with a glass of plain warm water followed by a glass of coriander and lime water. All I need to do is boil coriander for 10 mins strain, add lime and drink. I mostly do the boiling in the night and let it cool overnight, in the fridge.

7.15 am – 3 soaked almonds and a cup of black coffee without sugar.

Breakfast- 1 egg with 1 slice of whole wheat toast or 1 serving of khandvi which is made of all protein rich ingredients. For breakfast, you can include the tadka too.
11.30 am would be the best time to have a bowl of papaya and if hungry, then some pcs of apples too.

Lunch- it is the most favorite meal of mine so I will have it like a queen. A lean protein like egg/chicken or fish with a bowl of cut carrots and cucumbers, followed by a phulka and cooked vegetable.  (full Indian thali)

5 pm – would be the right time to work on my metabolism, so a cup of curd and flax meal would be perfect.

7.30 pm can start with some protein filled food- like sprout salad or khandvi without tadka and a cup of earl grey tea.

9 pm- would be the last meal of the day wherein keep it protein and cucumbers only. Like humus and salad or grilled chicken and vegetables.

And by 11 pm, sleep!

I would need to exercise in the day, mostly I will either skip for 500 times or brisk walk for 45 minutes. After diligently following this meal plan and responsibly cheating during the weekend, I would report back my findings here next week. For the last week, the cheating included a spoonful of rice for Saturday dinner, along with 2 glasses of wine.

Next week, I will talk about why I am keeping so many meals planned for the night, while I eat scarcely during the day. If the principal I am testing, works; then my friends you are in for a great trick which would help you loose weight easily, without achieving a plateau. Also, I am working on another article trying to point out mistakes that people commit during the night which leads them to reach a plateau in their weight loss goals. Now to the recipe that everyone must be waiting for- Khandvi!!
Ingredients
1 cup gram flour or besan
1 cup curd
1 chilly grated
1 inch ginger grated
A pinch of hing or asafoetida
Salt to taste
Haldi or turmeric for the bright colour
Water as needed

For tadka which is optional-
2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 slit green chillies
And a big pinch of fresh curry leaves
Grated Carrots are extremely optional, a more traditional ingredient would be coconut grated. But I am using carrots today as it is healthy and looks veraciously red and decadent

This is a recipe that needs to be seen. But in my experience, I have seen many YouTube videos that do not cover the finer details of this recipe. I am doing something I have never done before. Instead of making video recipes, I am actually pasting links of people who have posted the recipe in their respective vlog channels, with footnotes of things that either they missed, or could be introduced in the method which would alter the results quite a bit.

Today, I take on 2 master chefs- Tarla Dalal the legend in herself and Kunal Kapoor, the Master chef judge. They both have millions of admirers online, including me. And I always love to see their take on recipes before I start off in the kitchen. I will start today with K kitchen- the video is here

Chef Kunal does what chefs do the best, beautify the dish so so much that it becomes too pretty to eat.
  • 1.       .43 seconds – I suggest we actually mix the besan with curd first and then add water. In fact I suggest we add the water just last and about 1.5 cups does a better job, than 2 cups of water.
  • 2.       Add hing in the batter, trust me on this.
  • 3.       1.19 sec- never should you pour the batter in a hot kadahai. It forms lumps immediately. Pour first and then put it on flame always.
  • 4.       4.19 sec- instead of coconut, I suggest using carrots for a healthier lighter, yet a pretty coloured dish. You can leave it plain too, as I mostly do anyways.
  • 5.       I loved the fact that he never asked you to grease the thali. You don’t need to grease it at all. If it is cooked well, it rolls out beautifully. And greasing can actually prevent you from spreading evenly.

The legend that was Tarla Dalal (video), she made it as a home cook would- that is without a care in the world that she could go wrong. After all she must have made this recipe so many times before. Her batter was a bit lumpy, but much drier than chef Kapoor’s and I feel it is advisable to keep the batter thicker like so. 

Another important step that she mentions is testing the batter before spreading it fully on the plate. Do make it a point to do so, as it is the most important step to get it right, without fail.

