I love so many things about Indian food from the flavors to the nostalgia. As I bite into aloo gobi or saag paneer, I am instantly comforted and reminded of my childhood. I was lucky enough to grow up eating home cooked Indian food on a somewhat regular basis and while I didn’t always appreciate smelling like curry the next day at school, I now can see that I was blessed. The problem that I face now is that ordering Indian food isn’t a healthy option (unknown amounts of oil and butter) and it’s not an easy task to take on in my own kitchen. So instead, I go without but find myself longing for it.
I’ve always been intimidated to cook Indian food myself. When I ask the secrets from “Aunties”, they tell me, oh you just do this and then you just do this, as if its an easy task. ** No recipes are ever actually discussed. And I refuse to watch Rachel Ray and learn to make raita (that she wrongly pronounces Ra-eeeta). But this predicament changed when I learned about the wonders of pre-mixed, packaged spices. Yes, I am telling you that I use pre-packaged something, when normally I am telling you to make your own. If you live in New York and you are remotely interested, go to the “curry hill” (Lexington Ave and high 20s) and walk into a grocery store. You will soon be amazed at how many short cuts there are out there to help make fresh healthy Indian food with much less steps and much less time. Keep in mind that I am still using fresh vegetables.
Here is the recipe that I concocted with a combination of the ingredients on the Chana Masala box (picture below) and some trial and error.
1 onion, chopped
1 cauliflower, chopped
2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
1 can low sodium chick peas, rinsed
1 tablespoon Chana Masala mix
1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking spray to coat pan
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil or coat saute pan with cooking spray
-Add one chopped onion and cook until golden brown
-Add two diced tomatoes
-Add 1 tablespoon of Chana Masala and mix all ingredients
-Add can of low sodium chick peas
-Cover and cook until cauliflower seems soft enough to your liking, checking it often.
Voila. It’s done. Do not expect to be making something you will get at an Indian restaurant or my mom’s house but it’s homemade, healthy, quick and delicious.
Serve with brown rice if you would like.
**Aunties will shake their heads at this recipe.
The Journal of the American College of Nutrition will release next week six dietary guidelines recommending foods that have been shown to prevent cancer. The findings emphasize a heavily plant-based diet to avoid carcinogenic (cancer producing) substances and help maintain a healthy weight. To the team at Tried and True Nutrition, this is like hitting the lottery. This further validates what we strongly believe in and reinforces that we are providing our clients with the most up to date and current nutrition data out there. And, it's all fairly simple advice that can hopefully put a stop to some nutrition myths out there.
The six dietary recommendations to help prevent cancer are:
1. Limit or avoid dairy products to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Drinking two glasses of milk each day increases risk of prostate cancer by 60 percent. Consuming 35 grams of dairy protein each day increases risk of prostate cancer by 32 percent. For a reference, 35 grams of dairy protein is about a cup of cottage cheese.
2. Limit or avoid alcohol to reduce the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, and breast.
One drink per week increases risk of mouth, pharynx, and larynx cancers by 24 percent. Two to three drinks per day increase risk of colon cancer by 21 percent. I think we all know alcohol isn’t good for us but to see these numbers, we are forced to really think about it.
3. Avoid red and processed meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon and rectum.
New research suggests that high levels of red and processed meat consumption can be particularly dangerous for colon cancer risk. Meatless Mondays anyone?
4. Avoid grilled, fried, and broiled meats to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney and pancreas.
Higher meat-cooking times and temperatures can alter DNA synthesis during digestion which is linked to causing the above cancers.
5. Consume soy to reduce risk of breast cancer and to reduce the risk of recurrence and mortality for women previously treated for breast cancer.
Now this one is huge and I’m hoping all of you read this and pass on the information and ask us questions if there are any. These new findings contradict a common preconception that soy products increase risk of breast cancer. The source of the soy should be natural, as in edamame, tempeh, or organic tofu rather than the soy protein concentrates often found in supplements but are considered safe.
6. Emphasize fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of several common forms of cancer.
As we always say, fruits and vegetables are essential to overall health. Dark, leafy greens were especially shown to drastically reduce overall cancer risk. Specifically, cruciferous veggies like broccoli and kale help lower risk for colorectal, lung and stomach cancers, while vegetables rich in carotenoids, like carrots, sweet potatoes and butternut squash, lower breast cancer risk.
So what does this mean to you? It means take a minute to consider making some changes to your diet. The changes can mean drinking less dairy and switching to a plant based milk like almond or soy or rice. The changes can mean eating more meatless meals. The changes can be minor or can be more drastic. What I like about these guidelines is that its simple and concrete. We know what we can do to help prevent these cancers so pass on the information!
One of the positives to running your own business is that you can decide on a raining day that it’s imperative to go to the movies. In our case, we were lucky that it was also research. Pam and I went to see the new food documentary, Fed Up and while we joked about wanting to bring a diet Coke and popcorn into the theater, 5 minutes into the movie, we stopped all joking as the severity of the obesity epidemic took away our sense of humors.
