How to eat a vegetable rainbow without eating salads everyday?

Our body needs 13 vitamins and 21 essential minerals! But with each of the 20,000+ species of known vegetables providing a unique set of these vitamins and minerals, how do we make sure we are eating the right nutrients, in the right quantities?

In the book Sapiens, the author Yuval Noah Harari argues that hunters-gatherers, before the arrival of agriculture, satisfied themselves with “a marvelously varied diet”, made possible by the fact that they had few needs and plenty of time to roam around the jungle gathering fruits, vegetable and herbs. Today despite modern agriculture and advanced trade that brings fresh vegetables and fruits from across the world throughout the season at our doorstep, we suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

It’s akin to the irony of movies. When there are too many movies to watch, we gravitate towards the blockbusters that follow a specific plot trend vs a wholesome portfolio to nourish our senses and inspire creativity.

Luckily, nature has made things simple with a color coding system. The 20,000+ vegetable species can be broadly divided into 5 color codes (Red, Orange/Yellow, White/Brown, Green, Red), each unique for its nutrient profile, together providing Yuval’s “marvelously varied diet”

Then all we need is a simple 3 step rule: (1) Shop veggies of 5 different colors, (2) rotate the mix with seasonal, exotic and experimental varieties (3) Cook and eat

I started off with salads to get around the third step – chop all the veggies, dress them up and eat. But eating raw rainbow salads everyday can get boring. So I gave myself the challenge to come up with fun, easy and delicious ways to eat rainbow meals. Below are three of the successful kitchen experiments that have been #SuccessfullyTasteTested

The Marvelous Yogic Veggie Bowl

Prep time: 10min | Cooking time: 20min | Serves two big bowls

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup beetroot, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin, diced
  • 1/2 cup potato, diced
  • 1/2 cup cauliflower, diced
  • 1 cup broccoli, diced
  • 1 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions:

  • Peel, dice, wash, strain all the veggies
  • In a rice cooker or a pan, add all the 4 cups of veggies along with 1 Tbsp ghee, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and 1/4 cup water
  • Cover the lid and cook without moving the vegetables, on medium heat for 10 – 15 mins. Make sure the vegetables are fully cooked but have a tinge of firmness / crunch
  • Remove in bowls and serve hot! Add lemon, salt and pepper as required

Notes:

  • Tastes best when served hot, immediately after cooking
  • Best eaten as a salad replacement or with rice and lentil Kichari
  • Eat with a friend or by yourself without TV/phone, to truly enjoy the subtle flavors and nourishments
  • Its real fun to chop the veggies!
  • Use rice cooker to keep things simple and not worry about adding additional water in between
  • Do not touch / move the vegetables while cooking as the colors of some vegetable swill override everything else (e.g. beetroots)

Upcoming recipes in the series:

Coconut Rice with loads of Veggies and a hint of Indo-chinese flavor (coming up soon)

Clear soup with lots of vegetables, Vietnamese pho style (coming up soon)

Trivia

*13 vitamins: vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate).

*21 essential minerals: Calcium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, Iron, Manganese, Copper, zinc, cobalt, molybdenum, iodine, selenium, sulfur, chloride, boron, silicon, vanadium, nickel, arsenic, chromium

*Our bodies need energy to survive and carry various bodily functions. We get this energy from the food we eat, specifically carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The enzymes in our body break down the three macronutrients to release energy via chemical reactions. Vitamins and minerals help keep the enzymes active, transport them to the right locations and keep the environmental conditions right (e.g. pH balance, blood sugar levels etc) for the appropriate chemical reactions to take place. Vitamins and minerals are also stores in our body parts (e.g., Calcium in the bones) that provides critical structure to them. Pretty damn important!

28 Days of Yoga immersion – I learnt what yoga really means

From Feb 10 2019 to Mar 10 2019, I attended the 200hr yoga teacher-training course at The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanvantri Ashram at Neyyar Dam, Kerela, India.

