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Spice up your winter breakfasts!

Winters are about snuggling in bed, wrapping your hands around a warm cup of tea, losing yourself in fluffy winter jacket and getting those unexpected long hugs from families and friends during the holidays or even as you walk down the road playing the winter air

While we take ample and more care to warm up on the outside, we need to also look out for warming up our insides. During winter our body goes into a bit of hibernating stage and we need to get the digestive fire and blood circulations going with foods that have a warming effect on in our gut

Step 1 – Say hello to Spices this winter. Dig them out of your kitchen racks or order some fresh whole ones online! Spices on the must list for this winter season are – Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Green Cardamom, Blck cardamom, Cloves, Ginger, (Safron and Turmeric – not used in the recipe below)

Step 2 – Dream up your memories of winter destinations and the classic winter fruits and vegetables. I cant help but start thinking of the beautiful Apple and peach orchards of Kashmir in India. Trees laden with fruits set in the backdrop of snowy mountains…

Step 3 – Get into the kitchen to cook up something easy, fun and soul warming. Our recipe for today is Spiced apples!

Recipe:

Prep Time: 2min | Cooking time: 10min |Makes for 2 bowls

Ingredients:

  • 2 apples, sliced into 8 pieces each
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated cinnamon
  • 3 pods of green cardamom
  • 1 pod of black cardamom
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 inch ginger grated

Instructions

  • In a pot, add water and all the spices . Simmer on slow heat till it comes to a gentle rolling boil ( about 2min)
  • Add apple slices, cover the lid and cook on slow heat for about another 8-10 mins.
  • Remove apples from the heat and serve hot in bowls. The apples should be softened with still a slight crunch and flavorful Feel free to also add the liquid to the bowls, so that the apples keep absorbing the flavors

Notes:

  • You are going to absolutely fall in love with the aroma of the spices when you take off the lid at the end. Take a deep breath and take it all in!
  • Use only whole spices and ground them fresh as needed (ginger, nutmeg). Grounded spices kept for long loose their aroma and benefits
  • Do not cook on high heat. The Vitamin C in Apples can take small amounts of heat but will lose its nutritive value in long high heat cooking styles
  • Enjoy for breakfast everyday as a main or a side 🙂

(While I was researching, it was just crazy to find the health benefits of these spices- anti inflammatory, anti oxidant and anti bacterial. Though, I am still left confused with what specifically all of that means. If you guys have any recommendations on books / blogs that demistify spices, what exactly they do when the enter in the body, less preachy and more explanatory – definitely let me know)

Make your dreams come true in this new year

For the last 8 years, I have been sleeping before the clock strikes 12 at New Year’s Eve, sticking to my everyday routine of sleeping by 10:30pm. But some years I remember purposefully getting to bed at 10am even if I wasn’t feeling sleepy just to make a point. I didn’t understand the New year craze. Every day is a fresh new day. It felt utterly pointless to stay up all night get drunk and start the new year hungover.

I never truly appreciated the magnamosity of the new year celebrations. Millions of people would squeeze together to watch the ball drop at NYC Times Square or take 30+hr trips to seethe fireworks in Australia, or plan all year the new year parties at their houses!

But now having travelled across the world, I have realized it is that one moment that’s celebrated across the globe at each of the tiny regions of the earth as it rotates towards the sun.  New year is a ray of hope. While every day is a fresh new day, new year brings a fresh 365 days – if you are lucky sometimes a fresh decade or fresh centenary like in 2000! There is something special about knowing you have a fresh start enough to achieve your dreams. Enough to become a new you, like starting a new venture or shaving off those 20 kgs! It’s a fantastical amount of time to draw an action map for our dreams.

But they why do only 1% people really stick to their resolutions? Why do things start falling off the very next day!?