Both these people are great in the recipe. And both their styles are much different to each other. Hopefully with my pointers, you too would be able to make khandvi like a pro. If you do, please do not forget to let me see a picture of it soon! Cheers!!

P.S. - Khandvi is a protein rich food which is low on fat, and could be your ideal post work out snack. That's why, enjoy a good plate of khandvi this week. Next week, there will be more bonus recipes which you never thought could be this healthy!

Monday, 5 March 2018

Fat to Fit- Intermittent Fasting, My Foot!!


Its amazing when u eat all you crave, drink like a fish, and yet see fat melting out. That is the feeling that I want returned to me. Who wouldn’t, tell me? Am sure most of you are reading me right now, looking for exactly that. Even if I can not tell you how this would return back to us, especially us in the 30s, I can tell you how it won’t. It wont return with Intermittent Fasting for sure.

As I had mentioned in the earlier article, I braved the meal plan for 5 days. I lost a kg, yes. And then I lost another trying to nurse myself back to being me. And that next week wasn’t all that fun. What happened was that I was acutely gaseous and developed gastric indigestion, wherein my body kind of repelled food. I have not been prone to stomach gas or flu in the past, so it was extremely uncomfortable, and more so as the week after, I had planned a vacation to Goa. So, in my current lifestyle, wherein I wake up early and sleep by 10.30 pm, I couldn’t follow the meal plan of skipping breakfast. When I was in college, I used to most of the days, skip breakfast, and my body metabolised it very nicely; but now it’s a decade older, and used to the pattern of smaller meals in the day. No point trying to change its rhythm with newer discoveries of the day. Stick to the basic, is all my advice going to be.

So, once again, lets try what we had done earlier on! Simple meal plan with fewer, smaller meals. This week its gonna be this-

Early morning – 500 ml lukewarm water followed with a bowl full of fresh fruits.
A cup of black coffee

Intense activity                 (exercise)

Breakfast- a healthy combination of whole carbs with vegetables/egg. Eg-1 whole wheat veg sandwich or a roti-egg roll or oats upma with a lot of veggies and curd.

Mid-morning- Green tea with a healthy snack. Eg- 1 cream cracker biscuit or roasted chana or 5 pcs of soaked almond.  

Lunch- would be a good mix of vegetables (cooked and/or raw) with whole carbohydrates. Eg- salad with ‘1 or 2 roti or boiled daliya’ and 1 - 2 bowl veg with 1/2 bowl curd/dal. If I choose to eat non veg, then I will cancel the carb and take 100 gms chicken/fish with 1-2 katori veg and salad.

Evening- earl grey tea with 2 cream cracker biscuits or green tea with a small bowl roasted channa

Dinner- same as lunch just that I will try to go skimpy on the carbs. Eg-1 wheat chapatti with 1 or 2 bowl veg and Salad; or 50gms chicken/ fish with 1 or 2 bowl veg and salad.

Bedtime if hungry- 1 cup toned milk.

So I am aiming at following this diet for the next two weeks. It’s doable, in fact very easy too. And I have done it earlier last year to have some great results!
So here is a compilation of all my lip smacking snacks, that I could eat for breakfast or evening tea.



And one of the best- steamed idly with this sambhar chutney- http://antaras-zouqh.blogspot.in/2017/02/sambhar-in-chutney.html


This time, I would surely catch up next week with you guys, because with this meal plan, I can’t, not have the desired result as I seek.

Cheers!!

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Fat to Fit- Basics about Intermittent Fasting!

A random picture of my tomato vines!

I don’t much know or care about these ‘they-s’ we always refer to, but they say that in winter you make your summer body. It could be ‘you’ who can agree or disagree, but I am going with it for the simple reason that soon the warming protection of an over the top jacket is going to go, and we would end up with a flabby arm in a sleeveless dress, showing unflatteringly. So here is our ‘Lets Lose Weight Together’ winter series to get you up and tidy for the coming seasons!