The drive from Thiruvananthapuram airport snakes through narrow village roads to reach the ashram in about an hour. The ashram is perched on a small plateau on the foothills of Southern Western Ghats, flanked by a beautiful lake set against the backdrop of herb-laden mountain range. The nearest village (qualified by the presence of a restaurant) is left 10kms behind. Inside, people practice a simple life – dressed in clothes picked solely for the purpose of utility, sit on the floors, walk while stopping by to enjoy a blooming lotus, a playful cat or chasing sunsets. You hear incredible stories of people who have travelled from across the world to press a reset button in their worldly life and practice yoga.

There was a mystical energy in the place, part created by the environment and part by the people, which made the grilling 16hr day, 6 days a week, manageable. Our days began sharp at 5:20am with a communal bell, squeezing in 4.5hr of yoga, 3hr lectures of Vedanta Philosophy, Bhagvad Gita and Anatomy, 1hr of meditation, 1hr of chanting, 1hr of service, 1hr eating 2 meals a day and miscellaneous time to finish everyday homework till it was lights off at 10:30pm. To call it intense would be an understatement. On day 1 we were told that this experience would ‘change’ us and I was curious to learn how.

As we neared week 3, I found myself adapting to the ashram lifestyle. Sitting cross-legged for 8hrs everyday was becoming manageable, I felt comfortable with two meals a day, I could tame my thoughts for a couple of seconds during meditation, I got into headstand from crow the other day, I was learning a lot about yoga philosophy and postures… But unfortunately none of this qualified as ‘change’ but felt merely as signs of progress, till I was pushed, while getting out of the airport bus after landing back in Bangalore city from the ashram.

I felt like an alien who has come to the city after spending years in the jungle. I felt a sharp aversion to the craziness at the airport, the bags, the crowd, the lights. I wanted to rush back and find a calm place. I longed for simplicity. That’s when I knew something deep had changed inside me. After getting back home, I decided to pen down my thoughts for anyone who was curious about the path of yoga or was on his/her own journey.

What I learnt – The Why, How and What of Yoga

Why should we do Yoga and what is the purpose?

Our mind is our apex center. It has the power to make decisions and orchestrates the nerve signals and muscle movements to take necessary action. It decides if we should succumb and reach out to that cheese oozing pizza. It decides if we have enough time to overtake the truck ahead in a fast lane highway. Every second, the mind is getting signals from the billions of cells in our body on rate of metabolism, infections, pH levels etc. Every second, the mind is bombarded with sensory perceptions of the outside world through our 5 senses. The mind is constantly preoccupied and working very hard, splitting all the inputs into tiny tasks and defining a conscious / subconscious / unconscious response.

What if we could harness all this mental power and focus it on one point, one problem, one project! You might solve world hunger! The true purpose of yoga is to achieve that control on the mind.

Asana based yoga, uses body as a tool to rein in our breath and then mind. On the last day of the course, we did 2hr of meditative asanas, i.e. holding asanas for upto 5min with deep breathing and closed eyes. After the class, instead of being tired, I felt a strange sensation of peace. So strong that I just wanted to focus on something deep within me. I didn’t care about rushing for the last meal of the day. I didn’t crave for checking my phone. I wanted to be in the moment.

Yoga is the silencing of the modifications of the mind

How to do yoga the right way:

  • Start with Savasana to relax body and mind. Don’t jump into it. Even if you do yoga in the morning, start with 5min of Savasana (complete relaxation, corpse pose) because you never know what the dreams or checking that phone did to you.
  • Learn correct breathing. Correct yogic breathing goes like this: Inhale, abdomen out, expand your chest, expand your shoulder to bring air fully to the bottom of the lungs. Exhale, abdomen in, chest relaxed, shoulder relaxed and let all the air out from the lungs. Know the breathing routine to get into the pose and breathe rhythmically when in the pose.
  • Feel the pose. Focusing on how the pose is stretching your muscles and which organs are getting activated, will help to get deeper into the pose or to hold it longer or to do the pose with eyes closed. Just consciously bringing your attention to the body part will fire the nerves and bring amplified benefits to that part.
Breathe, Focus and feel the pose

What asana to do and where to begin?

