Part 1 of 4: How to recognize your food cravings?

Part 1 of 4: How to recognize your food cravings?

Food cravings are normal and happen to the best of us. So, please do not blame yourself or feel guilty about them. Half the battle for a food craving is won if you are able to pinpoint what is going on.

In this weeks video I talk about how to recognize the food craving, how to figure out something is going on. Pay attention to what is going on so you can make some changes to get that craving under your belt.

Go ahead, watch the video and let me know what you think?

 

Now you have 2 tasks after viewing this video:

  1. Share with me and all of us about your technique to recognize a craving.
  2. Are you able to recognize that a food craving is on its way?

Post your comments in the comment box below.

Stay well!

alka

The power and my experience with meditation

The power and my experience with meditation

In September 2015, things at my work began to change. I was not enjoying my work and was literally dragging myself to work everyday. the job that i loved until a few months ago seemed like a burden. I knew something had to change. That year, Christmas break was the worst I had in several years. Something was not right. Something needed to change and I could feel it in my gut. Then came the March break and that was my breaking point. I resigned after much deliberation and a war going on in my head. And something very interesting and unexpected happened. I felt very relieved, although extremely emotional since I had been working in this place for 7 ½ years and this place had been my favorite workplace through my career. It still is.

The point I am trying to make is sometimes, life takes you to a point when you have to take tough decisions. As tough as they maybe, once taken lots of good things happen. But of course, you need to work towards them. Anyways, going back to my story, I did resign, was relieved but was also feeling very restless internally, my appetite was low, could not sleep well. It was a mixed feeling stage.  I needed to overcome this and that is when I started to meditate every morning for 10 minutes. Within 1 week I was feeling so much better and in control of myself. Today, I am doing the things that I enjoy and also have a new job as well. A job that I am now settling in gradually and am enjoying the work.  

With this experience, I have to come to feel and understand the power of meditation.

Now you maybe thinking, i have tried meditation and it does not work for me, I get distracted, my mind wanders all over. And even the things that were even not on my mind start to come back. It is not for me. That is exactly what even I thought when I started. I am hoping that through this post I am able to motivate some of you to begin practicing meditation. I have also created a freebie on “The Do’s & Don’ts of meditation”  Be sure to download it. It will really help you get started.

Download Do’s & Dont’s of Meditation Here

TYPES OF MEDITATION

There are several types of meditation. But the most common ones are

  • Concentration meditation
  • Mindful meditation

Concentration meditation

This type of meditation essentially focuses on your breathing or a focal point. You can chose what your focal point is. It could be a framed wall art that you love, a point on the wall or even a pretty door knob in your room.

Bottomline: It could be anything that you can focus on.

The trick is to return to focusing on the focal point even if you get distracted. Getting distracted and off track is totally normal when you begin to meditate. When I started meditating, I used to get distracted multiple times by thoughts, sounds, noises from the neighbours all the time. Now I am much better, but do get distracted. All I do is to return to my breathing. I am a human being!

We all are humans. So you will get random thoughts in your head. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Just keep at it and soon you will find yourself to be a master meditator.

Mindful Meditation

Mindful meditation is all about being aware of your thought process and visualizing them drift away. The whole idea is not to get too attached or involved with them, rather just being aware of them and avoid giving any importance to negative thoughts or being judgemental. This practice will help you big time in keeping calm and in control of your emotions and some strong feelings or opinions you may have. Over time you will be able to quickly judge an experience as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. With practice, an inner balance develops. And that is exactly what you want.

Types of music/sounds for meditation

  1. Guided meditation music
  2. Chants like Om
  3. Meditation music

All the above types of music and sounds are easily available on You Tube.

I personally follow Jason Stephenson. His Youtube channel is:

https://www.youtube.com/user/ILoveJuicyShow/featured

You can also take membership for his videos: http://www.meditationmasters.tv/?afmc=1i

How to meditate especially beginners

  1. Identify a place where you will not be disturbed for the duration of your meditation.
  2. Posture: 
  • You can choose to either sit upright with feet flat on the ground or lie comfortable. Some people chose to sit cross legged on mat on the floor – you do not have to do this, I don’t because I find it difficult to sit on the floor.
  • If you choose to lie down, it is possible you may drift off to sleep – in that case ensure that you are in a safe surrounding.  
  1. You can even create an ambience for meditation by a keeping a scented candle, a bouquet of flowers, lighting  incense sticks or dim or turn out the lights to help you concentrate. These techniques can be great little touch to enhance your meditation experience.
  2. Equipment: you can do meditation without any equipment. However, if you like you can invest in a meditation chair or a meditation pillow also called as “zafus”. A zafus is a circular cushion that allows you to sit on the ground while meditating. It does not have a back, like a chair does and doesn’t let you slump back and lose focus on your energy. You can also use any old pillow or sofa cushion. A cushioned bottom will do to keep you from getting sore during long stretches of cross-legged sitting.