It’s important to note that, like many documentaries, there is an apparent agenda with this one and it’s pretty one-sided. Demonizing sugar and the food companies that sell it is top priority and that is clear from the fact that more than two of the guest speakers also have books on the subject and there was no interviewing of people that have opposing views. Interestingly, there was no representation from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics which would usually present a somewhat unbiased point of view. Luckily, it’s a one-sided point of view that Pam and I can get behind so we were hooked within two minutes and wanted to see more.
There are a few immediate glaring issues displayed in the movie. 1. childhood obesity is scary. It is on the rise and has little chance of slowing down if something isn’t done. 2. The government and food companies are shady. (This will not be a political post but it is impossible to see this movie and not have an opinion on this). 3. All calories are NOT the same. And oh 4. sugar is the devil. No big deal.
Ok, so that is a lot of information so let me try to break it down a bit. We all probably know that childhood obesity is on the rise and type 2 diabetes is a growing problem. This movie just makes that more clear. It gives you alarming statistics. It informs the viewers that it is only getting worse. And most importantly, what we are doing, is not helping. It also follows the lives of three overweight/obese young kids. Now some of these kids aren’t even teenagers yet and they are dangerously overweight. And it’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking to hear their desperation in their voices and so hard to watch their parents try to do their best but often fall short due to lack of education and/or the current food supply in grocery stores.
Now this brings me to the government and food companies part in this obesity epidemic and I’m going to keep this short as I am not using this as a platform to run for Congress. The information we get, as consumers, is manufactured. We know this. But this movie makes it abundantly clear that the health information, the daily nutrition guidelines, the food pyramid, basically all information we know of that helps dictate how we choose to eat, is manufactured. And unfortunately, as consumers, it is not in our favor. When guidelines were released with a recommendation of how many fruits and vegetables we should eat, Congress declared pizza a vegetable so it can get away with serving it at schools and still meet the recommended guidelines.
All calories are not the same. Say it again. All calories are not the same. Eating from fruit is not the same as eating the same amount of fat free pudding, even if its both 90 calories. Your body digests it differently, your body stores it differently: basically one can still cause you to gain weight more than the other. This is often neglected. We are bombarded by low calorie snacks and fat free everything. This “food” is so processed that is often has little to no nutritional value yet because it is low in calories or low in fat, people choose it. And this happens often. Grocery aisle after aisle is full of products that sure, are somehow only 90 calories, but it’s unclear what exactly is in it, what good it is doing for you and most importantly, what long term damage it is also doing for you.
As far as the whole sugar is the devil thing, you’ll need to see the movie for all the information on this as it’s alarming, eye opening and downright scary.
Take home message, eat clean whole foods. Stick to the perimeters of the grocery stores to buy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts/seeds. Read labels and don’t always believe what the box says. Does this advice sound familiar?, says the nutritionist who says this advice in her sleep:)
And go see the movie!
You’d have to be living under a rock (a gluten-free one of course) to avoid the gluten free craze going on right now. It is everywhere. It is the Olestra of 2014. Remember the Doritos that promised anal leakage? Today, its gluten free. Gluten-free bread, gluten-free pasta, gluten-free pizza, gluten-free bagels: all substitutes to help people avoid gluten. But why gluten? I am often asked what I think about gluten-free, so here goes.
Gluten is defined as a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species such as rye and barley. It can be found in many breads, pastas, cookies, cakes, if wheat is present, many sauces and soups, beer, and other grains such as bulgur and spelt. There is a huge misconception that being gluten-free means you are inherently healthier. I think its important to note that gluten-free products do not mean calorie or carbohydrate free, but most importantly, gluten-free products do not mean stocked with vitamins, minerals and other fabulous nutrients that we all need.
For those with Celiac disease, going gluten-free is the healthiest and only option. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestines that is a most likely a genetic disorder that can cause extreme abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation, fatigue, failure to thrive in children, anemia and other vitamin deficiencies. People with Celiac have an allergy to gluten. Interestingly, celiac disease can only be determined thru blood work and/or small biopsy and/or endoscopy. The disease can be very serious but the complicated thing is that many people that go gluten-free do not have Celiac disease. Going gluten-free is not the solution for everyone.
Now you may feel discomfort or bloating from gluten and in that case, I would recommend lowering intake. Lowering gluten inadvertently means lowering sugar and carbohydrates and that is always a good thing and most people will feel better when this takes place. And if you have another ailment like thyroid disorder or irritable bowel syndrome, maybe you will feel better if you eliminate gluten. Most likely, you should eliminate several groups of food and slowly re-introduce one at a time over the course of a few weeks. BUT to eliminate gluten but then increase gluten-free products is where we are going wrong. Increasing gluten-free products often is increasing calories, processed foods (high in sodium, fat, preservatives) and other fillers that may be needed to make that bread still seem like bread.