  • Check your alignment. Take a picture of you standing straight sideways and notice how you are hunched forward or backward (in an ideal posture, you can draw a straight line through your ear, shoulder , hip, knee and ankle joints). Focus on asanas that counter the bad posture and correct the stance. Adopt right posture for sitting, standing and walking.
  • Do a full spinal workout. There is a Chinese saying that says, you are as young as the flexibility of your spine. If the nerves in and around the spine aren’t supple enough and unable to send the signals / nutrients across the body enough, than no matter what you eat or do, you will be prone to diseases and pains. An adult spine is a set of 26 vertebra divided into 4 sections, that can allow movement forward, backward, twists and lateral. Focus on all for a complete daily practice. Sun Salutation is a great all spinal workout that can be added as a warmup with 5 rounds or a full 60min workout with 108 rounds!
  • Pick up a challenging pose. Build strength, flexibility, balance AND endurance. There are 8.4M yoga asanas out there. Leave alone mastering them, even the account of these asanas is not mentioned anywhere. Based on our  practice we tend to gravitate towards one type. We are afraid of building strength or holding poses for longer thinking that it’s not “our” style of yoga. But in the end, it is all one yoga with one aim. Our muscles need all four actions, so challenge yourself and challenge them!

You are born with every breath.
So Breathe. Breathe consciously and breathe fully.
To be a better, stronger, calmer and more focused version of yourself…

Strawberry smoothie!

Cant avoid the breakfast dance with a strawberry smoothie!

Breakfast is the first meal of the day, but most importantly it’s a meal we have after 12hrs of not eating just before we head to work. You need it to be light, loaded with fruits, some protein, colorful and playful to get you in the right mood.

Here is an easy formula: Mix fruits, yogurt, and a gentle sweetener together. Top with nuts!

Recipe:

Prep time: 5min | Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/3 cup yogurt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin seeds

Instructions:

  • Blend together the strawberries, banana and yogurt
  • Serve with toppings of pumpkin seeds

Notes:

  • Banana is a great natural sweetner. You don’t need to mix additional vanilla essence / honey if you are adding a banana to your smoothies

Chia Seed Pudding

Is it a breakfast or is it a dessert? You would still be debating as you scrape that last tiny chia seed from the bottom of your cup! Its the best dessert for breakfast! Its Chia seed pudding

Chia seeds are a staple of South America. It is said that the tribe of Tarahumara Indians, famously known for running hundreds of miles in Mexico’s deep deadly copper canyons, would have chia seeds soaked in lime juice as their energy drink! (Do read more about them and the Race of a lifetime in the book “Born to Run”)

Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants, omega 3, fiber, iron, calcium, phosphorous – loading you with energy, good cholesterol and nutrients that are not found in everyday vegetarian diet. 

So, add chia seeds into your weekly routine with this extremely simple make ahead eye pleasing breakfast (or even dessert) recipe!

Recipe

Prep Time: 5min | Makes 1 portion

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unflavored yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • A handful of nuts (almonds, walnuts, cherries) – roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup colorful fruits – Banana, Spiced apple, Strawberries
  • 4-5 Mint leaves

Instructions

  • In one big cup, pour in unflavored yogurt. Add honey and chia seeds. Mix well so that the chia seeds are broadly distributed and not forming lumps. Its not a problem if they do, just that eating soaked isolated chia seeds are better than lumps!
  • Cover and let this sit overnight
  • In the morning, start your layering craft.
  • My Option 1: Start with a row of walnuts and cherries, then sliced bananas, then sliced strawberries then mint on top
  • My Option 2: Start with a row of toasted almonds, then add Spiced Apples!

Notes

  • This is an absolute free style recipe. Choose your own mix of fruits and nuts, play around with layering, mix as many colors you like!
  • Use transparent cup / glass / masor jar so that you can see the action!

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!

Mushroom on Avocado toast!