If you find that sitting without a chair-back hurts your back, feel free to use a chair. Try to be present in your body and maintain a straight back for as long as it feels comfortable, then lean back until you feel you can do it again.

  1. Sit or lie comfortably. You may even want to invest in a meditation chair.
  2. Close your eyes if you like. For concentration meditation, you may choose to keep your eyes open to focus on an object of your choice.
  3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
  4. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
  5. Time yourself. You can have a timer set up or choose timed meditation music. Start small – as small as 5 minutes and gradually increase the time. I started with 10 minutes.

5 meditation apps you could try

  • Headspace
  • Buddhify
  • Calm
  • Omvana
  • Smiling Mind

Now go ahead and try meditation. It is possible you may not succeed the first time.

DO NOT give up. Try again.

Share your experiences right here in the comment box below

9 ways to manage your carbohydrate intake when you have diabetes

9 ways to manage your carbohydrate intake when you have diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes Canada (the new name for Canadian Diabetes Association) defines diabetes as  a chronic, often debilitating and sometimes fatal disease, in which the body either cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels, which can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves. The body needs insulin to use sugar as an energy source. In short when you are living with diabetes, you need to control your carbohydrate intake, since the major source of blood sugar in the body is carbohydrates.

Now, what are carbohydrates and how do they affect blood sugar? Carbohydrates make a large part of our daily meals. Foods such as breads, pasta, rice, beans, potatoes, cookies, crackers, soft drinks, pies, pastries and so on all contain carbohydrates. Carbohydrates come in a variety of forms the most common being:

  • Sugars
  • Fibers
  • Starches

Each one of these affect blood sugars differently. Let us see how.

Sugars: Sugar is a simple or a fast-acting carbohydrate. In simple words it means that sugars raise your blood sugars very quickly. You may want to view this video on “Blood sugar responses to various food groups” There are two main types of sugar:

  • Naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk or fruit
  • Added sugars such as those added during cooking and processing. Example in canned fruit in syrup, or in desserts, ice-cream, cookies, cakes etc

On a nutrition facts label, the number that you see for sugars includes both added and natural sugars. When reading nutrition labels look for names ending in “- ose”. That will tell you the particular ingredient is a sugar. For example glucose (also called dextrose), fructose (also called levulose), lactose and maltose. The chemical name for sugar is sucrose. Fruit sugar is fructose and the sugar in milk is lactose. Sugar also has several different names. For example include table sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, beet sugar, cane sugar, confectioner’s sugar, powdered sugar, raw sugar, turbinado, maple syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar and sugar cane syrup.

Fiber: Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods and comes from plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. When you eat dietary fiber, most of it passes through the intestines and is not digested. The increase in blood sugar for fibre containing foods is way slower than for foods that do not contain fibre. The fibre in the food slows down the increase in blood sugar, and that is what you need to manage your blood sugar and diabetes. Adults need to try to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day. Most adults do not consume nearly enough fiber in their diet. Most of us only get about half of this amount. It is a good idea to aim for this goal. Fiber also contributes to digestive health, helps to keep you regular, and helps to make you feel full and satisfied after eating. Fiber has been know to have benefit in reduction of cholesterol levels. Good sources of dietary fiber include:

  • Beans and legumes – black beans, kidney beans, pintos, chick peas (garbanzos), white beans, and lentils.
  • Fruits and vegetables, especially those with edible skin (for example, apples, corn and beans) and those with edible seeds (for example, berries).
  • Whole grains such as:
    • Whole wheat pasta
    • Whole grain cereals (Look for those with 3g of dietary fiber or more per serving, including those made from whole wheat, wheat bran, and oats.)
    • Whole grain breads (To be a good source of fiber, one slice of bread should have at least 3 grams of fiber. Another check point: look for breads where the first ingredient is a whole grain. For example, whole wheat or oats.) Many grain products now have “double fiber” with extra fiber added.
  • Nuts — try different kinds. Peanuts, walnuts and almonds are a good source of fiber and healthy fat, but watch portion sizes, because they also contain a lot of calories in a small amount.

In general, an excellent source of fiber contains five grams or more per serving, while a good source of fiber contains 2.5 – 4.9 grams per serving. It is best to get your fiber from food rather than taking a supplement. In addition to the fiber, these foods contain many important vitamins and minerals. It is also important that you increase your fiber intake gradually, to prevent stomach irritation, and that you increase your intake of water and other liquids, to prevent constipation.

Starches: The 3rd type of carbohydrate is starch. Foods that contain starches include:

  • Starchy vegetables like peas, corn, lima beans and potatoes
  • Dried beans, lentils and peas such as pinto beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas and split peas
  • Grains like oats, barley and rice.