Because while we all like a ray of hope, we all like that tingling of a new year, we all love to celebrate and sign up for new things.. We don’t create the right environment for change. We want to change a part of us, but we don’t make space for it, we are unwilling to change our routines!. For a change to work, esp if you are looking for a visible change, you need to Allow for the change. e.g., If you want to really start working out, you need to adjust your schedule and take something off of it, you need to be accountable to someone or a diary, you need to listen how your body feels every day and tell yourself you want to feel it again the very next day before you go to sleep.

So, don’t waste your chance. Dream something big in this new year and make it happen!

Just recently I finished reading the book ‘Gut’ recently (its a brilliantly written book on the intricate mechanisms of our digestive system, in a humorous layman language) and it talked about how our body tells us so much about our inner health with the the obvious (aches, sneeze) and the unobvious (stools, breath). Read the book and listen more for a healthier you this new year 🙂

Ultimate tea cocktail for when you have a bad cold

Cold is natural and body’s way to letting go of the toxins that build up over the course of our lifestyles. Being down with cold once a year is totally normal and I would go to the extent of saying that it should be fully embraced. Put on those lacy pyjamas, cozy up in the bed, get a nice book and relax to let the body get rid of the toxins to recuperate.

Now, I would say that it’s not that easy to be stuck with cold and a running nose. You want to rush to pop those pills and feel better. But that would just subvert the cold inside, make you feel better in the short term and you would be down with cold again at the slightest hint of the infection.

Instead, Try this ultimate cocktail for when you have a bad cold, to make you feel better, heal your body and get rid of toxins.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 inch ginger (grated)
  • 1 inch fresh turmeric (grated)
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey

Instructions:

Put the water to boil along with ginger, turmeric, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg. Let it come to a nice rolling boil. Remove it from heat, strain and add lemon juice and honey. Mix it all up!

Wrap your hands around the mug, breath into the fresh condiments and take a sip. It’s so good as it combines all the things Ayurveda says you need to have when you have a cold. Take it 3-4 times a day and you would start feeling better in a couple of days!

How flexible can we actually become?

After a year’s effort getting my legs up in the air with headstand, my new goal is to do ‘Full leg Splits’. Today morning after finishing my yoga routine, I tried to assess my current ‘split’ abilities. I went down on two knees, extended one leg in front as far as I could, took the other leg back, supporting with my two hands on the mat, tried to extend further as far as I could. To my utter disappointment, I realized what looks so easy is actually so difficult. I might be good with one pose, but every new pose is a new journey and this is going to be a long one as I had almost 1ft I had to get down to.

Which got me thinking, what causes stretching? What happens when we stretch? Do the muscles get longer? Can everyone be as flexible as they want? How to be flexible?

  • Our muscles are viscoelastic. Like solid materials, they demonstrate elasticity by resuming their original length once tensile force is removed. Yet, like liquids, they also behave viscously because their response to tensile force is rate and time dependent. When we stretch our muscles don’t get longer but their viscoelasticity increases
  • We can actually stretch more than we think we can tolerate. As a kid we are born to be very flexible, but as we grow older, with our lifestyles we restrict our range of motions and our muscles get used to that level of stretch tolerance. So much so that “Pain” is just the body’s way of telling us we are going beyond our normal limits. We can stretch to a little more after the pain. Hence with breathing in and out and adapting our minds, you can ease yourself into a pose, sometimes significantly within minutes.
  • To improve flexibility, hold stretches for longer time: For a post run “stretch”, you can do a quick dynamic stretch, but to improve flexibility we need to re-train our mind and build a new normal. To do that we have to hold stretches (Just uncomfortable, not painful) for longer time , i.e. 30 sec or more, practice twice a day, regularly, be as flexible as possible

Forming new sleep routines

IT’S NOT EASY TO BUILD A ROUTINE. IT’S DEFINITELY NOT EASY TO FORM NEW ROUTINES.

Last week, I experimented waking up at 4:30am. Everyday I would set my alarm for 4:30am, but when the time came, I would just turn it off and go back to bed.