Sunday morning breakfasts are meant for hearty, filling and colorful meals, the ones whose mere thought can make you roll out of the bed and head to the kitchen. Better still if it can fulfill my three cooking filters – readily available ingredients, under 30min prep time and colorfully healthy.

One of my favorite go to is Mushroom on Avocado Toast. Its the perfect example of “sum of parts can be bigger than the whole”.

Mushroom on Avocado Toast Recipe

Makes: 4 toasts | Prep Time:

Ingredients:

  • 2 Avocados
  • ~30 button mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, per taste
  • 1tbsp chopper Cilantro
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1tbsp half lemon

Recipe:

  • Avocado Guacamole: Split avocados into half along the longer side and remove the big seed. Make a couple of slits and scoop avocado chunks into a bowl. Add in lemon juice, salt and red pepper flake and mix it all together. Taste and adjust spices as needed
  • Saute Mushroom: Clean mushrooms with a clean cloth and trim the end stems as needed. Cut each of them into 4-5 lengthwise pieces. In the meantime heat oil in the pan and add the mushrooms into it. Cook uncovered on medium heat as the mushroom loose water. Let it cook till most of the water evaporates. Add in salt, pepper, cheese and cilantro. Saute for 1-2 minutes and bring it off the heat.
  • Putting it all together: On lightly toasted bread, put first a layer of avocado guacamole and top it with mushrooms. Make a fold and take a BIG bite. voila!
  • Accompaniments: Have a juice / smoothie to complete the meal

Cheers to bright Sunday breakfasts!

Stand up Strong

After a long time, I opened my yoga book “Light on Yoga” yesterday and instead of going over the details of tricky inversions poses, I flipped to the very first asana, Tadasana, the Mountain Pose. Its the first basic pose in the book, but the writer took five steps to describe the art of standing up strong, straight and unmoved.

  1. You start with Standing erect with the feet together, the heels and big toes touching each other, rest the heads of metatarsals on the floor and stretch all the toes flat on the floor.
  2. Tighten the knees and pull the knee-caps up, contract the hips and pull up the muscles at the back of the thighs.
  3. Keep the stomach in, chest forward, spine stretched up and the neck straight.
  4. Do not bear the weight of the body either on the heels or the toes, but distribute it evenly on both of them.
  5. Ideally in Tadasana, the arms are stretched out over the head, but for the sake of convenience, one can place them by the side of the thighs.

As I finished reading, I realized how bad my standing pose is usually.

These days, I don’t spend more than 30 minutes standing up. I am usually sitting, walking, sleeping or just moving around, but when I do stand I end up standing lousily (in my head its stylish and flattering) with weight set on one leg, and the other leg slightly ahead at an angle. It looks good in pictures and I feel relaxed with on leg resting. But unintuitively, the effects it has on my body are absolutely contrary. Not distributing weight across the feet of the ground, not standing straight with the hips tightened, abdomen pulled in and chest forward, puts excess pressure on the spinal cord, causing heaviness in the head, fatigue and knee problems. Come to think of it, I can not  stand straight in my current usual pose for more than 5-10min and have to sit down.

Since reading that chapter, I have started to follow a five step approach to fix my stance, whenever I can remember it. Point the toes straight ahead, distribute body weight equally on toes and heels, tighten the thighs, pull in the abdomen and straighten the chest. You have to play around with the movement in the beginning till you can feel the balance and lightness in the head. But once you do, you will feel more alert and in connection with the entire body, head to toe.

Cheers To..Learning back the art of standing straight as we did when we first stood up as a kid.

Namaste!

 

 

Satori

Satori is a Japanese buddhist term that simply means “understanding”. But it stretches the definition of understanding to awakening, i.e. “seeing into one’s true nature”. To strive to continually and truly understand something.

For me, Satori is a way of life. It is about not just leading a life but living a conscious life, absorbing the world around and asking questions to dig deeper into the whys, so that one day I could find peace with my role in this world, and if I am really lucky then make a positive impact on someone else.

My objective of starting this blog is to keep myself accountable to being curious, asking questions and sharing my learnings in the blogosphere.