Grains are of 2 kinds:  Whole and refined grain. A grain contains three parts: bran, germ and endosperm You can read about the parts of a grain in this post here. http://www.alkachopra.ca/9-facts-about-whole-grains-you-absolutely-need-to-know/ The important thing to remember is that the whole grain contains the bran, germ, and endosperm and will provide you with all of the nutrients that whole grains have to offer. As a result, the increase in blood sugar when eating whole grains is very slow due to the fibre and protein. On the other hand refined grains have undergone a fair bit of processing and contain only the endosperm or the starchy part. Most of the vitamins and minerals have been removed. Difference between whole wheat and whole grain Common myth: whole wheat and whole grain are the same. Whole wheat flour is still refined, has undergone a fair bit of processing in which a significant portion of the germ and the bran is removed. This results is a loss in vitamins, minerals and fibre (though whole wheat does contain more fibre than white flour.) In contrast, whole grains include the whole kernel, including the bran and the germ. As a result whole grains are nutrient packed. Similar to fibre containing foods the increase in blood sugar for whole grains is way slower than refined grains. The fibre and protein in the food slows down the increase in blood sugar, and that is what you need to manage your blood sugar and diabetes.

Protip: Choose whole grains over whole whole wheat Now lets us get to the real reason of why I started writing this post i.e strategies to manage your carbohydrate intake when you have diabetes.

  1. Now that you know how to recognize sugars, read food labels. If there are ingredients that you do not understand on the label, do not buy the product. You cannot afford to put anything in your body that you know nothing about and don’t even recognize the name.
  2. Choose water over fizzy sugar-sweetened drinks to keep you hydrated. If you do not like the taste of water, invest in an infuser bottle. Slice up your favorite fruit and fill up with water. Keep refilling. You can even use sparkling water if you are crazy about the fizz.
  3. The simplest one – don’t keep sugary drinks in the house. If they’re not easily accessible, you can’t drink them. Save them for time out with family and friends or your vacation. In any case these drinks were never meant to be staples. They were meant as a real treat. Remember, the good old days when you were younger!
  4. If you really must have juice in the morning, limit to ½ cup and water it down to a 1 cup.
  5. Choose Unsweetened so you can control the amount of sugar being added. Example unsweetened chocolate, unsweetened oatmeal, unsweetened peanut butter, unsweetened soymilk and so on.
  6. Do not go “Cold turkey”. In my experience when people go cold turkey, they fall off quickly. Slow and steady wins the race. Try reducing the amount of sugar to half of what you take in your coffee, or cut back on the portion of ice-cream or cake or pudding. Give yourself a good 2 weeks for the change to sink in. If you fall off in between. Get back on track. DO NOT GIVE UP.
  7. Go stronger on sweet flavors like vanilla rather than on the sugar. For instance you can order an unsweetened latte and add flavor with cocoa or vanilla powder. You could skip the flavored oatmeal and add a sweet kick with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. A big advantage when sprinkling on the cinnamon: according to a meta-analysis in the Journal of Medicinal Food, cinnamon has been shown to naturally regulate blood sugar, which helps control your appetite. That sure is a win win. What say!
  8. If you are a dessert person, set some rules for yourself for frequency, occasion and portions and stick to them. Be mindful of your actions. Before you grab that killer cheesecake, count backward from 10 to 0 and think about the past week. I promise the effect of this simple trick will be enlightening.
  9. Often times sugar cravings set in when you are hungry. Get in the habit of pairing protein or fat with whole grains for your main meals. This practice will control your hunger and your sugar cravings will gradually fade away.

Do you have any strategies that you can share? Did you try any of these strategies? How was your experience?

Share in the comment box below!

References: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/types-of-carbohydrates.html?referrer=https://www.google.ca/

http://www.diabetes.ca/about-diabetes/types-of-diabetes

http://www.chatelaine.com/living/whats-the-difference-between-whole-wheat-and-whole-grain/

Product Review: 34 – Degrees Crisps Assorted Pack: Rosemary, Cracked Pepper, Original

Product Review: 34 – Degrees Crisps Assorted Pack: Rosemary, Cracked Pepper, Original

I found 34-Degrees Crisps in the cracker aisle at Costco. The name sounded rather interesting! I mean who names a product 34-degrees? Whatever the case, the name did attract my attention. The nutrition facts were even more attractive: 50 calories for every 9 crackers! Upon trying them, I could not stop at 9 crackers. My husband, who can be extremely picky, loved them.

So here I am with a review for this fantastic product.

