Multitasking Exercises

Friday, April 27, 2007

Posted by Susi

In between working and trying to pack glorious lunches for my girls, I like to fit in a bit of exercise everyday. Since, I am often pressed for time, I look for exercises that multitask. I need exercises that work more than one body part at a time. There are two elbow planks I really like.


Lately I have been doing two variations on the elbow plank.

Here's a little chart to help you with the moves.











Elbow Plank

Hold for 30 seconds

  • Pull your abs up toward the ceiling, but do not break at your hips
  • Really press through your elbows so you don't collapse between your shoulder blades

  • Reach through your heels to activate the back of your legs and your booty (similar to weighting your heels when you do a squat)


Side Elbow Plank

  • Keep your waist lifted away from the floor, work those obliques

  • Press down with your elbow to keep your shoulder away from your ear

  • Reach through your top hand, this will make you feel lighter





I like these planks since they don't bother my wrists. I hole them each for 30 seconds. I am working up to holding the for a minute. Great activity for commercial break during TV time.

Try them...you will like them. Or at least the results.





If you like what we girls do here and would like to vote for us in the Blogger's Choice Awards here. Thanks for your support!


Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas. This Post was written by Susi May from FitSugar

Homemade Breads

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Posted by gilly



One of my great wishes is that we had unlimited access to a local bakery. I love the notion of stopping by a market on the way home, and picking up a fresh-from-the-oven loaf of soft, chewy, delicious bread. Unfortunately, the few bakeries in our vicinity either keep regular business hours (i.e. they are closed by the time we get there), or are completely out of our way.

Since I am not a fan of processed foods (even more compelling reasons here), I rarely buy bread at the store. If my husband and I want bread, it is typically made at home.

Bread making is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your kitchen. Despite initial concerns about working with yeast, I think everyone should try their hand at it at least once. Even if you are a die-hard yeast hater – there are still a variety of delicious flat breads, and biscuit recipes out there that deserve attention.


Besides time, what are some other basics a bread maker needs to make their wares?


  • A large bowl – for combining ingredients

  • A wooden spoon – for mixing

  • A bread board, table, or counter-space to working on

  • Flour – enough for the bread itself, for kneading, and for your hands as you work

  • Water or other binding liquids

  • Butter/Fat – enough for the bread, and for greasing bowl, pans, etc.

  • Yeast (optional)

  • Additional ingredients for variety (optional)

  • Loaf or other pans for baking in

  • An oven



For those wary of yeast – here are a few things to keep in mind:


  • Be sure to know and understand the type(s) of yeast you have on hand – and check your recipe to be sure that you are using the appropriate type. I only use dry active yeast, but have become quite comfortable with it.

  • Only combine yeast into lukewarm liquids – I like working between 95F-115F. If you are unsure, use a thermometer to check. If you add yeast to very hot liquids, it will kill them. If the liquid is too cool, there is a risk that it will not proof correctly.

  • Sweet breads, heavily grained breads, and breads with a high percentage of fat are much more difficult to raise – and often require more time - than regular white breads. If you are just starting out, try a simple bread recipe (see below), and work your way up from there.

  • I like letting my dough rise in a warm kitchen environment, but if that is not possible - let it rise in the oven – turned off but with the light on.

  • Most bread dough will double within 1-2 hours – be sure to give it the time it needs to raise.



For more tips and tricks, the King Arthur Flour site has a very comprehensive write up (and bread recipe).

Here is a straightforward recipe I've made a few times now. For best flavour and texture, be sure to use up your freshly made bread within a few days, or freeze it - the lack of chemicals and additives reduces its shelf life.

Recipe: Foccacia Bread
Adapted from No Need to Knead by Suzanne Dunaway

2 cups lukewarm water (95F-105F)
2 tsp dry active yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
3 tsp olive oil
chopped fresh rosemary
coarsely ground sea-salt for sprinkling

Place lukewarm water into a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit until the yeast has foamed up. Gently swirl in the first 2 cups of flour and the salt until smooth. Slowly add the next 2 cups, a bit at a time until encorporated, and the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. The dough will be fairly damp and tacky, but will still form a loose ball. If more or less flour accomplishes this, that is fine.

Cover the bowl and allow to sit in a warm place (or in the oven - turned off - light on) until doubled in volume - 40-50 minutes.

Moving the baking rake to middle of the oven, preheat to 500F. Grease your pans - either bread pans, a 9" skillet, 2 5" skillets - or as I've used above - a 9"x13" pan. Carefully loosen the dough from the bowl and gently 'pour' the dough into the pan(s) - keeping the dough as inflated as possible. You may need to gently push the dough around if you want a perfect shape, however, irregular shaped breads will be lighter. Dimple the top of the bread using a finger dipped in flour, then brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary and sea-salt.

Place the pan in the oven, and quickly reduce the temperature down to 450F. Bake for 15-20 minutes - until a golden crust has developed. The bread will also have a 'hollow' sound when you knock it. Move to a wire rack to cool, then slice and enjoy!

I make my focaccia into a large flat bread. I cut a piece out, then divide it through the middle to make a delicious panini holder - accomodating all kinds of delicious sandwich ingredients.

I wish you all the best with your breadmaking. If you have a favourite homemade bread recipe, or helpful hints for our readers, we'd love to hear about it in the comments section!

Until next time I wish you health, happiness, and balance!




If you like what we girls do here and would like to vote for us in the Blogger's Choice Awards here. Thanks for your support!


Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by gilly from Humble Pie

What's Up in May?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Posted by Meeta K

Take a moment and smell the "Blooming Blossoms" (photo by Meeta Albrecht)

There was a buzz of chatter behind the scenes at the Daily Tiffin. We've been working on an interesting plan you see. A plan that actually started to take form when we were thinking about the next theme for our event in May. One thing lead to another and before we knew it we were all excited about what was concocted.



This month we are going for a special theme. To complement the event we are guest hosting for Jyothsna of Currybazaar - Safety Moments, we decided to dedicate the whole month of May to Safety & Care.

Before we get into the details of the theme, let us first give you more details for the event.



Event in May:
Safety Moments is an event created by Jyothsna, which encourages us to take a moment and think about how safe our kitchen is. We thought this would certainly be a very interesting topic for many of our readers and decided to guest host the event for May. We also wanted to specify this into a more appropriate theme for our readers here by categorizing it into a topic many parents find very important - Kids in the Kitchen.

So, in May we would like you to go into your kitchens, have a good long look at it and make a list of any hazards, traps, dangerous gadgets or material you see that might harm the little ones in our lives. The first thing you do - remove them. Then send us an email telling us about them. Even if your kitchen is a safe haven for children - tell us what measures you took to remove those lurking dangers.

The Details:

  1. If you have a blog write an article about the current theme and blog about it anytime from now till the deadline. If you do not have a blog then email your entry and we will add it to the roundup. The deadline for this event is May 19th.
  2. Email your entry with the following information:
    • Your Name
    • Your Blog Name
    • URL/Permalink to your post
    Those sending their entries per email are requested to send:
    • their name
    • their write up in a text file (please check for grammar, as we will be copying and pasting)
  3. In your post please include a link to this post, so your readers get a chance to inform themselves of the event and eventually take part too.
  4. Please email your entries to blogmeeta@gmail.com no later than May 19th


Theme in May:
Safety and care however, does not only start and end in our kitchens. It is something that should accompany us where ever we go and what ever we do. This topic is so important that we want to dedicate the month of May to Safety & Care in our lives. From May 1st, each member of the DT team will be sharing their views, experience, tips and advice on how we all can go about our daily routine with care. You will be getting topics like safety and care in your fitness/sport routine, tips and tricks for kitchen hygiene and important things to consider when preparing lunch boxes and of course our own safety views on Kids in the Kitchen.