Now, I am a pretty determined person and have routine of sleeping at 10:30pm and waking up at 5:30am every damn day. So, then why was this so difficult for me? Every morning I would reflect back on what happened and why despite my best efforts I still couldn’t get myself out of the bed, three reasons came to my mind:

  1. Not having a strong purpose: I realized that I didn’t have a strong reason to get up at 4:30am, expect that I thought it will give me more time to meditate along with my exercises. I didn’t make a schedule of what exactly I would do with the additional 60min and honestly wasn’t fully convinced. I hoped that if I can get up it would be a good but it’s OK if I don’t. No one can wake up early with this attitude! In our half-conscious half-subconscious state when the alarm goes off, its very easy for the subconscious mind to convince the body to take the sheet up and snuggle in the bed
  2. Not setting an intention: When I would go to bed, I did not told myself that I wanted to get up at 4:30am. I would setup the alarm and hope for the best. Now I have definitely seen myself waking up onetime, even without alarms, without enough sleep. That happened because just before sleeping I told myself I NEED to get up at certain time. It works! The subconscious mind is powerful and trustworthy if you set an honest intention
  3. Too Big a change without regulating the sleep cycle: I was hoping to get by with 6 hrs of sleep. Sleep at 10:30pm and get up at 4:30am. I know Buddhists monks do it so then why can’t I, right? But that is not how it works. I was extra busy last week, slept at 10:30 / 11. No way I can get up an hour earlier! It would have been easier to start small. 15min ahead, 30min ahead and then 60min ahead..

Next week experiment: Get up at 5:00am

 

Bend that Cord!

Its only when I was learning how to do headstands that I realized how difficult it must have been for us to learn how to stand up straight on our legs! When I am doing my headstand I can not think of anything else but my breathing, constantly focusing on my core, my legs, my eye movements, and pose correcting to make sure I don’t fall. What we don’t realize after 20+ years of standing straight is that “Tadasana” standing up is actually a balance pose and form matters.

We forget how to “consciously” stand. We forget to take note of excessive pressures we put on our lungs, stomach, hips, knees and ankles. To the extent that we don’t stop to wonder why we get tired within 5min of standing when actually with our years of practice, we should be able to stand straight for hours!

Ever wondered – why slouching, bending forward is the default position for most people? Lifting heavy bags, working on our laptops, reading, writing and reaching out towards things we like, makes our back move forward. It’s of course a little painful in the beginning but we take it as part of the Job. Soon we become used to to the pain and make it a default position. But its not the body’s default position. Our blood flow is unable to adjust to the slouch and gets clogged. Our lungs can’t function when they are constantly compressed.

We need to rebel against what we have done to our bodies. We NEED to consciously do counter poses – back bends and side bends to make the back flexible and return it to its default position. Whenever you feel like you have been sitting for too long do a counter pose. Take a deep breath, exhale and bend your back backward. Give it a sideways twist for fun! Whenever it hurts to stand for any longer, do a counter pose. Move your weight to front and back of your toes till you feel you are balancing it equally on the foot. Take a deep breath, exhale and bend you back backwards. Give it a sideways twist for fun! Inhale. Exhale.

 

How to ease into a Headstand

Three years ago, I decided I want to learn how to flip my body up side down and get into a headstand.

It took me a couple of months to overcome my fear and get my legs up against the wall, another six months to learn how to maintain balance without the support of the wall and almost two impossible years to move into a gracious jerk-free, guaranteed headstand balance in the middle of the room. I had tried different tricks, watched several youtube videos and almost given up till I tried these three simple things that transformed my handstand in the last 10 days!

 

Exhale when you lift up: One of the most important things while being upside down is breathing.