Pros

Nutrition Facts for every 9 crackers

  • Calorie count for most crackers available in the market is between 60 – 120 calories for every 6 crackers. 34-degrees crisps are 50 calories for 9 crackers! That is a win-win
  • Fat content including saturated fats: 0% (rare to find)
  • Protein: 2g/9 crackers – pretty good for crackers
  • Sugars: 0 g Another win-win
  • Sodium: 170 mg – 210 mg depending upon the variety. Comparable with other varieties available in the market
  • Carbohydrate: 11g. Most crackers is around 12 g carbohydrate for 5-6 crackers

Ingredients

Clean ingredients: Unbleached Flour, natural cheese flavour, Rosemary/cracked pepper/sesame seeds depending upon the flavor.

Pairings

Can be easily paired with any veggies, even fruit slices/whole fruit, avocado, cheese slices, hummus, brie, boursin or your favorite cheese,

Cons

Nutrition Facts for every 9 crackers

  • Fibre: 0 -1 g. This can be compensated by pairing with vegetables and a small salad.

Ability to stop eating

You may feel food challenged to stop eating at 9 crackers!  Addiction possible. 

How does it taste?

Fantafabulous! they taste great with or without a topping!

Am I recommending this product?

Absolutely. Make these crackers as a staple in your pantry.

The only suggestion I will add is to pair these fantastic crisps with a protein and veggie or a protein and fruit, 5 olives and some cheese.

This will help keep your blood sugar in check. You can view my video that explains the blood sugar responses of various food groups https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDOq3l5eH7s&t=63s

You may also wish to download my FREE pdf that includes some suggestions for these crackers and even more suggestions. You can download by clicking on this link below:

Download my favorite Snack List right here

Now tell me do you have any favorite snacks? We all can benefit from increasing our snack inventory in our pantries!

Post in the comment box below.

10 simple ways to use Yoghurt for variety and taste in your daily meals

10 simple ways to use Yoghurt for variety and taste in your daily meals

A few years ago, when I was teaching Food Safety at a Community College, a discussion started about good old yoghurt. I went on to describe the method of making yoghurt at home and how I grew up eating yoghurt every single day. One of the student made a comment “Oh my god, are you saying that yoghurt is spoilt milk! I am never going to eat yoghurt ever again”. When writing this post, I can visualize her expressions. It was quite funny and the entire class burst into laughter. Some good memories!

Regardless of whether yoghurt is spoilt milk or fermented milk with some healthy bacteria I love yoghurt and use it in a variety of ways in my cooking daily. Before sharing my 10 best ways of using yoghurt I thought it may be helpful for all of you reading this post to understand the types of yoghurt that you commonly find in grocery stores.

  1. Balkan-style or Set-style Yogurt

The warm cultured milk mixture is poured into containers then incubated without any further stirring. Balkan-style or set-style yogurt has a characteristic thick texture and is excellent for enjoying plain or using in recipes.

  1. Swiss-style or Stirred Yogurt

The warm cultured milk mixture is incubated in a large vat, cooled and then stirred for a creamy texture, often with fruit or other flavourings added. Swiss-style or stirred yogurt is often slightly thinner than Balkan-style or set yogurt and can be eaten as-is, in cold beverages or incorporated into desserts.

  1. Greek-style Yogurt

A very thick yogurt that is either made from milk that has had some of the water removed or by straining whey from plain yogurt to make it thicker and creamier. Greek-style yogurt tends to hold up better when heated than regular yogurt, making it perfect for cooking. It is also referred to as Mediterranean or Mediterranean-style yogurt and is often used for dips such as Tzatziki. A Balkan-style yogurt that has 6% M.F. or more makes an excellent substitute for Greek-style yogurt.

I took this information form the Dairy Goodness website. You can read more details about yoghurt here:

https://www.dairygoodness.ca/yogurt/types-of-yogurt

Now let us get to the real stuff. These are some of my favorite ways to add yoghurt for your daily meals.

  1. Savory Yoghurt and vegetables as a snack: Surprised! Savory Yoghurt? Yes, you read it right. In India, a variety of vegetables are added to yoghurt. Some examples:
  • chopped tomatoes, cucumber and onion
  • Onion only
  • Tomato only
  • Roasted eggplant
  • Grated cucumber and mint
  • Mint only
  • Grated cucumber only
  • Fried okra
  • Grated carrots and green onions
  • Grated carrots
  • Cooked spinach
  • Boiled potato
  • Cooked and grated bottle gourd
  • Roasted beets, carrot, green pepper and onion

Season with some salt, pepper and cumin powder. You could even make a big batch for the entire week. Comes in very handy. Makes an excellent snack when you come back from work and are starving.

  1. Yoghurt as a marinade for chicken, fish and shrimps: Instead of using sour cream, try yoghurt. It gives a nice tangy taste. You could probably use it for beef as well. I have not tried it, since I do not eat beef. Here is my recipe:

4 chicken breasts, 1 cup yoghurt – 2% works well, 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon of ginger, 2 green chillies (can omit if you do not like spicy food), tandoori masala (available in international section of most grocery stores), 1 tsp salt, juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon any vegetable oil.