We really hope you enjoy the next month with us. For now go out and smell the wonderful blooming blossoms.

PS. Don't forget May 13th is Mother's Day ;-)





If you like what we girls do here and would like to vote for us in the Blogger's Choice Awards here. Thanks for your support!


Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Meeta from What's For Lunch, Honey?


Need for speed: A mommy's lunch manifesto

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Posted by Biggie

The face of the enemy

I'm a mom who packs lunch. What's important to a mom? Nutrition and speed: I want to feed my family nutritious food, but spending a lot of time on every meal isn't feasible. I strive to achieve balance between the two -- losing this battle would either have me waking up hours before everyone else to cook lunch, or reaching for a Lunchable processed lunch (the face of the enemy, pictured above).

Spending an hour preparing a weekday lunch is only going to happen in my house if it's a special occasion like a birthday or holiday -- I spend my morning getting myself and a preschooler ready to go out. Although ornate lunches shaped like cartoon characters and whimsical shapes are artistic and intriguing, I know my limits. I would burn out if I tried to do that every day. For me it's got to be sustainable over the long run, which is why I make speed bentos.

How did I arrive at this point? I lived in Japan as an expat for nine years and am fluent in Japanese, but didn't pay much attention to the whole lunch-packing ("bento") culture there until my husband was misdiagnosed with a food intolerance that ruled out restaurant meals. Back in San Francisco, I decided to send him to work with delicious lunches that would make him feel like he was eating better than his colleagues who were going out to eat. A trip to the local Japanese-language bookstore turned up bento cookbooks that I started studying, especially the creative packing tips and techniques that could be adapted to our normal diet. My husband has since been "undiagnosed" with the food intolerance, but then I found myself carting around a diaper bag stuffed full of little Tupperware containers for my toddler son ("Bug"), leaving the playground early to go get lunch. Time to pull out those bento boxes again so we can spend more fun time out and about!

So now I'm learning to think on my feet when I look at the refrigerator in the morning. Where I used to see either uninspiring food or time-consuming meals, I can now see quick lunches taking shape. I have fast lunch items in the freezer and fridge, and speedy prep techniques at my fingertips. Let me tell you about some of the speed techniques I've picked up from reading Japanese packed lunch cookbooks.


Use your leftovers!
Don't hesitate to pack food left over from dinner! Leftovers can be your weapons against boring lunches -- maximize payout for the time you already put into dinner by making a little extra food. Granted, eating the same thing again can get boring, so look at your leftovers creatively and find ways to give them a makeover. Potato salad can become potato pancakes or faux Scotch eggs, leftover curry can become the base for a noodle dish or the stuffing for dumplings.

Faux latkes with tuna Leftover remake: Scotch quail egg with potato salad

Pre-pack lunches when possible
If you find yourself with dinner leftovers, get a head start on the next day's lunch by packing up some of the meal directly into your lunch container (Tupperware, Laptop Lunchbox, tiffin, bento box, thermos, etc.) when cleaning up the evening meal. This way you have most of the next morning's work done already, and lunch will be ready with only minimal preparation like cutting up fruit.

Ready-made foods
You don't have to make everything for lunch the same day. Make full use of frozen foods and canned foods to speed things up. Frozen vegetables can go into quick sautes or little frittatas, canned beans can become quick salads. Ready-made deli foods such as hummus or tabbouleh are quick lunch additions. Additionally, ready-made foods don't have to be store-bought: many dishes can be made in advance, batch frozen in individual portions (spaghetti cups, sandwiches, rice balls), and either defrosted naturally or in the microwave. A well-stocked freezer can save the day on time-pressed mornings.

Frozen spaghetti for packed lunches Wrapped cutout sandwiches for freezing: speed bento technique Frozen yaki onigiri for bento lunches

Pre-made sauces for a fast flavor boost
Stock your pantry or refrigerator with a few flavorful sauces that can be add to simply sliced vegetables or sauteed protein/vegetable dishes. These sauces (homemade or store-bought) can be varied to suit your family's dietary preferences; think black bean sauce, barbeque sauce, teriyaki sauce, cooked salsas, curry sauces, noodle dipping sauce, vinaigrettes or Italian dressing, Korean barbeque sauce, etc.

Make full use of the microwave and toaster oven (or broiler)
Japanese bento cookbooks often tout the time-saving technique of cooking multiple items simultaneously: in the microwave, toaster oven, frying pan, etc. This saves energy and time; the trick is to select foods that will cook well with the same method and to check doneness periodically (don't assume all dishes will be done at the same time). Click on any of the photos below for details.

Speedy prep for mushroom lunches Prep for quail eggs and sausages Frying pan does double duty

Time-saving kitchen tools
Lastly, a couple of tools are particularly useful in speeding up lunch prep. A quick slicer (mini mandoline) makes short work of slicing vegetables and is easily cleaned. A mini microwave steamer reduces cook time by 50%, quickly cooking vegetables or frozen dumplings.





If you like what we girls do here and would like to vote for us in the Blogger's Choice Awards, click here. Thanks for your support!


Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.
This Post was written by Biggie from Lunch in a Box.


Show Me Your Lunchbox - The Roundup

Monday, April 23, 2007

Posted by Meeta K



Thank you all for allowing us to peak into your lunch boxes, bentos and plates.
It really was exciting to see how each one of you packed your lunches, what ingredients you used and of course what boxes you all use!

The best thing of all was seeing so many of you packing not only scrumptious lunches, but healthy ones. Good for you!

If you should ever run out of ideas though, just come on over to this page for brilliant inspiration!



Before we do get into the actual roundup, we would like to share some great news with you. You might have noticed that badge in the sidebar under "Blogger Choice Awards." Well one of you went and nominated us for "Best Parenting Blog" and now many are already voting for us. We really would like to thank you for your awesome support and loyalty. We girls love writing for the Daily Tiffin and hope you enjoy what we are doing here. If you do and would like to take a few minutes to vote for us it would rub our egos in the right direction ;-) To vote simply click here.

Wait it does not end there folks. Some of our own individual blogs have also been nominated and we'd love your support there too - if you think we deserve it of course:
Best Health Blog - FitSugar
Best Health Blog - Saffron Trail
Best Food Blog - Lunch in a Box
Best Food Blog - What's For Lunch Honey?
Best Photography Blog - What's For Lunch Honey?

Now to the roundup!


  1. Mahek - Love4Cooking
    "A SIMPLE BUT NUTRITIOUS TIFFIN which has rice, prawns, peas, and carrots so all the components of a healthy meal are taken care of."

  2. Quillia - All Things Edible
    "I needed a good, balanced lunch box for my 8 year old but also needed something that would be quick to put together so I could send him off to school and go back to bed. Enter the goat cheese and the 4 minute lunch box: fresh strawberries, little goat cheese "sandwiches" made with whole wheat paris toasts, slices of black forest ham, cucumber coins, a thermos of strawberry yogurt, and for dessert, raspberry linzer cookies (with a few of the little cut outs for fun.)"