After the dolphin pose, bring your legs as close to the forehead while maintaining a stable 90degree position of the top of the head, As soon as you feel you have achieved the limit and head is starting to lose balance, take a deep breath and start slowly exhaling and simultaneously lifting one and then second leg to the middle position. Exhale further and you will feel the stomach tightening that will help you move your legs further up to the final position. Exhale the last air out of your lungs to stiffen your core and get into the proper stable headstand

 

Divide the move into three stages: Headstand is not one pose. Its a final milestone of the journey and every-time you get into it you have to pass through the other milestones. You cant jump to it.

The reason it took me two years to master headstand was because every time I would just jerk my legs from the floor to the air hoping that I would catch my balance. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. The fear that it wouldn’t, esp in yoga classes, made sure that I could never get into a non assisted headstand in a yoga class but could do one at home.

Divide the pose into three or more stages – On the floor, legs half up in the air and both legs straight up in the air. When you are at each stage, take a second or just consciously move your attention for a split second to make sure you are stable with  a quick check of the key body parts (balance of head, even pressure distribution in the hand and stability). Just knowing this helps move onto the next stage smoothly

 

When falling fwd tighten the lungs, when falling backwards stiffen the legs: While you are learning headstand you fall. There is no escape. Loosen the grip and let the body fall to avoid injuries.

After you have mastered headstand, you still fall because the mind wanders. But knowing what you can do to adjust balance when you feel the bosy swaying fwd  / backwards helps to consciously stabilize the body.

How to know where you are falling: When you are falling fwd you will feel more pressure on your hands, but when falling backwards you will feel more pressure on your head

 

In the end, one you are in the pose, play with it. In a perfect headstand you balance all your weight in a tiny area at the top of your head. Its not easy and definitely looks like a serious pose, but play with it and have some fun. Because the rush of blood in your head and the energy you will feel afterwards is going to make it addictive for you!

 

 

 

Seville’s Gazpacho: Under 7min!

Chopped tomato, cucumber and onion is the most traditional salad in India. With a dash of lime, its simple and refreshing across seasons.

2000miles in the west Spanishers decided to blend these vegetables together to make an even more refreshing summer drink called Gazpacho! Its delicious when served chilled , served like a cocktail or soup, and can be had before a meal on a hot summer days.

Ever since I got back from Seville I wanted to recreate this drink with simple steps  and here it is!

Recipe:

Prep Time: 5min | cooking time: 30sec | Serves 2 glasses

Ingredients

  • 2 red juicy tomatoes (washed and roughly chopped)
  • 1 cucumber (washed, peeled, roughly chopped)
  • 1 green pepper (washed and roughly chopped)
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled and crushed)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1tsp salt

Instructions

  • Blend all the ingredients together. Do not add additional water
  • Place in the refrigerator to chill for 2hrs. Serve with ice cubes / straight up

Sip, close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting on a outdoor cafe alongside Seille’s beautiful river. The sun’s setting, there are purple flowers blossoming on the trees and people are running. skating, walking along the riverside. You take a sip, take it all in, and thank life for all it has provided.

Cheers to Simple pleasures

 

Breakfast: Playing with Avocado

I love Avocado toasts and would have it every single day! At the simplest, avocado guts  mashed together with a drop of lime, sprinkled with salt and spread over a slice of toasted bread is creamy, savory, delicious and filling. But, avocados are extremely versatile and there could be so many variations to the basic avocado toast, that you would rather play with it, experiment and delight your senses with your own take on avocado toast every single day than getting stuck with the usual.

This week’s edition is Avocado toast with white beans

Recipe

Prep time: 10min | Cooking time: 5min | Serves: 4 bread toasts (2 people)

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole avocados (sliced in half, seeds removed)
  • 1/4 cup white beans (soaked and cooked)
  • 15 – 20 Cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
  • 10 almonds / other nuts
  • 2 garlic
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp chilly flakes
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Instructions:

  • Put the bread to toast
  • Roast the tomatoes till they become soft and start falling on themselves (Oven: 9min, 250 degrees C | Stove: 10min with a dollop of oil)
  • In a mixer grinder, mash together avocados, white beans, almonds, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and chilly flakes to a thick paste. Add 1 tbsp water if needed
  • Prepare the spread with placing the thick avocado paste on the bread and topping with a couple of cherry tomatoes

This avocado toast was incredibly delicious and fulfilling! Cheers to Experiments!