Place all ingredients in a freezer bag and marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator and then cook in the oven or BBQ.  If you wish you can also freeze the marinated meat. Marinated meats freeze very well – up 6 months (http://www.eatrightontario.ca/EatRightOntario/media/ERO_PDF/en/Food%20Safety/Food_Handlers_Storage_Guide_2005.pdf).

When freezing, use freezer bags (and not zip lock bags) or freezer safe containers to avoid freezer burn. Be sure to defrost before cooking.  Take out from the freezer at least 24 hours ahead and place on the lower shelf in the refrigerator to thaw and then cook as usual. Pair the meat with any of the above savory yoghurt recipes along with some naan or pita bread. Now that is a luxurious meal!

  1. Yoghurt sandwiches: This one you want to eat fresh. A great choice over grilled cheese sandwiches. Use the savory yoghurt recipe and as a sandwich filling. Cook on a pan just like a grilled cheese sandwich. I will recommend to only use Greek/Balkan yoghurt since you do not want a runny spread. Have a fruit along with it and that makes a fantastic snack or even a weekend breakfast. Also, makes a wonderful addition to the cuisine of a vegetarian.
  2. Use as a substitute for mayonnaise in your salad dressing: when you use yoghurt, you are cutting down on calories and adding lean protein to your meals. You could even use Greek yoghurt. A quick recipe for you:

1 cup boiled chick peas (canned will work well), ½ cup thick yogurt, 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped onions, chopped peppers (red, yellow, orange etc.), tomatoes, any other vegetable you like, salt, pepper, chilli powder to your taste. You can add ¼ -1/2 tsp of vinegar of you like. Chill and enjoy.

  1. Coleslaw sandwiches: Use Greek yoghurt instead of mayonnaise in your coleslaw sandwiches. All you need to do is substitute the mayonnaise with Greek yoghurt. Add some salt, sugar, vinegar and a dash of pepper. Mix with shredded cabbage and make your sandwiches. Some times I even add grated carrot. You could even go half and half. It works well. If you would like to carry this as a packed lunch, carry the bread and slaw mix separately so you can make the sandwich at work. Pairing with a soup will make a lovely lunch.
  2. A great alternative to cream cheese: You can make this in bulk. Place regular, Balkan or Greek yoghurt over a cloth lined strainer for 2 hours. Add some olive oil, lemon zest, salt, pepper, chives, thyme, tarragon and basil to the thickened yoghurt, and let the flavors blend. Use this as a dressing, sandwich spread or even a marinade. The water that gets strained can be used in cooking soups e.g. tomato soup or butternut squash soup.
  3. Topping for pancakes/waffles/crepe: Mix in honey or maple syrup, chopped fresh or frozen fruit, a dash of cinnamon to regular plain or Greek yoghurt to make a delicious topping. My salivary glands are very active right now!
  4. A fresh yoghurt drink: can be enjoyed sweet or savory.

For those sweet taste buds: mix ½ cup plain yoghurt with 1-1.5 tsp rose syrup and ½ cup water. Mix well and enjoy. You can also add rose syrup to milk for refreshing drink.

For the savory taste buds: ½ cup plain yoghurt + ½ cup water, salt, pepper, cumin powder. You could also add some fresh mint or cilantro. This makes a refreshing drink. You could even try pink salt instead of regular table salt. The taste is entirely different.

  1. Nachos and dip: Mix plain yoghurt with mashed avocado. Add your seasonings and salsa. And there you have it. Enjoy with toasted pita or tortilla chips.

I found this neat recipe if you wish to give it a try:

Super-Greek Nachos with Yogurt Sauce

Ingredients

  • Pita chips
  • 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 tsp. Dak’s Super Greek Seasoning (you could use any greek seasoning that is easily available to you)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (we used 0%)
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped dill, plus more for topping
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives
  • 4 oz. fresh Feta cheese, crumbled
  • English cucumber, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped

     Directions

  1. In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil, half of the garlic, Dak’s Super Greek Seasoning, salt, pepper, and chickpeas. Stir every 1-2 minutes for about 15 minutes, or until chickpeas are cooked through, and remove from heat. Add half the lemon juice and toss.
  2. Prepare the yogurt sauce: in a bowl, combine Greek yogurt, dill, the remaining garlic, remaining lemon juice, red wine vinegar, remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until combined.
  3. On a platter, assemble the nachos: create a base layer of pita chips, and top with grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onion, chickpeas, and cucumber, alternating between layers of pita. Top with feta and fresh herbs, and drizzle yogurt sauce over the top. Serve with yogurt sauce on the side as well.