Now if someone isn’t familiar with our earlier series, than a link is embossed for you to check it out. That series did pretty well on my blog, and if emails are to be believed, many came forward to tell me how it helped them achieve a good weight. That time, a couple of years ago, natural sciences told us that 2-hour-eating pattern was the healthiest way to life!! But as Darwin stated, evolution happened in the sector of natural sciences; and scientists claim that they have found a better solution of weight loss in the form of intermittent fasting. Now I am as confused as you are, but more and more I read about IF, I become more and more certain that it must be a healthy pattern of eating. Now let’s give it to our ancestors, in the name of religion, they did devise this healthy alternative lifestyle in the way of Ramadan, where you fast for most hours with just a small period of time allotted to feasting. But the non inclusion of water is still a problem, and that gets eliminated in the Intermittent fasting pattern of eating. Similarly, in our Hindu tradition, especially in Bengal, we have ‘uposh’ till the time we offer our prayers to Ma Durga, which is exactly what we do in Intermittent fasting. We fast till 11 am, and then start eating and continue eating till 9 pm. The only way ‘uposh’ is different to our fast is that, we don’t start our day eating deep fried dough and potato curry!

So, I have decided to test this scientifically proven method of eating and write about my journey for the others to get benefited from. I start today, that is the 12th of February, with a 12 hour fasting to 12 hour eating window. I have always had little meals, which lately weren’t so little which obviously led me to gain a couple of kgs. My idea is to lose just about 3 to 4 kgs, following this way of eating, and then be able to maintain this for the rest of my life! But then again, you never know because losing and gaining weight is so much a part of the recent lifestyle, that we are prisoners of. Yet, I am confident that by Holi, when the sweaters go away, I should not feel too bad about looking in the mirror, especially since I have not exercised seriously since the smog hit Delhi.

My eating pattern would look a lot like so-

Waking up at 6.30 – 7 am to 500 ml of lemon and ginger steeped water.
By 7.30, to have a cup of coffee, that I am not too happy of having on an empty stomach, but really, I cant do with out it anyways. I don’t add any sugar or milk to it.
8 am – a brisk walk for 30 minutes, followed by some fresh veggies shopping for the day. I try to buy things, to be eaten just in that day.
9 am- I will break my fast with a bowl of fruits
By 10, a fibre -rich breakfast
1 pm, a fibre rich balanced lunch which should have all components of nutrition, including carbohydrates.
4 pm – 100 gms of fruits once again
6 pm tea and a handful of roasted Bengal gram, or chana chapta jor garam
8 pm – dinner which will not include carbohydrates, but is large portions of vegetables and lean protein.
By 9 pm, I stop eating, only to have a cup of warm cinnamon water before bed time, about `10.30 types.
By 11, I should snooze!

Now, this is wat I am going to be following, and by no means I am a nutritionist who can try devise meal charts for people apart from family. Yet, if you so wish to follow me on this journey, then please do write in a comment to encourage me to go further up on the road! But before you do, you need to know of these pointers-

  • 1.       I do this 12 hour fasting for a week, and then I would gradually increase the time to hit a ratio of 16:8 hours!
  • 2.       For the first 2 days, I will have some sort of carbohydrates in the night, and then would I try to eliminate it and see how much I feel hungry the next morning. Again, all this pattern of eating should definitely include my comfort. And so, I will take it as it goes, and write about it the next week.
  • 3.       Sugar, I can eliminate, and so I will. But I would continue having some processed stuff, especially wine, because I can’t dine without wine! And no point trying.. HIC! HIC!

So, here you go. Extremely candid confessions made. Now lets see, how we fare on this pattern of eating. Cheers!!

P.S. - no recipes this time.. 

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

PICNIC 101 - Cinnamon Rolls & Pizza, Packed!

Last week, it was raining in Gurgaon!! Rains in winter is not a rare occurrence, in fact we were waiting for it, for some time. The rain ensures the cold stays. The cold ensures we go out for picnics for all of February! And what better than equipping yourself with a versatile recipe that makes you whip up batches of all different kinds of delicacies that tastes great when hot from the oven, or cool to room temperature. And I am teaching you three variations right here and now, but really the world your pickle. Go mad and play with the dough to your heart’s desire. It’s a full proof recipe, wherein I will put across many tips and tricks to get it right always!


