When You’re Craving Hot Chocolate…

The simpler the recipe, the more important it is to use quality ingredients.

The simpler the recipe, the more important it is to use quality ingredients.

It is finally Friday! It has been a busy week and I need to get ready for a busy weekend ahead. The Kutty clan (Raj’s family) and the Chan clan (my family) are having a big Thanksgiving dinner together on Sunday and I am doing all my grocery shopping tomorrow. Then on Thanksgiving Monday, Raj and I have a baby shower to attend. I am so excited for everything this weekend, but tonight, I just want to relax in my pajamas with a blanket, Sex and the City reruns, and some nourishing hot chocolate…

“Haute” Chocolate

This dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, nut-free, and vegan hot chocolate is definitely a nourishing upgrade from the standard hot chocolate at your generic coffee shop. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water (filtered)
  • 2 tablespoons cacao powder (raw, organic)
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil (cold-pressed, organic, extra virgin)
  • healthy sugar substitute (i.e. monk fruit sweetener, stevia, erythritol, xylitol, etc.) to taste
  • the tiniest pinch of sea salt
  1. In a small saucepan over low to medium heat, whisk all the ingredients together until the mixture heats up to a simmer.
  2. Pour the frothy mixture into your favourite mug and enjoy!

Enjoy a comforting mug of healthy hot chocolate this fall and winter without spiking your blood sugar and without the pro-inflammatory effects of dairy. You can also add extracts of your favourite chocolate complementary flavours (i.e. peppermint extract for chocolate mint flavour, orange extract for orange chocolate flavour, etc.). Cheers!

XOXO,

Addy

Arvinda’s Indian Spice Blends Help Me Cook Like Raj’s Mom!

You know an Indian spice blend company is the real deal when their masalas taste like Raj's mom's home cooking!

You know an Indian spice blend company is the real deal when their masalas taste like Raj’s mom’s home cooking!

Raj’s mom, who is from Kerala, India, makes the most delicious Indian dishes (dahls, sambars, curries, etc.). She always cooks with the perfect combination of spices. Indian cuisine involves such intricate blends of complementary spices (also known as masalas) and I am slowly learning about all the different kinds of masalas from her. To Raj’s mom, knowing which spices go well together and in what ratios is second nature (no measuring is necessary). Since my Indian culinary skills are nowhere near her level, I am always on the lookout for ready-made Indian spice blends with flavour profiles that remind me of Raj’s mom’s home cooking. Thanks to the CHFA East trade show this year, I discovered Arvinda’s awesome Indian spice blends, which allow me to cook like Raj’s mom effortlessly! Yes, this line of Indian spice blends tastes that authentic.

Arvinda's Butter Chicken Masala, Tandoori Masala, and Curry Masala are my favourites!

Arvinda’s Butter Chicken Masala, Tandoori Masala, and Curry Masala are my favourites!

This past Thursday on World Vegetarian Day (October 1st), I was craving butter chicken for dinner, but I wanted to satisfy that craving with something vegetarian, healthy, and quick. Thankfully, I had some Arvinda’s Butter Chicken Masala to make myself a deliciously satisfying “Butter Cauli-Kale”. This yummy and hearty vegetarian alternative to butter chicken satisfied my craving and I think Raj’s mom would have approved! This dish was so good that I have already remade it two more times since Thursday! Since it is Vegetarian Awareness Month, I thought I should share this tasty and nutritious vegetarian recipe. It is so quick and easy too thanks to Arvinda’s Butter Chicken Masala.

This vegetarian dish does not look like butter chicken, but it is much more nutritious with the same spice and flavour profile as that of butter chicken!

This vegetarian dish does not look like butter chicken, but it is much more nutritious with the same spice and flavour profile as that of butter chicken! It definitely satisfied my craving for butter chicken!

Butter Cauli-Kale (Vegetarian Alternative to Butter Chicken)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Arvinda’s Butter Chicken Masala
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined virgin coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tomato, puréed
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 small head cauliflower or 1/2 head large cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized chunks
  • 5 kale leaves, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon 100% all natural and smooth cashew butter (unsweetened and unsalted)
  1. In a frying pan (that is large enough to fit all the vegetables) over medium heat, sauté the diced onion in the coconut oil until soft and translucent.
  2. Add in the puréed tomato and Arvinda’s Butter Chicken Masala. Continue cooking and stirring the mixture until most of the moisture has evaporated and the consistency becomes thick like tomato paste.
  3. Mix in the low-sodium vegetable broth, chopped cauliflower, chopped kale, fine sea salt, and coconut sugar. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan with a lid, and let everything simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables have cooked to desired tenderness. If you prefer a drier consistency with little to no sauce like I do, let everything simmer without a lid and stir often to ensure nothing sticks to the pan.
  4. Turn off the stove and mix in the cashew butter. Serve and enjoy!
Happy Vegetarian Awareness Month!

Happy Vegetarian Awareness Month!

If you get cravings for Indian food and want to satisfy those cravings with delicious and nutritious food, I highly recommend alway having your favourite Arvinda’s spice blends on hand! I am still slowly learning about Indian cooking from Raj’s mom, but for those times when I am in a hurry, there are always ready-made spice blends in my pantry!