Recipe Source: https://hatchery.co/super-greek-nachos-with-yogurt-sauce/

  1. Low fat butter chicken: I saved the best for the last. Marinate chicken as in point no 2. Cook in oven or BBQ. Now make the gravy: Chop 1 medium onion and stir fry with garlic – for about 5 minutes or until they appear soft. Add 4 large chopped tomatoes and cook for another 5 – 7 minutes. Place the entire mix in a blender and run on high speed. Now strain this mixture through a soup strainer (this could be painful – I pour my mixture into the strainer and leave it for about 30 minutes, occasionally stirring it up). After straining, return to fire and cook until the mixture boils. Lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Now take 1 cup plain yoghurt and mix with water. Add this mix to the boiling gravy. Season with some salt, red chilli powder if you like, 1 -1/2 tbsp sugar. Cook for another 5-10 minutes. Add juice of 1 lemon and the cooked chicken. Cook for another 10 minutes and you are done. Sometimes I add chopped green pepper towards the end. You can even add some fresh cilantro.

 

Happy Cooking!

Now tell me do you have any favorite uses of yoghurt?

Post in the comment box below.

13 Quick & Easy Unconventional Uses of Marinara Sauce

13 Quick & Easy Unconventional Uses of Marinara Sauce

A staple in the Indian cuisine is a sauce that is made by sautéing tomatoes, onion, ginger, garlic and green chillies. The spices used are usually salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder and cumin seeds and cumin powder.  It is called as “Tadka” in Hindi.  This sauce can be used to prepare meat, lentils and even vegetables. Variations can be made by adding milk, cream, coconut milk etc. depending upon what you are cooking. When I came to Canada, this is the only sauce I was familiar with. Luckily for me, I grew up with my mum cooking foods from different cuisines. So, I was truly multi-cultural when I arrived in Canada 15 years ago. Now, in India I had a lady who would come everyday and cook for me – what a luxury! That was totally missing in Canada. And cooking that sauce became a bit of a hassle with a full-time job, house hold chores and kids. I am sure lot of will be able to relate to this. Then began my hunt for something close to the “Tadka” and I came across a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs that called for “Marinara Sauce”. Initially I did cook the marinara from scratch a few times. Later I found it on the grocery shelves and that was magic. I could use this magical sauce for all my Indian dishes because the ingredients used for both the sauces are quite similar. Now, I do cook the Indian “Tadka sauce” on occasion.  So a staple in my pantry is the magical Marinara Sauce.

In this post, I am sharing some of my favorite recipes that use marinara sauce. You can use the bottled one and any brand or variety will work well.

  1. Lentil/ Bean Curry: Cook the lentils/beans as usual. I use my favorite kitchen appliance – the slow cooker to cook them and add Marinara Sauce when there is about an hour left for the cooking to complete. Adjust seasonings as per your taste. The seasonings I use are typically salt, cumin powder, chilli powder and some turmeric powder.
  2. Mixed greens – Spinach, Rappini, Swiss Chard: Take 1 bunch each of green, or your favorite with minced ginger and garlic. Blend with a hand blender and add marinara sauce. Cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat. Add 1 cup of milk to get a creamier taste. Add some salt, chilli powder and cumin powder. If you would like you can also add leftover chicken or beef to this.
  3. Marinade for chicken, fish and shrimps: This is my favorite marinade: 4 chicken breasts, 1 cup yoghurt – 2% works well, 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon of ginger, 2 green chillies (can omit if you do not like spicy food), tandoori masala (available in international section of most grocery stores), 1 tsp salt, juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon any vegetable oil. Sometimes I add ½ cup of marinara sauce to this and reduce the yoghurt to ½ cup. It gives the meat a sweet and sour taste. Yum Yum.
  4. Cauliflower and pea vegetable: Add some oil in a wok. Add some cumin seeds and let them splutter. When they stop spluttering add the cauliflower and peas. Stir fry for 5 minutes and cover for about 10 minutes. The vegetables should now be soft. Add some marinara sauce (maybe 2 tbsp), salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder and cumin powder. Cook for another 5 minutes and you are done.
  5. Pea Potato Curry: You can make this in either a slow cooker or in a wok. Add the pea, potatoes, marinara sauce, water and seasonings all together. Cook accordingly: wok – probably 30 minutes and slow cooker – on a 5 hour settings.
  6. Lasagna: Use Marinara Sauce as your tomato sauce for the layering.
  7. Gravy for Butter Chicken: Mix 1 cup marinara sauce, 1 can V8, 1 can diced tomatoes and ¾ tin of tomato paste. Cook everything on medium heat until everything is well mixed. Add 1 cup whipped yoghurt to this mix. Add the cooked roasted chicken (use recipe no: 3) and cook for another 15 minutes or until you don’t see the water separately. Finish off by adjusting the seasonings – salt, cumin powder, chilli powder and a bit if garam masala. At the very end add the juice of 1 lemon. Sometimes I like to add diced green peppers.
  8. Roasted Eggplant and peas: Sounds like an odd combination! Trust me. Try this. You will need the whole large eggplant for this. Roast the eggplant in your mini oven or whichever oven you have. You may want to put one cut on the top to avoid any explosions (I have had that). It will take at least 45 minutes. Be extremely careful when you take it out from the oven. Now chop the head off and remove the skin. It should peel off very easily. In a heavy bottom pan add a bit of oil and add the roasted eggplant and garlic. Mash it nicely. Now add 2 cups of marinara sauce, mix well and cover. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Now add 1 cup peas. Cover again and cook for another 10-15 minutes. The mixture will be a little thick and there should be no separation. Add seasonings: salt, chilli powder. You can enjoy this with pita or even rice. It makes a deadly combination with yoghurt.
  9. As Pizza sauce: In my house we use marinara sauce as the pizza sauce. Give it a try.
  10. Macaroni/pasta with meat balls: Substitute pasta sauce with marinara sauce.
  11. Tomato soup, minestrone soup: Add some marinara sauce into your tomato based soups.
  12. Grilled cheese and marinara sauce: Have some warm marinara sauce with your grilled cheese sandwich. Bonus: you can count it as your vegetable serving.
  13. Scrambled eggs, marinara and salsa: Mix some marinara with salsa when having scrambled eggs.
  14. Egg Curry: pesto, chilli garlic sauce, coconut oil, boiled eggs, salt, red chilli pepper, cumin powder, cilantro/fenugreek/parsley