  3. Suzannah - Sue Knits
    "I pack one for myself every day! Or every night, I should say, so I can throw it in the fridge and not have to deal with it in the morning"

  4. Stephanie (per email) - Mix it up Meals
    "This is lunch for my almost four year old at preschool. She is usually helping in the packing process. She's a light eater, and I'm sure at least 1/2 of this will come home.

    P1010017

    Salad with Ranch Dressing -- she calls it fresh dipping for some unknown reason.
    Turkey Pastrami with the pepper cut off
    Red grapes
    2 Welsh cakes... perfect for the lunch box as they travel well."

  5. Susan - Porcini Chronicles
    "At this point, follow my instructions very carefully: with a steady hand and your widest spatula under one corner of the frittata, scoop it out onto a dinner plate. Then, invert the frying pan on top of the frittata, hold the pan handle and the bottom of the plate really securely, think inspiring thoughts, believe in yourself (I think I can, I think I can…) and flip*. Now cook the frittata for another 2-3 minutes or until you feel with your finger that the center is firm."

  6. Chris - Mele Cotte
    "I also know I am a snacker, and I make sure I put enough nibbles in my lunch to ensure a trip to the vending machine is promptly foiled."

  7. Z - Water Boils
    "The above meal is my first demonstration of the art of eating and cooking efficiently. Only the raviolis and radish leaves (Yes, cooked radish leaves, I’ll elaborate in a second) are cooked for this lunch, rest is leftovers and stash. The zucchini is leftovers from my morning omelette, and the chicken pieces are from the freezer. Orange wedges are from lunch, I just couldn’t finish them after greasy Chinese."

  8. Biggie - Lunch In A Box
    "had leftover sancocho (Latin American stew that I made with beef, tripe, potatoes, yucca and malanga -- like taro) from the night before, so when cleaning up after dinner I packed up my stew in a thermal lunch jar, chopped up Bug's stew and put it in a microwave-safe dish, and popped both into the refrigerator overnight"

  9. Joker Girl - Pick Me Up Bento
    "A pick-me-up bento for tomorrow, with pretty colors and healthy veg and rice!"

  10. Bharathy - Spicy Chilly
    "It is the Indian Tradition of having the sumptuous nutritious meal,after the SURYODAYAM,or the sunrise.This should be taken after the sun has risen well enough in the horizon...the time roughly between 10.30am-12.00noon.After the British rule,Indians stuck on to the habit of breakfast.They called this morning lunch as BRUNCH...but whatever.. my family still follows this method of HOT Brunch,a well balanced and nutritious array of vegetarian delights."

  11. Kanchana - Married to a Desi
    "Being Indian, I have a tonne of tupperware lying around so I used a nice flat rectangular box as the base and filled it up with a few smaller boxes, and juice containers. My m-in-law had recommended I make rotis, but I decided that something hot in a thermos might be good after such a long trip. The bento boxes really remind me of how they serve the food to you on the airplanes, so I guess the theme was quite apropos."

  12. Indosungod - Daily Musings
    "My lunch box is easy to pack, anything that will keep me from eating out is welcome in my lunch box. But the toughest (is that a real word? no time to look in the dictionary) is to pack a kiddie friendly lunch box, especially for someone like my daughter for who the process of eating rice is an arduous task by itself ,time consuming requiring constant prodding."

  13. Masami - Initials Bento
    "Top: bento box lid
    Middle, from L-->R: carrot, celery, corn, ham, cabbage. Veggies were braised in chicken stock.
    Bottom: onigiri with umeboshi/katsubushi (bonito flake)/soy sauce filling"

  14. Eliza - Notes from my Food Diary
    "or a long time, pasta has been the second staple item in our family besides rice. From simpe to complicated dish, pasta equals comfort."

  15. Ulrike - Kuechenlatein
    "I have to admit that I am a "Mittagesser" a luncher at midday. So are the remaining members of my family, the three gentlemen. Two of them have lunch away from home, my firstborn at school and the BevA - the best husband of all - in a very good canteen at work. So I cook on weekdays for son no. 2 and me a healthy lunch."

  16. Sujatha (per email)
    "Here I have attached a simple but happy lunch I packed for my husband & myself one day in this week. We usually eat rice for lunch along with some vegetables & fruits and for dinner it’s strictly Tiffin, like Idly, Dosa, upma..you name it + fruits. But lately (as I have become a bit health conscious) and I started including either a small box of salad or couple of Chappathis/Rotis and I had reduced the rice amount!

    DSCN5358

    Following in this pattern, this lunch I packed for us got, A small box of Ridgegourd dal rice, 2 Rotis, Rajma curry to go with the rotis and some cut fruits (Honeydew & Grapes). Hope this is what you wanted from us to take part in this event. Am not sure whether you need me to send in the recipes for this. Please let me know, if you need anything else from me."

  17. Latha - La Gourmet Chef
    "Used the 4:3:2:1 ratio of Japanese Bento method with Dhokla, roasted Veggies (baby potatoes, green peas and carrots), Fruits (strawberry and grapes), and I replaced Dessert with dried fruits Walnuts and Cranberries."

  18. Shaheen - A simple lunch box
    "a bagel(a kind of thick bread) with flavored cream cheese and some strawberries and grapes. A box of chocolate milk and some string cheese for a snack and lunch is ready. My son still prefers this to buying from the school and even helps me make it on a harried day.
    The cream cheese varies in flavor as per our moods..sweet to spicy to sour."

  19. Nandita - The Indian Dabba
    "Dabba in many Indian languages means a 'box'. In India, the word dabba is easily synonymous with a lunch box as in 'Aaj dabbe mein kya hai?' ('What's in your lunch box today' in Hindi)"

  20. Meeta - Fancy Egg Rolls
    "My mum constantly sends me packets of cashews, almonds and raisins from Dubai as she knows how much we enjoy them. Here I have made a little dried fruit and nut mix with a few cashews, almonds, raisins, hazelnuts and dried cherries. My mother calls this "brain food.""


Thank you all for contributing to this event. Hope you enjoyed it just as much as we did.

The theme to the next event will be announced on Wednesday so come back then folks.



If you like what we girls do here and would like to vote for us, click here. Thanks for your support!


Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.



Chemicals in Food - How to Avoid Them?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Posted by Meeta K



This Post was contributed by Pintoo from Lazy Weekend



What if someone were to tell you that a chemical added to food could cause brain damage in your children, and that this chemical could effect how your children’s nervous systems formed during development so that in later years they may have learning or emotional difficulties? What if there was scientific evidence that these chemicals could damage a critical part of the brain known to control hormones so that later in life your child might have endocrine problems? How would you feel?

Suppose evidence was presented to you strongly suggesting that the artificial sweetener in your diet soft drink may cause brain tumors to develop, and that the number of brain tumors reported since the wide-spread introduction of this artificial sweetener has risen dramatically? Would that affect your decision to drink these products and especially to allow your children to drink them?

What if you could be shown overwhelming evidence that one of the main ingredients in this sweetener (aspartate) could cause the same brain lesions as MSG? Would that affect your buying decisions?

And finally, what if it could be demonstrated that all of these types of chemicals (called excitotoxins) could possibly aggravate or even precipitate many of the neurodegenerative brain diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, ALS, and Alzheimer’s disease?