Detox Fiber Overload Salad

For days when you need a fix for “I-ate-something-I-now-regret”.

You are feeling bloated and want to cleanse before you have your next meal.

To your rescue #1: A quick fix fiber overload salad.

Recipe

Prep time: 5min | Makes 2 big bowls

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 White radish, grated
  • 1 Cucumber, grated
  • 1 Tomato, diced
  • 5 mint leaves, chopped
  • 2tbsp lemon juice
  • 1tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1tsp salt

Recipe

  • Mix grated radish, grated cucumber and diced tomatoes together in a bowl
  • Add lemon juice, cumin powder and salt
  • Mix it all together and cool for 5min in the refrigerator
  • Garnish with mint and it is ready to eat!

This salad is packed with fibers. Cucumber is soothing for the stomach. Mint is refreshing. Lemon is acidic but has a positive alkaline effect in the guts. All in all, have a big bowl of this salad and you will be detoxed from whatever you had in the previous meal.

Proof: I had “Maggie” noodles for breakfast today…just because it felt like a rebellious Saturday morning thing to do! But then right after, I started feeling bloated and the feeling didn’t stop till about 4hrs later. I needed a fix before I could have lunch. And this fiber Detox salad came to the rescue. I had a big bowl of it, and soon after I finished I could feel the distinct gut refresh! Try it!

 

 

The most refreshing Watermelon Juice

I got up today morning to a temperature of “36 degrees outside, feels like 47 degrees” due to the intense humidity and air quality. It was so hot that I couldn’t think of cooking anything for breakfast and I wanted something cool to kick start the day. Some fiddling around the kitchen led me to….Fruits, juices! I laced up my shoes and ran to the fruit shop. 20min later I was  gulping down 3 cups of the most refreshing juice I have ever had!

Recipe

Prep time: 5min | Cook time: 2min | Makes 4 glasses

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 watermelon, roughly cut into pieces
  • 2 tsp black rock salt / Himalayan rock salt
  • 10 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • Ice cubes (optional)

Recipe:

  • Put the watermelon pieces into the juicer or blend it (Watermelon has 92% water content, so even if you juice it, you waste very little fibre but end up avoiding the hassle of taking out the seeds. If you decide to blend, do remove the seeds upfront)
  • Add mint leaves
  • Add 1/2 tsp of black rock salt to every glass of juice
  • Add ice cubes / cool the juice in the refrigerator for 20min before drinking

(Himalayan Rock salt has been much praised in Ayurveda because of its high sulphur content. Compared to the readily available, processed and bleached “white” salt version, Himalayan salt is still widely available in its unprocessed state, grind into granules, maintaining its pink/black color.

While you can use the Himalayan rock salt to season absolutely anything, its match with watermelon is one made in heaven. Add a couple of mint leaves and you are sure to say this is THE MOST REFRESHING drink you have ever had and wont be able to stop at one!)

 

Water – my best travel buddy

I am at the airport right now, on my way to Switzerland to attend a friend’s wedding. It’s 9am here and the food shops are starting to open, but I am starving. So I pick up a croissant from Starbucks and rush to my gate.

I get on the flight at 9:30, wait for 1.5hrs before the in-flight food service commences. I pick the vegetable pasta option, served with a side of hot bread and chocolate cake. It’s delicious and I gulp it down. But an hour later I start feeling heavy in my stomach.

This is usually my tale with airport food and post meal uneasiness. It’s really hard sometimes to find fresh and fulfilling options. But after multiple travels I have found my remedy. AISLE SEATS and a BIG BOTTLE OF WATER.