Majorly the recipe is very simple. All we are doing is making an all APF dough, then dividing the dough enough to get various different forms of bread. I am making ½ of the dough in a  sweet form, while the other gets a savoury taste. Now this is a basic recipe I use pretty much always to make a host of other things, like hot cross buns or fruit bread or just simple white sandwich bread loaf. Its 100 % vegetarian, and we don’t use any eggs as well. The dough is simple to put together, all you need are the following ingredients-

INGREDIENTS
5 to 6 cups of Maida or All-purpose flour (APF)
500 ml of milk, lukewarm to touch
3 tsp of instant yeast
2 tsp of baking powder
2 tbsp of vinegar
3 tsp salt
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil

METHOD
In the lukewarm milk, add honey and mix well. Now sprinkle in the yeast and let it proof for some time till it awakens and is frothy and smells a lot like bread.

In another bowl, mix 4 cups of flour with salt and baking powder. Mix and keep it aside for the yeast to get frothy.

Now mix both liquid and dry ingredients, start mixing the dough. Once you can’t see much of liquid milk left in the bowl, add the vinegar and olive oil and another cup of flour. Mix and knead till you get a nice dough which is not very sticky, but soft and supple, and springs back on touch. This is the time when you preheat the oven for 2 mins and then promptly switch it off.

Now take greased bowl, keep the ball of dough in the bowl and cover the top well with olive oil. Now take it inside the warm, but switched off oven and let it proof and come to life for 2 to 3 hours. The oven really helps in giving a warm climate for the dough to rise, in this cold winter day. And trust me, it would do better than the closed cupboard you used to use earlier. Trust me on that.

Now once the dough rises and proofs, you have a decision to make. I made half of it into cinnamon rolls and other half into a large pizza, which was good enough to feed an army of 4-year olds.

CINNAMON ROLLS!!
½ a stick of butter in room temperature
2 tsp of cinnamon
4 tbsp or more of brown sugar
A tsp of vanilla extract

Mix all of these together in a bowl and set it aside to marry each other.
Roll out the dough in a rectangle, which is not more than ½ of an inch thick. Now apply the paste of cinnamon and sugar as evenly as possible. And then roll the dough to form an even log. Cut the log in half and then make ½ an inch-thick marks to create beautiful cinnamon rolls. Transfer the cut rolls in a buttered oven proof dish and let it rise for 40 mins in a closed and switched off oven.

Bake the rolls in a preheated oven, at 180 degrees C, for 20 to 25 minutes, until it turns a delicious golden colour, and is cooked all the way through.

For baking it on the day of the picnic, I have a trick for u. First, the night before, you can always create the rolls, place them in a greased bowl and tightly pack it with cling film. Now without keeping it in oven for 40 minutes to proof, refrigerate it overnight. On the day of picnic, put it in a warm, yet turned off oven for 40 minutes, before baking. Bake and serve freshly made cinnamon rolls, while it is still warm. Brush the top with more melted butter, as it comes out of the oven.


Alternately, steam the buns instead of baking it, the night before. And reheat the buns slightly before packing it for picnic. Steaming these buttery cinnamon rolls provides another texture to the dish. You can even have the steamed buns cold, it would still be pillowy soft and decadent. Steam the buns in a full boil for 20 minutes, till the flour becomes translucent.

 FOR PIZZA-

Take the other half of the dough and flatten it out on a sheet pan. Oil the pan generously so that nothing sticks. Then place the flat dough on the pan and push and pull to fit the cookie pan completely. Set it aside for resting for 30 minutes.

Assemble the pizza topping and pizza sauce. I most often then not, mix great amount of dried herbs in ketchup to make the sauce. Taste as u go.

Now apply a generous amount of sauce on the uncooked pizza dough to coat well. Cover it with cut vegetables of choice, and cover the veggies with cheese of choice. I prefer processed cheese and gruyere if I am serving the pizza cold. If I am serving it hot, straight out of the oven then I prefer fresh mozzarella and gruyere with a good sprinkle of parmigiana. But I am a cheese geek, you definitely don’t need to be. Top it with whatever cheese u have or fancy.