Would you be concerned if you knew that these excitotoxin food additives are a particular risk if you have ever had a stroke, brain injury, brain tumor, seizure, or have suffered from hypertension, diabetes, meningitis or viral encephalitis?

I would think that all of us would be more than just concerned to learn that well known powerful brain toxins were added to our food and drink to boost sales. We would be especially upset to learn that these additives have no other purpose than to enhance the taste of food and the sweetness of various diet products.

And I would bet that you would be incredulous to learn that they will not be recognized. In fact, many foods that are labeled “No MSG” not only contain MSG, but also contain other excitotoxins of equal potency.

For thousand of years Japanese cooks have added a special ingredient to their recipes to magnify the desired taste of foods. This ingredient was made from a sea weed known as “sea tangle” or Kombu. Yet it was only in this century that the active chemical of this “taste enhancing” ingredient was isolated. Most of you will immediately recognize the chemical which has this almost magical property-it’s called monosodium glutamate, or MSG.

Shortly after its isolation, the chemists who discovered MSG turned it into a worldwide multi-million dollar industry. At the center of this empire is the Ajinomoto Company which today produces most of the world’s supply of MSG and a related taste-enhancing substance called hydrolyzed vegetable protein, which also contains MSG.

MSG contains glutamate a toxin known to cause damage to the nervous system.

Often food manufacturers will mix MSG with other substances to disguise it, or use substances known to contain high concentrations of glutamate and/or aspartate. For example, the label designation “natural flavoring” may contain anywhere from 20 to 60 percent MSG.

Another substance called hydrolyzed vegetable protein, also referred to as vegetable protein or plant protein, often portrayed as a perfectly safe and “natural” substance, this mixture actually is made from “junk” vegetables that are unfit for sale. They are especially selected so as to have a naturally high content of glutamate. The extraction process of hydrolysis involves boiling these vegetables in a vat of acid. This is followed by a process of neutralization with caustic soda. The resulting product is a brown sludge that collects on the top. This is scraped off and allowed to dry. The end product is a brown powder that is high in three known excitotoxins- glutamate, aspartate, and cystoic acid (which converts in the body to cysteine). It is then added by the food industry to everything from canned tuna to baby food.

So what is it that these “excitotoxins” actually do that is so important to the food manufacturers?

All of these chemicals stimulate the taste cells in the tongue, thereby greatly enhancing the taste of whatever food to which it is added. It is what gives soup the scrumptious taste that we all love so much. Today they are used extensively in sauces, soups, gravy mixes, and especially frozen diet foods.

When neurons are exposed to these substances; they become very excited and fire their impulses very rapidly until they reach a state of extreme exhaustion. Several hours later these neurons suddenly die, as if the cells were excited to death. As a result, neuroscientists have dubbed this class of chemicals “excitotoxins:”

So before your kids get hooked on to those flavored potato chips, (ranch, barbecue, sour cream and onion) or the flavored corn chips in the form of Doritos, Ranchero, jalapeno etc., please make them aware of this toxins, I know small kids won’t understand the seriousness of the issue but try to get them the natural versions of the above stuff. Now Lays, Tostitos and other companies have come up with natural ingredients, which don’t have the above garbage in it.

MSG is not only in the chips, it is also in some crackers that we also love to devour like Cheese Nips and other brand cheese crackers. We are not going to go into lot of details about these chemicals. But please, please as parents you must shop wisely and read each and every ingredient that goes into making all the foods. Use my philosophy, if you can’t understand or pronounce the name of the ingredient, don’t buy it.

I recently discovered that I was buying one of the cookies that said no eggs, but had an ingredient named Albumin, now the technical definition of it is (any of numerous simple heat-coagulable water-soluble proteins that occur in blood plasma or serum, muscle, the whites of eggs, milk, and other animal substances and in many plant tissues and fluids) but in US most of the albumin, and gelatin comes from animal substance) the reason being its cheaper and are by-products of the slaughtered animal bones and carcass.

As all parents know, it is during these formative years that our children crave “junk food” the very type of processed food that contains the highest concentration of excitotoxin taste enhancers and other commercial garbage. It is our duty to make them eat healthy and also make them aware of all these chemicals which are really not necessary into making of such foods.

We will try to explore on this subject some more in next article.

(Excerpts from the book “Excitotoxins” by Russell Blaylock)



Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was contributed by Pintoo from Lazy Weekend


Inside the Indian Household - Fenugreek

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Posted by Saffron Trail

Fresh Fenugreek Leaves

The history of this herb goes back a long way. Fenugreek was used by the Egyptians in the process of embalming. With its origin in Southern Europe, Mediterranean and western Asia, it has been widely used for its culinary and medicinal properties.

Fenugreek the herb as well as the seeds are extensively used in Indian cooking. Ask an Indian what methi parathas, Venthiya Kozhambu or Alu Methi, means to him and he will be lost in nostalgia.

The seeds

Fenugreek seeds are both a spice and a legume. They have a strong aroma and somewhat bitter taste, which has been compared to that of celery, maple syrup, or burnt sugar. It forms an important constituent of curry powder and sambar powder. The seeds can be soaked and sprouted. These sprouts can be sown in soil to grow the plant.
The dried form of fenugreek leaves, called kasoori methi is used in several North Indian curries to lend that distinct flavour.
It must be noted that the leaves and seeds cannot replace each other in recipes.

The leaves

These are a herb as well as a vegetable. Methi leaves can either be the flavouring agent or the mainstay of the recipe. They have a bitter tinge and an unforgettable taste. Indians have developed a taste for this wonderful bitterness because of their intimate relationship with this herb.

Buying and storing

Fresh fenugreek leaves are available in Indian stores / markets in bunches. To store fresh leaves, tear off the leaves and discard stems and roots. Store the leaves an airtight box in the fridge and use as per need. This will stay fresh for 3-4 days. Wash the leaves in plenty of water before use.
The seeds are extremely tough. It is best to roast and store them. Roasting reduces the bitterness. The seeds can be stored in airtight container for unto 6 months.

Good for you

Nutritionally, both the seeds and leaves are rich in iron, calcium, potassium and Vitamin C. The Vitamin K and iron from fenugreek greens are comparable to spinach.
The seeds are known to stimulate breast milk production in nursing mothers. Tea made with the seeds or a teaspoon of the powder is a good way to improve milk secretion. In India, traditionally new mothers were given a gruel made with soaked seeds for increasing the flow of milk. Another popular fenugreek recipe for new mothers is a sweetmeat made with the seeds. Seeds are sauteed in ghee and finely powdered. This powder is mixed with wheat flour and sugar to prepare a fudge. This preparation, taken in small quantity daily, helps in quick normalization after delivery.
Diabetics can greatly benefit from the blood sugar reducing effects of fenugreek. To quote the research findings of National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, India - “The effect of taking fenugreek seeds could be quite dramatic, when consumed with 1200-1400 calories diet per day, which is usually recommended for diabetic patients.” It is also known to reduce the levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides in diabetic patients.
Ayurveda considers Fenugreek as a digestive, an appetizer, anti-flatulent, mildly laxative and anti-inflammatory.
Fenugreek tea soothes inflamed gastro-intestinal system, cleanses the stomach, bowels, kidneys and respiratory tract of excess mucus.