Some articles that you may be interested in:

Marinara Sauce from scratch: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/marinara_sauce.aspx

Indian Tadka from scratch: http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com/Recipe/Onion-Tomato-Masala-KhaanaKhazana.html

An artcile on the use of sauces: http://www.cooksmarts.com/cooking-lessons/creating-flavor/sauces/

 

Now tell me do you have any favorite sauces that you use in your cooking?

Post in the comment box below.

12 ways to manage your weight by choosing smart snacks that will make you feel fuller

12 ways to manage your weight by choosing smart snacks that will make you feel fuller

Let me share a silly joke with you: A patient goes to the doctor with a stomach ache. The doctor assesses the patient and says that he needs to eat less and that the pain is due to overeating. The doc then suggests some meals that the patient should be eating. Before leaving the patient asks the doc: the suggestions that you have provided are to be eaten before a meal or after meal!!!! Say what????????? This is how several people snack. People forget that a snack is snack, and not a meal. And,unfortunately we do not have a second stomach for our snacks. I wish we did! So it is extremely important that we make smart snack choices that make us feel full and that we do not pack on pounds with the snack choices we make.  

To begin with I need you to understand that healthy snacks play an important role in:

  1. Weight management by preventing overeating at meal times.
  2. Stabilize blood sugar levels and prevents any spikes thus having a positive effect on weight management. This is especially helpful for individuals living with diabetes.
  3. Meet your nutrient needs for the day. As an example if you did not eat vegetables at lunch but snacked on them you are golden.
  4. Curbing cravings: it has been proven when you have full stomach the cravings are reduced. Snacks prevent the body going into famine mode that slows down the metabolism making it easier to gain weight.
  5. Keeping you in a good mood. Healthy snacks provide you with the much needed energy consistently through the day. So you can focus better and your mood remains good.

Now that you are pretty clear that you must make healthy snack choices, you may wish to know what types of snacks should you chose. Well read on………….

  1. Avoid carbohydrates as snacks as much as you can: Save the carbs for you main meals so feel satisfied and content after you have eaten your lunch/dinner. Not being content and satisfied after eating your main meals is one of the main reasons why people choose unhealthy snacks after dinner. And these snacks are usually carb snacks, with no portion control. The result = weight gain.
  2. Choose Low Glycemic Index snack foods more often: Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale that ranks carbohydrate rich foods based on how much they increase blood glucose levels about 2-3 hours after eating. The GI uses a numbering system to identify foods as low GI (less than 55), medium GI (55-70) or high GI (more than 70) compared to glucose which is 100. Foods with a high GI are more quickly digested, and cause a larger increase in blood glucose, than foods with a low GI. Foods with a low GI are digested more slowly and do not raise blood glucose as high, or as quickly, as high GI foods. You can read more about glycemic index right here.
  3. Try to have snacks that include 2-3 foods groups: When you combine 2-3 food groups for your snacks you get 2 benefits: 
  • Benefit of feeling fuller and content that leads into controlled portions at meal times. For example if you were to have fruit only Vs fruit + hummus or peanut butter or even cheese. You would feel fuller and more content with the 2nd option. That is because of the effect of the fat and protein on hunger. If you have not given it a try, go ahead and try it. Post your experience in the comment box below.
  • The benefit of keeping your blood sugar levels stable. When you keep your blood sugar levels stable you help not only prevent Type 2 Diabetes and other chronic diseases, you will also notice that you have more energy levels and feel more satiated/content between meals. Food combinations that allows you to maintain stable blood sugar levels will also help you feel less hungry and reduce your cravings for unhealthy foods. You will also improve your metabolism with the foods you choose to eat, which is key to making weight loss and maintenance easier.