Weather control in the flight makes them dehydrating, coupled with carb loaded food can really take a toll on the stomach. Sometimes the food is unavoidable. But if you can keep drinking lots of water throughout the flight (300ml every 30min), than it really helps calm the stomach and keep you fresh.

Try it!

Cheers to Traveling heathy!

An unexpected match: Cabbage & Quinoa

As I was walking home from office today, I started thinking about what should I cook for dinner tonight.

My thought process: So, I have one whole cabbage in my fridge. I don’t think there is any other vegetable left. I am leaving for Switzerland tomorrow, which means I have to pack tonight and have no spare time to go buy vegetables and the last thing I want to do is waste any vegetable. That means – lets get creative in the kitchen!

After a couple of web searches, I stumbled upon this recipe of cabbage and quinoa, modified it a bit and just slowly went through the cooking process to get to this surprisingly delicious meal! It is going to be my go-to under 15min Wholesome dinner recipe!

Recipe:

Prep Time: 5min, Cooking time: 10min | Makes 4 bowls

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, washed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 whole cabbage, finely cut length wise
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • 10-20 almonds, halved
  • 1 can / 1 cup of boiled chickpeas
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp salt (more as needed)

Process

  • Prep Quinoa: In a deep pan, add 1 tbsp oil, garlic and tomato paste. Stir it for a minute and add water. Once the water gets to a gentle boil, add quinoa and cover pan with the lid on medium flame. Let it cook for 10-15min till all the water has evaporated. Turn off the flame and leave the pan covered for another 5min. Quinoa should be nice and fluffy now!
  • Prep the mix: In the second pan, add 1 tbsp oil and the chillis. Add almonds and stir till they are golden. Add turmeric and cabbage with some salt. Cook cabbage till it is mildly wilted.  Add chickpeas and mix it all together for another 2min and turn off the heat
  • Mix it all up: add quinoa to the cabbage, mix it up, add lemon juice and mix it up again, before taking a huge first bite into your mouth 🙂

 

Cheers to Unexpected discoveries!

Those tiny little Chia Seeds

Its summer time! Long days and hot weather here in Shanghai has kept me indoors, which has lead to a lot of reading lately. I am trying to average a sustainable pace of one book a month, squeezing in half an hour every night before I go to sleep and weekend mornings. Now after finishing every book if I can take away just even one thing which I remember for more than a couple of days, one thing that shifts the way I think, one think that is inspiring, that’s when I feel the book has jumped on my 5Star reading category.

Last week I finished reading “Born to Run”. Its a fantastically informative, even seemingly fiction like tale of these secluded ultra marathoners from South America, who ditch NIKEs, run in mere sandals, while beating some of the fastest runners on the planet a race deep down in the canyons of “”

The book shifted my perspective on the history of human running, calling out that “Humans are born to be super long distance runners. Before hunting tools were invented, we would run an animal to death for food”, But the biggest thing I took away was this magic potion that our gang of secret runners in South America were drinking.

Described in the book as “a gooyee thing” that the author hesitated but then gulped down in the middle of his 20+ mile run, giving him instant energy, more than any other energy bar he has ever had! Further investigation by the author reveals that made as a concoction of honey, lime, chia seeds and water, this is what the local runners were swearing by as a pre and during run drink of choice…

Intrigued as I had never heard of this chia seed drink before, I did my own research and then experimented on myself. I have been soaking and drinking this potion everyday when I get back from work and voila. This thing is great! Loaded with Vitamin C, Glucose, protein, this is a power packed drink that gets made in seconds! Why is this such a secret recipe! I am going to taste test this with as many people as I can and couldn’t wait to write about it!

Give it a shot! Mix one tea spoon chia seeds in one cup of water, let it soak for a 1-4hrs, add a juice of one lime and 1 table spoon honey. Give it a BIG mix and serve!

 

Cheers to Great things that come in small tiny packets!