Cooking with fenugreek

Recipe I

Kasoori Methi Parathas ( Flat bread flavoured with dried fenugreek leaves)
These Indian breads are a wonderful accompaniment with curries. They can also be had with chutneys or hummus.

Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat flour
3-4 tbsp Kasoori Methi – soaked in water for ½ hour
1 tsp salt
Water to bind the dough.
1 tsp oil

Method
Mix the kasoori methi into the flour and bind it into a dough using water. The dough should be somewhat soft and not sticky. Knead well for 2-3 minutes with a little oil, to make it smooth and pliable.
Make 8 lemon sized balls with the dough. Roll out into round thick tortillas.
Cook each of these on a hot griddle over a medium flame so that the parathas cook through and golden spots appear on both sides.
Remove from griddle and serve hot with curry or chutney.

Note:
Kasoori methi will be available on the spice aisle of most Indian grocery stores.
You can half-cook these parathas and freeze a batch of them. Before eating, simply reheat on the griddle till fully cooked with golden spots.

Recipe II

Sambar powder (Spice powder for authentic Tamil Sambhar)
Fenugreek gives that distinct aroma to this South Indian staple. If you have this powder on hand, making sambar is very easy. Sambar is a lentil based thick sour soup made with a variety of vegetables and is served with rice.

Ingredients
5 tbsp Coriander seeds
10-12 red chillies
2 tbsp Tur dal
2 tbsp chana dal (Bengal gram dal)
1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder

Method
Heat a heavy bottom pan on a low flame. Dry roast all the ingredients except the turmeric one by one until slightly golden and fragrant.
Cool to room temperature. In a dry coffee grinder, grind together all spices into a very fine powder. Mix in the turmeric powder. Store in airtight container.

Note
To make sambar for two people, pressure cook ½ cup tur dal with 2 cups water. Keep aside. In a pan, take some vegetable oil, temper with a few fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and sauté slices of 2 onions till soft. To this add 2 tbsp of tamarind paste, cooked lentils, 1 heaped tbsp of sambar powder dissolved in a little water. Stir well, add salt and let this simmer for 3-5 minutes. Garnish with fresh curry leaves and serve hot with steamed rice and poppadums.


More ideas
1.Soak a handful of fenugreek seeds overnight in water. Drain and keep covered in a warm place until long sprouts appear. These sprouts can be tossed with onions, tomatoes and other greens to make a nutritious salad.
2.Chopped fenugreek leaves can be added to flavour pilafs and curries.
3.Dried fenugreek (Kasuri methi) can be crushed and added to the flour while baking bread for a unique flavour.
4.The leaves can also be used to flavour savoury pies and quiches.

You can find more recipes using fenugreek leaves / seeds here.



Reminder!
Our first event on the Daily Tiffin this month is Show Us Your Lunchbox. Hope you will join us and allow us to peak into your lunch. Deadline April 20th.


Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Nandita from Saffron Trail



The art of Japanese lunchboxes - an introduction to Bento

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Posted by jokergirl@wererabbits

What is Bento?
A traditional bentobox in 'My neighbour Totoro'.A simple explanation would be that it is the Japanese word for lunchbox. But that would be a gross understatement.
If you are at all interested in Japanese food or culture, you have probably seen the word before on a Sushi bar's menu, or even saw it mentioned in one of the popular anime series around. But for the Japanese people, bento is much more than sushi arranged in a compartmented plate in a restaurant, or a quick lunch to take to school. In fact, making pretty boxed lunches is such an essential skill in Japan it is hard to find any woman that has not mastered it!
With Japanese culture becoming more popular in the Western world, bento making has started to become popular all over the world. There are communities for bentomaking springing up on the internet, one of which (http://bentolunch.livejournal.com) has drawn me in since last summer as well.



So what is so special about it?
One of the main points about bento boxes is that "the eye also eats" - meaning that apart from nourishing, the food should also be attractive on a visual basis.
I can relate to that very well myself - after all, I too have frustrated my mother all the way through ground school by refusing to eat the sandwiches she packed for me. Not because they tasted bad, mind you - but a sandwich in a bag or a box is just not all that attractive anymore after being rolled around in your school bag for a few hours. With making bento, I find that boxed lunches can be much more appealing and creative than a simple, quickly thrown-together sandwich or leftover pasta-with-sauce in my colleagues' lunchboxes! Bentos are little meals in and of themselves, pleasing to the eye and interesting to the palate.
It is also a rather budget hobby - I often find myself using up leftovers that I would have otherwise thrown away as unappealing in new, creative ways that make the food much more appetizing to me.
And finally - who can resist actually getting commended for what is, in essence, playing with your food?

So it is just a glorified lunchbox?
You could call it that - but the idea behind it is also of a very balanced, healthy meal.
Generally, Japanese bento boxes are a little smaller than western lunch boxes - 550ml seems to be the average volume of a one- or two-tiered box. For full-grown Europeans or Americans, this may seem tiny, unless you are a good breakfaster or on a diet. However, there are ways to pack the boxes so small meals do become quite filling!
Traditionally, bento boxes call for a 4:3:2:1 ratio of starch (rice), protein (meat/vegetarian equivalent), vegetables and desserts/condiments. This is not to be seen as an iron rule, but it does promote healthy eating and makes sure the meal is balanced and filling. It also means that as opposed to leftovers-boxes or sandwich lunches, it is a real meal, with different dishes and a complete spectrum of nutritients.

Is Bento only about Japanese food?
Not at all! While many of us incorporate Japanese or other Asian dishes in our boxes, there are few limits to what you can put in your boxes.
The main things you want to avoid are food that spoils easily and food that relies on liquid sauces that cannot be reinstated by adding water later. Many bento makers will also not rewarm their food but eat it at room temperature - in that case you should make sure that the food you pack can be eaten cold or use a thermal lunch jar if you don't have the possibility to use a microwave. I also have a special lunchbox for bringing soup, but I would NOT recommend those for children in any case.
Another important point in packing is to keep food from becoming soggy in the box. If you don't have a box with compartments like the laptop lunch, you may want to use foil cups or dividers if you can't avoid wet and dry food touching otherwise. If you are bringing a sauce or liquid condiments such as ketchup, use a small bottle or sealable cup for it - there are many budget options if you don't want to go all-out on bento-specific gear.

Show us your box!
A not-so-traditional Bento box.

I have been debating with myself which one of my boxes to showcase for my first column here - a traditional Japanese dish, or a European one for a simpler intro. In the end, I decided against the traditional Japanese food, on the grounds that while I like the food, this article is about presentation and making healthier food attractive to your children as much as it is about the boxes themselves. There will be plenty of time to introduce traditional Japanese lunchbox items and recipes in the following articles.