Bake for 25 minutes in a moderately hot pre-heated oven to have a melty gooey soft and yet so delicious pizza, which is a great cross between the bready and thin crust pizza your neighborhood
fast food place sells.

Enjoy the picnics.. Cheers!!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

PICNIC 101- Chocolaty Oats and Apples Muffins!

The sky is clean, smells crisp; the westerly winds blow into the face just the way I would have liked. Yes, I stay in the capital of India, and yes, we do get these pristine mornings, sometime. But when we do, I waste no time in getting my feisty handsome foursome out in the sun, feeling the green under his limbs. This is undoubtedly the best time in the year to be in Gurgaon. And no weekend should go without a nice picnic, out in the sun.



Now picnics could be organised in a lot of ways than one. A casual beer and wine with barbecue on the side ought to be my favourite. Followed closely by a cook-earlier-serve-later-kinds. And the potluck, ah that takes the cake! So, the series starting now should keep you covered for each picnic event that you plan with your family and friends. In fact, I would also squeeze in a fantastic romantic brunch for 2, out on the terrace, with sun brimming in. It would be a hassle free, completely cook ahead, yet hot kind of romantic brunch, that could be served with a light champagne cocktail.

But to kickstart the series, here is my go to healthy snack for kids and adults alike. This is perfect to be taken on a long drive out of home. Its filling, yet full of good things which makes sure you are on the track for the new year resolution you so solemnly took. Alternately, if you have leftovers, you can simply pack it in the tiffin boxes for your kids to take to school, during the week. It is my very tried and tested recipe for some chocolaty apple and oat muffins. This much of ingredients make 12 big muffins.

INGREDIENTS
2 apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup of oats
1 egg
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup curd, homemade works well
½ cup honey
½ cup hot water
¼ cup cocoa powder
Vanilla extract
Salt
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp vinegar
Upto 2/3 cups of whole-wheat flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Chocolate chips or nuts, which are optional, but highly recommended.
METHOD
Trust me when I say that it can’t get any easier than this. We basically just blend everything together and bake. That is, it!!!!

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees c and get that going. Line your muffin pans with paper cups and keep it ready. I at times like to spray the cups with some vegetable oil so that nothing sticks to the paper.

Now the fun begins. Get the best blender you can lay your hands on and start blending the apples, oats, jam, egg, curd and oil to a nice homogeneous paste. I used my robust Hamilton beach smoothie maker, trust me it never fails me. If you don’t have a fancy blender, then just do the blending in a mixer grinder, starting always with the oats. Make a fine powder and then add all the wet ingredients to make a paste.

While that is mixing, mix in a measuring jug ¼ cup pure unsweetened cocoa powder with hot water, stir vigorously and keep it aside to bloom. This step really helps in building a darker stronger chocolate flavour. Add the sugar to the hot mix as well, it would help dissolve the grains.

Now in a nice big bowl, whisk 1/3 cup of whole-wheat flour with baking powder, soda and salt and keep it ready. If you are adding chocolate chips or nuts, then coat the additions in flour at this stage, and keep it ready.

Just to break up the method, you have 3 separate elements of the muffins ready. You have a blended mix of oats and apples, a jug full of chocolate goodness and dry flour coated nuts and chips. Now comes the assembly.

Let the chocolate mix cool a little before adding in the vinegar and vanilla. Pour it in the blender along with the apples and oats, and blend again. Once its thoroughly mixed, pour it on the dry mix and combine well. The batter should be in a spoon dropping consistency, adjust with the extra 1/3 cup of whole-wheat flour, if the need be.

At this time, just lick the batter to taste for the sweetness. If you use tart apples, you may need to adjust sugar accordingly. But for me, the Kashmiri apples pack a lot of natural sweetness, and the half cup of honey takes care of the rest.

Now pour onto the ready muffin tin and bake for 15 -20 minutes, till a toothpick inserted in the centre, comes out clean. Let cool and enjoy a scrumptious snack which is easy to carry, and yet satisfyingly moist and fluffy for a healthy bite!