So when people tell me they are gluten free, I want to learn a few things from them. What caused them to be gluten free? What do you eat in a typical meal now that is different from before? I ask this because I am most interested in knowing if going gluten free means you increase vegetables, fruits, other whole grains, protein from meat or plants. I do not want to hear that you ate gluten free pasta with gluten free bread and a side of gluten free mashed potatoes. Processed food is processed food, gluten or not. So moral of the story, and maybe every story I write, increase your fruits and vegetables folks.
Now that the holidays are over and we have all been snowed in enough to last us a lifetime, maybe its time to change it up a bit and the kitchen is a great place to start. Here are a few of my favorite things:
Yes it's as good as you've heard! I use it for all kinds of things because I don't own a food processor. With it I make nut milks: almond (the favorite in my house), cashew, and cashew cream, nut butters (almond, peanut, cashew), banana ice cream, veggie burger mix, and smoothies, of course. I used it to make egg- and dairy-free pumpkin pie filling over the holidays. It also grinds wheat for flour, or almonds to make almond flour. Clean up is really easy too (big plus). My kitchen does not have a lot of counter space, but I leave this out because I use it so often.
2. Immersion blender/mini prep
This is one of those items that now that I have it, I will always have one! This one is all about the accessories that attach to the handle. I use the blender attachment to purée soups and mash cauliflower for mock mashed potatoes, the whisk attachment to whip cream, and the mini processor to chop or mince veggies like garlic and onions (which I cook with in almost every savory dish I make). The attachments include a mini prep food processor, whisk, the immersion blender, and even an attachment to make crushed ice or to chop bigger veggies like a bigger food processor (never used that yet). Easy clean up. It also takes up a very small spot on the counter: I keep the mini prep processor with the handle attached on the counter and the blender and whisk attachment in a cabinet below.
3. Slow cooker/steamer/rice cooker
Yes it really is all three! I use it to cook beans from scratch after soaking them overnight (there is a button for "low" slow cooking) from which I then make chili, hummus, soup, veggie burgers, roast veggies and potatoes. Or to make perfectly steamed rice every time. This one has a button for white rice (I use for jasmine rice) or brown rice (which I use most often for all whole grain rice: brown, black, multi, or quinoa and any other whole grains). For quicker cooking lentils or split peas, there is a button for "high" slow cooking.
Then for the last 5-10 minutes I can steam potatoes or other veggies in the steam basket that gets placed above the cooking beans or whatever else is in there. The best thing about this is that it really is a "set it and forget it" item: I don't have to worry about watching it or having anything burn or scorch the pan. I can choose how long the cooking time is, and when it’s done, it keeps warm for a long time if needed. Oh and cleanup is really easy. The inside pot itself is of a non-stick material (not Teflon) which cleans easily with a warm soft soapy towel and water. This is a plug-in appliance that I keep in the food pantry and use mostly on the weekends. My husband is very weary of keeping something like this plugged in and on all day unsupervised, so I don’t leave it on all day while I’m at work, only while I’m home, hence, the weekend use…!
4. Automatic bread maker
I know these were really popular about 10-15 years ago and I think that's when I got mine. I rarely used it until recently when I wanted to be able to make and eat bread with 5 ingredients or less. And with no salt. So I brought it up from the basement, and it works like a charm! I think if I were to buy any new kitchen item it would be a bread maker. This one is the second one I've ever owned, and the technology has improved since the first ones. Even the shape of the loaf is better than the first ones (remember those cylindrical shapes anyone?). Anyway, this one makes a great whole wheat bread and it couldn't be easier. I am not one for kneading dough and waiting for it to rise. Again, I just want to set it and forget it, and this let’s me do just that. There are buttons for options like white or wheat, light or dark crust, small or large loaf. Recipes need to be specific for bread machine bread, and the order in which the ingredients are put in the bread pan need to be followed exactly according to the manufacturer’s instructions, but once that is done, it is a no- brainer. If you want, there are bread mixes available to buy specifically to be used in bread machines. And according to the machine, it can also make yogurt, jam and quick breads, but I have never used it for those. Again, the inside bread pan is non-stick and cleans easily with a soft warm soapy towel and water. This is also a plug-in appliance that I keep in the pantry.
5. Pancake griddle/indoor grill
So this is not a small electrical appliance, but rather one that fits right onto the stove. My stove happens to have a long griddle burner in the middle of the stove's 4 burners, but when I lived in an apartment, I used this same griddle on my stove and simply placed it over two burners. So this is one of those tried and true kitchen items that I just love. It's heavy and mostly non-stick without being Teflon. One side is flat for pancakes and French toast (I used to also use it for eggs and bacon), and the other side has grooves for grilling (burgers, fish, veggies). I like it also because it's larger than most pans so you can cook more at once (thus decreasing the actual time spent cooking). I'm all about cooking fast and easy and this definitely fits the bill! It too cleans up easily with soft warm soapy towel and water. This is a slim pan that fits easily in the bottom drawer of my stove (the “warming drawer”, needless to say, I use it for storage only).
So those our my top 5 favorite things for my kitchen. They make my life easier by making my cooking more enjoyable and more creative! Happy shopping!