This lunchbox contains:

  • Vegetarian tortellini with homemade tomatosauce:
    The tortellini are storebought, but of an organic wholemeal variant, and filled with ricotta and spinach. It is a good idea to look out for wholemeal food in your boxes, as it is both more filling and healthier, especially if we're talking about premade food.
    The tomato sauce is one of my 5-minutes-in-the-morning recipes that become the staple of every bento-er's boxes: finely diced vegetables and olives, roasted in a dash of olive oil and simmered with some crushed tomatoes. It is very low on fat and tastes much fresher than generic pasta sauces!
  • Cucumber and apple star cutouts:
    Both the cucumbers and apples are simply sliced, dipped in a little lemon water to prevent browning and cut into shapes with ordinary cookie cutters. Cookie cutters are the pillars of cute lunchboxes! Japanese cooking catalogues have pages upon pages of interesting, elaborate shapes to cut your vegetables, but this simple christmas cookie set I have is a good start.
  • Wholemeal bread rollups with banana, lemon curd and peanut butter and little clock faces made of Thai basil:
    Rolling flat bread up and slicing it is a great way of presentation that I took over from sushi. This way breadrolls also make tasty finger food for snacking on!
    Thai basil is a herb mostly used in Thai kitchen that looks like basil when it grows, but has a very different taste that reminds me a little of liqorice. It fits with curries as well as in sweet and savory food and looks great as decoration. Another green leaf that's great for decoration of sweet food and fruit is mint, of course.


I eat vegetarian most of the time, though I do eat fish and seafood on occasion to up my protein intake. Because of this, my lunches are usually a little more starch-heavy (and of course, limited in protein) than traditional boxes. Fresh fish is not a very good idea to bring if you haven't got a fridge or are eating it right away!


More lunches to come,
-jokergirl



Reminder!
Our first event on the Daily Tiffin this month is Show Us Your Lunchbox. Hope you will join us and allow us to peak into your lunch. Deadline April 20th.


Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.
This Post was written by jokergirl from Wererabbits

Spring Food & Cooking

Monday, April 16, 2007

Posted by Meeta K


Have you taken a look around you? Spring is definitely approaching (if not already here) in most parts of the world!

As the temperatures rise and the seasons change we are seeing a wonderful and colorful array of fresh food taking over the produce section of the grocery stores or at your local Farmer's Market.
In the winter our bodies need warm robust food, where soups and stews are often cooked in many kitchens around the world. In Spring however, our bodies have different needs. In our household as soon as the sun shines and the temperatures soar to 20C, we look forward to being outdoors taking in the warm weather and outdoor activities. This often means I have less time and less passion to stand in the kitchen preparing time consuming dishes and there is also not much desire to eat warming foods. Is that how you are too?

Spring is the time when our bodies need a thorough cleansing from the more heavier foods and the sedentary lifestyle we had in the winter months. Our bodies now naturally craves for lighter and cleaner foods. Foods that are easy to prepare or even eaten raw, like fresh salads. Even nature moves into a season of fresh fruit and vegetables that are lighter and do not need much of preparations.

What I thought I would do in this post is list a few of the vegetables and fruits that are available in Spring. I have also made a few notes about different cooking methods and other tips I use when preparing some of these fruits and vegetables. If you want to learn more about the health benefits of each of the listed produce simply click on the link.

Maybe you can help me complete the list. In the comments section tell us about your favorite Spring foods and how you like to prepare them.

Vegetables

Asparagus
Look for firm thin stems with green to purplish tips that are closed. The stems should not be twisted of too fat. The ends of the stalks should not be too woody, although a little woodiness prevents the asparagus from drying. White asparagus has a milder sweeter taste than the green asparagus available. Asparagus should be used within a day or two after purchasing, otherwise it starts to loose flavor. Store in the fridge, wrapped in a damp paper towel. Place the asparagus in the back of the refrigerator away from any light, as folate is destroyed by exposure to air, heat or light.
Asparagus can be enjoyed hot or cold. It is not necessary to peel the green asparagus, however the white one require a good amount of peeling with a special asparagus peeler. Cut off the woody ends of the asparagus. You can steam, roast or gently saute them. Served with a vinaigrette they taste delectable.

Tomatoes
Choose tomatoes with a deep rich color, as the color is not only an indication of a delicious tasting tomato but also in many cases a sign it has a greater supply of the health-promoting nutrients.
Tomatoes are best eaten raw in salads, but you can also make a wonderful cold refreshing tomato soup called a Gazpacho. Of course there is the classic Italian dish - tomatoes and mozzarella, drizzled in extra virgine olive oil. Combined with chopped onions, garlic and chili you can make a salsa within minutes. Or a simple and quick cheese and tomato sandwich ummm.


Green Beans
The best place to buy green beans is at a Farmer's Market or a grocery store where they are sold loose. This way you can sort through them selecting the best quality. They should be smooth, have vibrant green color and free from brown spots pr bruises. Store unwashed fresh beans pods in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator crisper. They will last for 7-8 days.
We love adding green beans to salads like a wonderful Salad Nicoise. Another popular way to prepare them is quickly sauteing them with some mushrooms and garlic. Another idea would be to sprinkle sauteed beans with roasted almonds. Talking about roasting, beans are just great when they are roasted. How about chopped beans in a frittata?

Spinach
Spinach should be washed very well to make sure all of the dirt has come off. The best way to do this is place the spinach leaves in a bowl of tepid water and with your hands swirl them around. Remove the leaves and replace the dirty water with some fresh clean water and repeat the cleaning process.
Spinach make for lovely salads - like this great idea with goat cheese and avocado.
Steam spinach leaves for just a couple of minutes and then toss with crushed garlic, lime juice and olive oil a simple yet great tasting side.

Avocados
Ripe avocados are soft but should not have any dark or bruised spots on them. You'll find more interesting tips and a great avocado pineapple salsa recipe here.
Avocados make a wonderful spread and are a great alternative to mayonnaise. Spread pureed avocado on warmed bread with a few tomato slices for a perfect picnic sandwich.

Fruits

Strawberries
These are very perishable fruit and should be used within a few days of purchase. Select berries that are firm, plump, free of mold, and which have a shiny, deep red color, attached to green caps. Once picked strawberries do not ripen further, so you should avoid selecting white or green colored strawberries.
Before storing in the refrigerator, throw away any strawberries that are molded or bruised otherwise they will contaminate others. Replace unwashed and unhulled berries in their original container or spread them out on a plate covered with a paper towel, then cover with plastic wrap. Strawberries will keep fresh in the refrigerator for one or two days. Do not to leave strawberries at room temperature or exposed to sunlight for too long. This will cause them to spoil.
Strawberries are best eaten pure! However, mixing them in a green salad adds a great zing for the taste buds.
Chop up some strawberries and mix with plain yogurt.
In a blender add some plain yogurt, milk and fresh strawberries - blend until you have a smooth yogurt milkshake.
Using an ice-cream maker a cooling strawberry yogurt ice cream is just unbeatable!


Blueberries
Go for firm berries with a blue hue covered in a whitish bloom. If they are in a container, give them a good shake. They should move about freely, if not this might be a sign of mouldy, damaged berries. Ripe blueberries should be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator where they will keep for about a week, although they will be freshest if consumed within a few days.
Add a handful of fresh blueberries to your breakfast cereal or make some fresh blueberry buttermilk pancakes. My favorite is a light summery berry dessert!



Reminder!
Our first event on the Daily Tiffin this month is Show Us Your Lunchbox. Hope you will join us and allow us to peak into your lunch. Deadline April 20th.


Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.
This Post was written by Meeta from What's For Lunch, Honey?


Learn to Love Backstroke

Friday, April 13, 2007

Posted by Susi




Tips for swimming the Backstroke

For me, swimming is a natural complement to running. It is cardio and strength training all in one and oh so easy on the knees compared to running. Plus it is great to focus on the upper body, since running really works the legs. I will admit there are some strokes I used to avoid (and some I think I will never master like Butterfly...hmmm, I see a new goal in my future), like backstroke. I think I swam in fear of bonking my head on the edge of the pool. Now I love it and consider it the most elegant of strokes.