XOXO,

Addy

The Cheapest Way to Eat Organic!

Raj and I try to eat organic as much as we can all year round and not just during "Organic Week", because organic foods just taste better.

Raj and I try to eat organic as much as we can all year round and not just during “Organic Week”, because organic foods just taste better.

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that eating organic is too expensive, my phone bill would be covered every month. Since it is “Organic Week” (September 19-27, 2015) here in Canada, I thought I would share my secret on the cheapest way to eat organic. After sharing this secret with Raj, the both of us now eat fresh organic foods more frequently and when we do, the organic foods are always much cheaper than their inorganic counterparts. So what is the secret? Shop in the clearance produce section!

The clearance produce section section at Raj's local Fortinos was full of still beautiful organic fruits and vegetables for over 50% off!

The clearance produce section section at Raj’s local Fortinos was full of still beautiful organic fruits and vegetables for over 50% off!

Sure, shopping in the clearance produce section has drawbacks such as having little to no organic produce at times (unless you live in a big city like I do where there are many large supermarkets nearby with large clearance produce sections), giving up meal planning for improvisational cooking (you never know what you are going to find in the clearance section), and grocery shopping on a daily basis (clearance produce usually lasts no longer than a day). However, if you can accommodate these drawbacks into your lifestyle without any issue, then the advantages will far outweigh the disadvantages. Not only will you save money, but you will also be eating more nutrient-dense produce, reducing your exposure to toxins (i.e. pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, etc.), supporting sustainable farming, and leading a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

I found two gorgeous heads of organic romaine lettuce for $0.99 (along with several organic eggplants for the same price)!

I found two gorgeous heads of organic romaine lettuce for $0.99 (along with several organic eggplants for the same price)!

In terms of savings, markdowns are typically at least 50% off. For instance, at Raj’s local Fortinos yesterday, we found two beautiful heads of organic romaine lettuce for $0.99 and a bunch of organic eggplant for $0.99 as well. What a bargain!

For under $5, we made plenty of organic vegan taco lettuce wraps to feed four hungry adults! They were absolutely delicious! Great ingredients make great food.

For under $5, we made plenty of organic vegan taco lettuce wraps to feed four hungry adults! They were absolutely delicious! Great ingredients make great food.

So for dinner last night, we stir-fried the organic eggplants with some cooked organic lentils the same way we stir-fried these jackfruit seeds here. Then, we scooped this delicious stir-fry into the organic romaine lettuce leaves and devoured these like tacos! This yummy and organic meal fed four adults and costed less than $5! Who says eating organic has to be expensive? I love shopping in the clearance produce section for organic fruits and vegetables and not knowing what to expect. It allows me to be creative and adventurous in the kitchen, while being healthy, organic, economical, and eco-friendly all at the same time. Try it!

XOXO,

Addy

“ManGO-Away-Cold-and-Flu” Salad!

A healthy diet should be naturally colourful!

A healthy diet should be naturally colourful!

You know how there are those few times during the year when everyone around you seems to be getting sick? Well, I am going through one of those times right now and I am proud to say that I still have not fallen sick. I have been taking preventative measures to ensure I remain cold/flu-free. In addition to taking oil of oregano daily while so many are sick around me, getting an adequate amount of sleep every night, and always staying hydrated, I have been having my “ManGO-Away-Cold-and-Flu” salad for dinner quite often lately. This high-in-vitamin-C and antioxidant-rich salad helps keep sickness away and is so yummy! I make this salad so often that I have never measured any of the ingredients. However, while making this salad for dinner last night, I measured the ingredients so that I could share the recipe with you all today! Enjoy!

One of my secrets to making a great tasting salad is using all organic ingredients! Organic produce just tastes better.

One of my secrets to making a great tasting salad is using all organic ingredients! Organic produce just tastes better.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 medium (red, white, or yellow) onion, diced
  • 2-3 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
  • 1-2 pinches garam masala powder (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 ripe mango, diced
  • leaves from 1 head of green kale, roughly chopped
  • 1 scallion, chopped
If you are a salad lover like me, this recipe serves one.

If you are a salad lover like me, this recipe serves one.

  1. In a medium frying pan over medium to high heat, sauté the diced onion in coconut oil until translucent.
  2. Add the diced zucchini and spices (cumin powder, fine sea salt, chili powder, garam masala powder, and turmeric powder). Sauté everything until all the water that comes out from the zucchini evaporates.
  3. Place the chopped kale leaves in a large bowl and add the sautéed zucchini and onion mixture on top.
  4. Top off the salad with the diced mango and chopped scallion.
  5. Mix everything together. Allow the flavours to mix and mingle for 5 minutes and then enjoy!

XOXO,

Addy

Combating STRESS!!!

stress-538x218Combating Stress using Breath focus:

Some Background and benifits:

The human body has a response to stress (also known as the “stress response”) termed “fight or flight” which the body uses to confront or avoid danger.  The stress response helps us meet challenges.  The trouble we face with the stress response though is when it is provoked constantly by less serious daily issues like: job worries, relationship problems, money woes, and traffic jams.

