Sep 27, 2010

Pumpkin & Fenugreek Soup

This one is inspired from my non vegan days. I once had this soup at a restaurant in Mumbai. Of course it was a really thick, cream laden soup but I never forgot how much I appreciated the flavours. So I tried and tested one idea I had of replacing the cream with coconut milk and the result was a wonderful blend of flavours in a beautiful orange broth with speckles of green and red. (I will put up a picture soon!)

You need:

About 250 gms of Red Pumpkin (Lal bhopla in hindi / marathi), you can remove the seeds and the fibre around the seeds but don't remove the green skin
1 teaspoon Fenugreek seeds (Methi seeds)
1/2 cup coconut milk (I always prefer freshly made coconut milk)
3 Red Chillies ground to flakes or chilli flakes
Water
Salt
Fresh chopped coriander / parsley / basil

Steam the pumpkin and the fenugreek seeds separately. Once the pumpkin is steamed, purée it in a blender.

Put this is into a saucepan and add the red chillies, fenugreek seeds and a little water. Once it comes to a slight boil, add the salt and coconut milk and take it off the stove.

You can make it as thick as you like. If you prefer thicker soups, omit the water and add just the coconut milk.

Garnish with chopped coriander or parsley and serve hot.

Serves two.


Sep 17, 2010

The wonders of Aspartame

Aspartame is a sweetener used in many products mainly those marketed as 'diet foods'. Aspartame is totally chemically derived and is marketed as a healthier alternative to sugar specially for diabetics and people looking to shed weight. It's three main components are Aspartic Acid, Phenylalanine and Methyl Ester (poison).

Aspartame was introduced in the US mainly through Diet Coke in the early 1980s after being approved by the FDA. Within a year of its introduction, millions of tons were consumed in the US and subsequently the number of brain tumors, aggressive brain cancers, diabetes, MS and many neurological disorders significantly rose.

I watched an old documentary called 'Aspartame, Sweet Misery- A Poisoned World'. The film chronicles a woman diagnosed with the degenerative neurological disease Multiple Sclerosis and her search for the cause of her disease. She interviews many people in the US who have suddenly had the shock of being diagnosed with brain cancer and other devastating diseases and had been told by their doctors (unofficially) that Aspartame was the cause. She interviews doctors active during the 80s and 90s and they talk about the harmful effects of the consumption of Aspartame as seen by them. She also talks to a former FDA inspector and a Doctor who tested the effects on Aspartame on people in a closed experiment. She ends on a note that she is convinced that Aspartame is the cause of her disease (manily because she consumed 6 to 10 cans of diet soda for 15 years or so) as it is with all the people she spoke to who suffered. The doctors gave a clear indication of what went behind the testing and final approval of Aspartame to be added for consumption.

An official list of the symptoms of Aspartame poisoning includes 92 outcomes. They range from hives on the skin, itchiness, dizziness, seizures, cramps, difficulty breathing, memory loss, change in menstrual patterns and so on – mostly symptoms related to the nervous system.

First of all, how did something that had such a wide range of reactions get through for approval is beyond me. Besides that the entire study done by the company (Searle) making Aspartame was redone by a Government Organisation (Foods Bureau) and the company's reports were found to be full of “shenanigans”. As with everything that needs to be tested, Aspartame was tested on animals and found to cause tumours and killed most of them. On the other hand the FDA still only approved Stevia (A sweet leaf) as a substitute sweetener in 2008 after years of oppressing the herb! It's a leaf!

In India, we have just started marketing this chemical as being safe for diabetics. Bipasha Basu attributes her curves to Equal while 'caring' wives are shown adding Sugar Free to their husbands desserts or coffees. A can of Diet Coke is the 'it' thing to add to your drink and 'Sugar Free' mithais are the way to go. All sugar free chewing gums contain Aspartame or one of its poisonous cousins.

Of course you're not going to get cancer the next day after you drink Diet Coke. Our body has the capacity to overcome toxins to some extent. But prolonged exposure to such toxins are bound to get to us one day. Doesn't it make more sense to not even take in one sip or one piece of gum or one bite? I would be wary of anything that says artificial sweetener including Splenda (sucralose), saccharin and many of the man made wonders of our times.

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) also known as Ajinomoto in India is a neurotoxic/ excitotoxin just as Aspartame is. I have personally experienced the effects of MSG on myself  andwhen I eat out, specially Chinese food, I make it a point to mention that I would not like it to be put in my food. The standard response I get is “Toh madam taste nahi aayega”, in other words they don't guarantee that the food will taste as good! What baffles me even more is that ten years back when I became aware of the MSG effect, I found it was freely listed on packets of Maggi Noodles, Top Ramen noodles, Lays, and the works. Today it's gone. All I see is 'No Added MSG'. What does that even mean? 'We didn't physically add it but may be our neighbour did?!'

If you are of the opinion “Oh! Anything you eat is as dangerous, look at the pesticides on fruits and vegetables” or “Something has to kill me someday” then be my guest, I have nothing to say to you. There are somethings which we can avoid, and if we rather not then it's like putting your hand inside the blender when it's on, you know you're not supposed to, you know its not going to do you any good but you still want to do it.










What you need to look for:
E numbers are codes assigned to food additives.

Aspartame is E951
Monosodium Glutamate is E621

Here's a List of E numbers to avoid which I found collated on one website. Many other websites exist with such information.



Sep 8, 2010

Salad Dressing - Balsamic Vinegar DIY

The original recipe for Balsamic vinegar is a mixture of white wine and grape juice. It's more sour than normal vinegar and a good quality balsamic vinegar is healthier than plain ol'acetic acid! It's a lovely dark purple and goes very well with salads. It's also very versatile and can be made into many many different dressings. Here's a basic recipe, use whatever you want!

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Pepper / chilli flakes
1/2 tsp Mustard (Freshly ground works well)
Oregano/ Thyme/ Parsley/ Basil/ Rosemary/ Coriander
Garlic minced
Dried onion flakes

You can use this over steamed veggies or as a dip for freshly toasted bread.

Salad Dressing- Greek Style Dressing

This one goes very well on steamed veggies. You can make a whole lot and store it in the fridge and use it whenever you like.

You need:

Juice of 2 Limes
1/2 tsp olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Parsley/Coriander (Dried or fresh)

Mix them all and beat it with a fork.

Pour it over steamed beans, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, yams...
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