So here are a few pointers on my new favorite stroke.


  • To not bonk your head, count the number of pulls it takes to swim the length of the pool if there are no rope or flags hanging near the ends of the pool. Most pools usually hang their flags about 2 yards from the end of the pool. Count how many strokes you do after your head clears the flags before you reach the wall. For me it is 5 pulls and after 5 I just keep one arm above my head and kick until my fingers touch the wall.


  • Keep your head back and imagine you are placing your noggin on a pillow as if to sleep. Keeping your head back and relaxed helps to get your hips and chest up which decreases the drag of your body making you faster and more efficient.


  • Your arms should stay 180 degrees from one another, like a propeller. So one arm will be by your ear with the other by your pelvis. Keep them in close to your body and don't let them wander away from your torso.


  • Rotate your shoulder outward so your pinky enters the water first. You should feel like you are doing a Miss America wave to the sides of the pool.


  • Keep your torso stable from hips up to the shoulders and rotate the torso towards the arm that is pulling - you will twist naturally so don't interfere with the natural rotation. Ideally, you should feel like you are rolling from side to side. You should initiate this move from the pelvis - this also makes it much easier to get the pinky into the water for your pull.


  • Keep the rhythm of your flutter kick (alternating legs) steady and try to do the same number of kicks through each cycle of arm pulls. The legs don't really do much to propel you forward, but the kicking can help stabilize the body. The knee should bend a little as the leg goes down and it doesn't need to go below 30 degrees from horizontal (or the surface of the water).



I hope these tips help you learn to love backstroke as much as I do...or at least inspire you to dive into a pool.





Reminder!
Our first event on the Daily Tiffin this month is Show Us Your Lunchbox. Hope you will join us and allow us to peak into your lunch. Deadline April 20th.


Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.
This Post was written by Susi May from FitSugar


Preparing Vinaigrettes

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Posted by gilly



We all know that we should be getting around 5-10 servings of fruits/vegetables a day (depending on which food guide you are looking at). Sometimes this can seem a bit daunting, but a fresh, crisp, salad for lunch or dinner puts us well on the way to meeting that goal.

Of course, a common salad accompaniment is a complimentary dressing or vinaigrette - it can help bring out additional flavours, make veggies more palatable, and the fat content provides a mechanism for our bodies to receive precious vitamins and nutrients from produce. But how many ‘extras’ are we consuming when we buy processed dressings and vinaigrettes? Hydrogenated oils are not uncommon, as they help preserve shelf life. Chemicals and additives are often used to enhance flavour perception. No thank you.

Preparing homemade vinaigrettes is a wonderful alternative. The flavour possibilities are only limited by your imagination, and preparation is quite easy. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

The Basics
Although vinaigrettes are typically associated with leafy salads, they can also be used as sauces in a variety of different dishes - such as pasta, rice, and grained salads.

The simplest vinaigrette is made up of an acidic component – such as vinegar or lemon juice – and an oil component – such as olive oil. The addition of any other herbs, spices, and so on are purely optional.

Homemade vinaigrettes should typically be used within two (2) weeks.

Emulsification
The basic challenge with a vinaigrette is that vinegar (or lemon juice) and oil are not soluble – meaning that they do not readily mix together. However, the liquids can be ‘forced’ into suspension by a process called emulsification. Emulsification is accomplished by combining all ingredients EXCEPT the oil. Then, while continuously whisking (or using a medium setting on your blender) you VERY SLOWLY add the oil drop by drop, or in a very thin stream. The vinaigrette will slowly begin to thicken and the two liquids will appear to be ‘blended’.

This suspension will not last for a long time – however, it can be quickly re-combined by giving the bottle or container a quick shake prior to use.

Quick Tip: Pureed vegetables and other seasonings can help strengthen and prolong an emulsification.


Recipe – Sesame, Soy, and Ginger Vinaigrette
(shown above)

This is fantastic as a salad dressing, or tossed in with some cold noodles, sugar-snap peas, carrots and broccoli.

3 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup sesame oil
salt & pepper to taste
sesame seeds to garnish

Combine all ingredients in a blender EXCEPT the canola and sesame oil. Combine the oils into a measuring cup and SLOWLY add in a very fine stream to a pulsing blender. Pour into a glass bottle and shake. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to two (2) weeks.





Reminder!
Our first event on the Daily Tiffin this month is Show Us Your Lunchbox. Hope you will join us and allow us to peak into your lunch. Deadline April 20th.




Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.



This Post was written by gilly from Humble Pie.

The Tiffin Man

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Posted by Meeta K



This Post was contributed by Bee from Jugal Bandi



When I lived and worked in Mumbai (Bombay), I was a lousy cook and a finicky vegan. Eating at the cafeteria or ordering from a restaurant for lunch was not really an option. I got my lunches delivered from Vijaya Venkat’s Health Awareness Centre.

Every afternoon at 12.30 sharp, my tiffin would arrive through a dabbawala (tiffin man) – one of the 5000 who deliver home-cooked food to 200,000 Mumbaiites at their workplaces.

Mumbai is perhaps the only city in the world, where someone brings you lunch at work from your own home. If you’re a non-Mumbaiite, you may wonder why people can’t carry their lunches to work.
It's part geography, part habit, part convenience.
In many homes, people leave for work early – around or before 8, and lunch is not ready by then. The dabbawala arrives usually between 8.30 and 9 a.m., giving whoever is preparing lunch more time to have it ready.

Mumbai is a linear series of connected islands spanning about 25 km in length, with the business district at the southern tip. It’s a big city with about 17 million people, and many of them have a commute of an hour or more to work, in local trains, packed like sardines. Map of Mumbai.
Mumbai has the highest rail passenger density in the world.

Overcrowding has grown to be a compelling problem. 4,700 passengers are packed into a 9-car rake during peak hours, as against the rated carrying capacity of 1,700. This has resulted in what is known as Super-Dense Crush Load of 14 to 16 standing passengers per square meter of floor space.


Carrying your lunch box with you with you is a real inconvenience.



To a Mumbaiite, a lunch box does not mean a sandwich and a fruit. It usually entails a stainless steel tiffin carrier with tiers of rice, rotis, veggies/meat, often yogurt, and a fruit/sweet.

Some time between 8.30 and 9 a.m., the dabbawalla will come to your door, and collect your lunchbox. He has 90 seconds to spend at your doorstep before going for his next collection. If your lunch is not packed yet, or you take too long to get to the door, he's gone.

The commute from North to South Mumbai takes an average person 1.5 hours just from home to work on a good day.
The dabbawalas have 3 hours to go door to door and pick 200,000 lunch boxes, sort them, make the journey through 25 kilometres of rail and 10 km of foot to bring it to your office by lunchtime.
Suburban trains between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. are called "dabbawala specials" 'cos the luggage compartments are full of crates with lunch boxes. Around noon, the roads of Mumbai are teeming with these guys weaving their way through traffic on their bicyles or pushcarts in the pouring rain or blazing sun.
Your lunchbox changes hands three or four times. They all look alike.