Cheers!!

Friday, 2 June 2017

The Spanish Food Book!!

I covered 3 cities in Spain. The journey started at Granada, from where we flew to an island called Mallorca. The last of our halt was in Barcelona. Granada was an interesting fusion of Muslim architecture and food, merged with Christianity. It truly was a treat to taste buds, when we tasted the eclectic mix of local food. The food in Granada was extremely local, cured and yet pretty fresh. Vegetables and meat were added together in a balanced manner, though only vegetarian options were a bit difficult to find. The tapas was out of the world delicious. Here are some of my pics of all that we did in Granada, including watching flamenco and enjoying an olive oil and wine tasting tour. 
Olive trees with flowers and young olives!!


Locally produced and cured olives, that was sold just like so in a farmer's market. This vendor also had bottles of homemade Extra Virgin Olive oil that his family made since generation. It was so less processed, almost cloudy in appearance. And the taste was strong, much stronger than anything we have ever tasted in India. The tins Behind the olives carried it. I couldn't lug it back to india as it wasn't sealed properly. These Pictures were taken in a small village, about 30 minutes of drive out of Granada.  


A Tapas Bar Decor had one of the most amazing details I have ever seen. Cured meat would welcome you which is such a smart way to store Iberian Ham in small spaces.  And obviously, there was no room for flashy chandelier, anywhere...

This is from the Olive Oil tasting that was such a great experience. We saw a medieval oil mill, now defunct; but beautifully restored. The process was simple, and required just 2 helpers and 1 donkey along with the mill owner to process 20 litres of oil per day. These blue glasses in the picture above contain Extra Virgin Olive oil, made with different varieties of olives, which were given to taste. Every glass tasted completely different to the other. The Blue color of the glass is also a very significant move. It stops the taster from noticing the colour and texture of the olive oil, and hence we start tasting with a clear mind.

 Mallorca was a delight to the seafood lover in me. I had one of the best shrimps in Mallorca. The eateries we went to were mostly run by families, where the mom cooks, dad becomes the cashier and the kids double up to be the waiters and waitresses. The yacht ride into the sea was surreal, and I actually witnessed a naked beach too... Now what else remains for me to see in this lifetime, I wonder…

The Yacht Ride into the Mediterranean Sea was surreal, and we could actually spot fishes from the yacht itself. 

Another extremely amusing thing I saw in Spain, was these citrus trees growing on the side of the roads. So pretty it looked, and no one really bothered as much as a glance when the fruit drops on the ground. Simply Wow!!

Orange Tree!!

Peach tree!!
I tasted my very first paella here, and it definitely was truly awesome!!

Barcelona made me fall in love with it. The cheap food, the cheap ingredients, tasty wholesome paella and loads and loads of shopping. We walked through the day, took metro to places and lugged back home lots of fresh hass avocadoes, big fat asparagus and cherries. Truly a gastronomic delight, we had the real truffle on our pizza, and octopus that made me fall in love with it. Iberian ham took out the trophy, though extremely funny; I actually didn’t see or have much of chorizo anywhere.  

Octopus with Spanish pimenton!

Prawns and Avocado as a Shared Tapas!

 This particular restaurant didn't really give a pretty nice paella. They gave turmeric in their dish, which is not an ingredient to add in a classic paella. 
Medium to well done burger with bread and grated tomatoes!

Iberian Ham in its fines glory!! Look at the stand!! This again was a simple tapas bar run by a family of 3. 

Fresh and Wild, rosemary!!

Thats how a cured meat shop looks. the smell is enchanting!!

But instead of buying meat, I opted to buy this little bottle of Spanish Saffron. Do you know that in Spain, the saffron is lightly roasted, as opposed to sun drying that is followed elsewhere. 

Snacking on berries while we walk through the streets!!

Shopping in Barcelona consisted of these little smoke dried chillies, paella pan, Bomba Rice Avocados, Asparagus, berries etc. 

And saving the best for the last, do you think i would have let you go without a proper sip of Spanish Sangaria? Hell no!!

Cheers!!

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