One of the results of this are health problems.  One of the biggest examples is high blood pressure, which is a major risk factors for heart disease.  Not only can a buildup of stress contribute to depression and anxiety, it also suppresses our immune system, increasing the chances of getting colds and other illnesses.

Stress is unavoidable, nor would we want to avoid all stress.  What we can do, and what we should do is develop better ways to respond to such stressors.  One method is to use the relaxation response.  Through a technique developed by a cardiologist by the name of Dr. H. Benson at the Harvard Medical School in the 1970’s.  The relaxation response is a deep state of rest brought on in many ways such as (but not limited to): meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and yoga.

Breath focus, is a common feature of many techniques used to elicit the relaxation response.  The first step is learning to breathe deeply.

Deep breathing has many names: diaphragmatic breathing, paced respiration’s, belly breathing, and abdominal breathing.  When you breath deeply, you breath in through your nose, fully expand your lungs, and rise your lower belly.  This may seem unnatural to some, and there could be several possible reasons for this. Body image: A flat stomach is considered attractive, so men and women tend to hold their stomach muscles in which in turn gradually makes shallow chest breathing seem normal, which increases tension and anxiety.  Shallow breathing also limits the range of motion of ones diaphragm, leading to the lowest part of our lungs not getting all oxygenated air possible, which could lead to making you feel short of breath and anxious.

Belly breathing promotes a good exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide, and in fact it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize ones blood pressure.

Breath focus:

Breath focus helps you disengage from distracting thoughts and sensations by focusing on slow and deep breathing.

Find a place to sit or lie down that is quiet.  Take a normal breath, and then attempt to take a deep breath: slowly breathing through your nose allowing your lungs to fill and your chest and lower stomach to rise. Let your abdomen expand completely.  Then breath out through your mouth or nose slowly (whatever feels more natural to you).

Once you are use to deep breathing, you can move on to practicing breath focus regularly.  Sitting comfortably, with your eyes closed and practicing deep breathing, try to think of helpful imagery and focus on words or phrases that will help you gain a deeper level of relaxation.

Take Away:

Try several relaxation techniques, to see which ones work best for you.  If one fails you, you will be able to use alternate techniques.

  1. SCHEDULE practice once or twice a day, this helps enhance the sense of ritual and establish the habit
  2. Don’t try too hard, that will only be counter productive.
  3. Find a special place you can go to sit or lie down comfortably and quietly.
  4. Be somewhat active in eliciting the relaxation response, as the key to it is shifting your focus from stressors to deeper calmer rhythms.
  5. Try to take 10-20 minutes a day to practice.

 

belly-breathing

 

 

 

 

Critical Thinking ………… in a sea of facts and pseudo facts

 

 

So one of my biggest gripes these days is the lack of critical thinking when encountering the “latest” studies/research.

Wikipedia defines critical thinking as:

Critical thinking is clear, reasoned thinking involving critique. Its details vary amongst those who define it. According to Beyer (1995), critical thinking means making clear, reasoned judgement’s. During the process of critical thinking, ideas should be reasoned and well thought out/judged.[1] The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking , May 23, 2015

I prefer Critical thinking web’s definition:

Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and rationally. It includes the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking. Someone with critical thinking skills is able to do the following :

  • understand the logical connections between ideas
  • identify, construct and evaluate arguments
  • detect inconsistencies and common mistakes in reasoning
  • solve problems systematically
  • identify the relevance and importance of ideas
  • reflect on the justification of one’s own beliefs and values

Critical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he knows, and he knows how to make use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself. – http://philosophy.hku.hk/think/critical/ct.php , May 23, 2015

But what does this all mean?  My point, is that not all studies are equal, and the sources of the information on the web or at large need to be looked at with a critical eye. As to ascertain whether these “facts” are actually facts.

Personally, I break this down into several steps.

  1. Is it a peer reviewed publication? – Not all publications are equal
  2. What kind of study was it? – I have a preference for double blind studies, though depending on the data being collected this isn’t always possible.
  3. How large is the sample size? – Speaks to whether we can glean information for the population at large.
  4. What was the method for testing and measuring results? – A flawed experiment will result in flawed data.
  5. Does the author have any connection to the product they are testing? – Unfortunately bias can exist in situations where the Author could gain financially or otherwise from a particular outcome.

Beyond that, I’ve found a great handout from the University of Toronto on critical thinking you can find here .  I highly recommend taking a look at it.

I’ll leave you with this quote:

Critical Thinking_ AE

 

 

~Raj “The MD” Kutty

Gardening Fun!

IMG_20150515_180054

Out of both Raj and me, Raj definitely has the greener thumb. Every spring and summer, he grows a different variety of organic produce. I thought I would do a brief blog post to show you all what he is growing this year. I cannot wait to try the fruits of his labour!

CYMERA_20150528_180612

CYMERA_20150528_193016

I will be sure to keep you all posted on the progress of his garden throughout the summer!

XOXO,

Addy