4. Always include protein as one of your food group when choosing your snacks: According to a 2004 review article published in “Journal of the American College of Nutrition, protein is the best nutrient to make you feel more satiated and less hungry until your next meal, and it also contributes to raising your metabolism. Aim to combine low-glycemic carbohydrates and protein as your snack choices. This will will keep your blood sugar levels stable and increase your metabolism hence maintaining your weight or even losing if that is what is you are trying to achieve.

5. Stay away from 100 calorie snack packs: This is one way of the food industry trying to make money and as consumers we get sucked into this rabbit hole. Be true to yourself, can you stop at just one pack? Some of you may disagree with me and say that you are able to stop after one!. That is excellent! For most people, they are not able to stop at 1 pack. And that is the problem. Research published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that smaller “snack” packages encouraged participants to eat nearly twice as much, often without hesitation, than people who ate from larger packages. So, the purpose of 100 calories/bag is lost. A strategy that you could implement is pairing the 100 calorie snack pack with a protein or a good fat. For example, if you are having chips, perhaps adding 15 almonds will help in reducing the number of 100 calorie bags you might land up eating. The other problem with 100 calorie snack packs is that most of them have do not contain hunger controlling nutrients. Hence combining them with protein or good fats is a good strategy.  

6. Avoid drinking your snacks: The biggest mistake! When you are hungry avoid drinking that latte or frappucino. These drinks are loaded with calories, are high glycemic index sugars and fats. The perfect formula to an exploding waist line! The drink will provide temporary satisfaction, you will load on 500 – 1000 calories with only a negative after effect. You can read more about sugary drinks in my blog post here.

7. Think of soups as snacks: When you go to a restaurant, you may order soup as an appetizer, right! So why can’t a soup be a snack? Soups (the not so creamy ones) make a nutritionally balanced snack. Pair with some melba toast or crackers – perfect combination. Give it a try and let me know how did it do. Post in the comment box below!

8. If you have a sweet tooth, count the dessert as your snack: Your desserts also contribute to your total calorie intake. There is no separate stomach for you desserts. If having a dessert is absolutely necessary for you, you may want to reduce your rice/paste intake by ¼ or ½ or your bread to 1 slice rather than 2 or 3. Increase your vegetable intake – eat them first. This way you will be able to incorporate the dessert into your daily meals. Do you have any other trick? Share in the comment box below!

9. When watching TV either avoid snacking completely or have only portion of a healthy snack: Similar to the dessert trick make room for the night time snacking if that is your way of relaxation. Better still have 1 portion of the snack and go brush your teeth. I can guarantee you will be very lazy to go and brush again if you snack again.

10. Plan your snacks just as your meals: You eat your meals right. Same way you eat your snacks! So, just as you plan your meals, plan your snacks. If not you will be hunting the whole house for some snacks,, and most often they land up to be not the healthiest ones. Next when you go grocery shopping include snacks as part of your grocery list. If not, make sure you pick up 2 types of snacks/week.

11. Include at least 2 snacks during your day: As I have mentioned above that snacks can help you manage your hunger, thus control your weight. It is a good idea to incorporate 2 snacks/day. Try to eat your snack after 3 hours of your main meal. You can have 1 snack at around 10:30 – 11am and the other one around 3-4 pm. This will help control your hunger at dinner. You should be aiming to eat ⅔ rd of your total calorie intake for the day by around 3 pm. This way your calorie intake until dinner is much more controlled and when you reach home from work you are not starving.

12. Limit the calories for snacks between 100- 250: Ideally each snack must vary between 100- 250 calories and 500- 600 calories for each of your main meal depending upon your age, height and weight. Try to stick to these guidelines as much as possible. This will help you manage your weight. If you need more guidance then consult a Registered Dietitian who can individualize recommendations for you.

        Now tell me what is/are your favorite snack combinations?

Post in the comment box below.

10 simple reasons why should you be planning your meals?

10 simple reasons why should you be planning your meals?

Meal Planning is not a favorite with many people including myself. Yes,really this is true. I am also just like all of you reading this post. However, the reality is that Meal Planning is a neccessary evil!

My take on meal planning is just like an investment. You invest in stocks, shares, bonds and so on for a safe financial future, when you get older. To me investing time in planning mine and my family’s meals is like investing for a healthier life when me and my husband are older. When my children are older.

Whatever you put in your body today will show up in form your health status when you are older. So, make the leap today for better tomorrow.

Also be sure to download the Non-Perishable Food List, since that can go along way in getting your meal planning mission in order.

Post any comments, questions below!

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