What differentiates one from the other is the code with yellow and red markings that ensures that the right one reaches the right desk in the right office. What does that code mean? Find out here and here. At around 2 p.m., he will take your dabba back and exchange it for the filled fresh one the next morning.



85% of the dabawalas are illiterate, 15% are semi-literate. They have been following this system for over a century, using their feet, bicycles, pushcarts, and rudimentary wooden crates to deliver the goods.
How they do it is the subject of business school dissertations at The Indian Institutes of Management, Harvard and Wharton.

According to a Forbes 1998 article, one mistake for every eight million deliveries is the norm. How do they achieve virtual six-sigma quality with zero documentation? For one, the system limits the routing and sorting to a few central points. Secondly, a simple color code determines not only packet routing but packet prioritising as lunches transfer from train to bicycle to foot.


To become a dabbawala, one has to be swift on one’s feet and bring a minimum initial capital investment of two bicycles, a wooden crate for the tiffins, at least one white cotton kurta-pyjama (shirt and trousers), and the trademark white Gandhi cap - a total investment of around 5000 rupees or 110 USD.

It's a co-operative system where there are no employers or employees. Each one is a shareholder, and groups of dabbwalas form autonomous units that work in tandem with each other. I have yet to see a female dabbawalli, perhaps because this job involves speed and lot of physical stamina to carry and transport those long wooden crates lined with tiffin boxes.

These men, whose reading skills are rudimentary, now lecture major corporations and business schools on the basics of supply chain management. Their system has served them well for 120 yers.

The dabbawalla is a unique part of the Mumbai landscape and a celebrity in his own right.



A Dabbawala explains his trade to Prince Charles. Two of them were invited to, and attended his wedding last year.

The last decade has seen them harness technology through the use of mobiles and SMS messaging to take orders.They've been recruited, in turn, by corporations like Microsoft, to distribute leaflets to campaign against software piracy.

South Asian communities in the U.S. are now trying to recreate the dabbawalla concept by delivering packed lunches to offices.

However, the Mumbai dabbawalas are in a class of their own. They move at the speed of light, and bring a smile to 200,000 people each day as they find their lunchboxes deposited without fail at their office lobbies each afternoon.

All pictures from Mydabbawala.com


See The Painted Chef's sketch of the dabbawala.

A BBC feature.

The Independent, London on the Mumbai Dabbawala.



Reminder!
Our first event on the Daily Tiffin this month is Show Us Your Lunchbox. Hope you will join us and allow us to peak into your lunch. Deadline April 20th.


Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Bee from Jugal Bandi


Tiffin Tuesday: Of Easter Egg Artwork and Egg Rolls

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Posted by Meeta K



I am sure I do not need to tell any of you mummies out there at how much pride I was filled with when Soeren presented me with these eggs on Easter Sunday. He had made these creations at his KIGA with his group. Lovely delicate artwork on each egg blown out egg from a 4 year old. Yes, I just had to share this with you so you can share my joy and pride with me too.




Today's Tiffin idea is put together quickly as I use mostly leftovers.
Prep Time: 7 minutes
Fresh strawberries and kiwis cut up in bite sized pieces. Rich in vitamin C, E and fiber. Not to mention their potent antioxidant protection. My mum constantly sends me packets of cashews, almonds and raisins from Dubai as she knows how much we enjoy them. Here I have made a little dried fruit and nut mix with a few cashews, almonds, raisins, hazelnuts and dried cherries. My mother calls this "brain food."
The cake is a almond and vanilla cream sponge cake, made very easily using pre-prepared sponge bases and whipping up a pastry cream of your choice. Sprinkle with roasted almonds to top it off. Finally two slices of a wonderful fluffy egg roll I made for our Easter Brunch. The roll is filled with wasabi flavored cream cheese and smoked salmon. You will find the recipe here.

Healthy Resources: Nuts

Latest News:
As of now Tiffin Tuesday is going to be a regular weekly session here at the Dailly Tiffin. Every week we will present you with a variety of different lunch box ideas. For this purpose we have invited two lovely ladies to join us on our team.
Biggie has joined us as a co-admin and will be bringing you exciting and useful tips on lunches she packs for herself and her two-and-a-half year old son. On April 23rd catch her first article right here on the Daily Tiffin.

A bit more about Biggie in her own words:

I've been living in San Francisco since 1999 (after living in Japan for nine+ years), my son is two and a half, and I'm now a stay-at-home mom since the arrival of my son (after a career in high-tech PR both in Japan and San Francisco).
Biggie's blog: Lunch In A Box

On the other Tuesdays you will be getting more lunches boxes, bentos and packed lunch ideas from a new regular contributor to the Daily Tiffin. Joker Girl who packs the most healthy nutritious vegetarian bentos will be sharing a few of her secrets with us. Next week she will be premiering with a detailed look into a Bento Box.

JG says about herself:
I'm a 24- year old software engineer from Austria who lives in Sweden and likes to play with her food. International cuisine and photography are probably the most feminine of my hobbies, which combine well in making cute lunchboxes!

Makes you wonder what her non-feminine hobbies are LOL!
JG's bento community blog: Bento Lunches

We are really glad to have these brilliant new additions to the Daily Tiffin.



Reminder!
Our first event on the Daily Tiffin this month is Show Us Your Lunchbox. Hope you will join us and allow us to peak into your lunch. Deadline April 20th.


Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.
This Post was written by Meeta from What's For Lunch, Honey?


Happy Easter!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Posted by Meeta K



Wishing all our readers a very Happy Easter! We hope you enjoy the next few days in the warm spring weather with your family and loved ones.

May your children have a blast with the egg hunt ;-)

We'll be back next week with new articles and interesting lunch box ideas.

Warm regards,
Your Daily Tiffin Team



Reminder!
Our first event on the Daily Tiffin this month is Show Us Your Lunchbox. Hope you will join us and allow us to peak into your lunch. Deadline April 20th.


Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.


Inside the Indian household - Coriander

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Posted by Saffron Trail


Coriander leaves - Image courtesy: Getty Images


I thought a series on common Indian household herbs and spices would be fun, things that are used in day to day cooking and how they are good for you. You will also find new ideas and tips to use them in your own kitchens. The series starts with coriander or cilantro.


The open air markets or bazaars of India are a treat to the five senses. Even modern cities like Bombay, have one such market in each locality and almost all kinds of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs are sold there. One walk through such a market and the smell that hits you first, is the pungently sweet aroma of fresh coriander. This is one herb that is easily the most popular one in India. It is used as a garnish in almost every savoury or spicy dish in Indian cuisine to add a unique freshness.

Coriander or cilantro as it is known in several parts of the world is the world's oldest known herb. It has been used as early as 5000 BC. The seeds of this plant are a main ingredient in curry powders and garam masala – the Indian mixed spice powder. The seeds when powdered lend the uniquely Indian taste to most gravies and curries without adding any heat. This herb is also widely used in Asian, Caribbean and Mexican cuisines.

This herb invokes mixed reactions from people. Those who are used to it for centuries love its strong aroma and feel their food to be incomplete without a sprinkling of this green wonder. Others who haven't yet got used it, find the smell overwhelming and at times, repulsive. So much so, that there are 'I hate cilantro' clubs. There are theories to propose that genetics has a role to play in a person's like/dislike for coriander. My genes surely dictate that I have an undying love for this fragrant wonder.

Buying and storing

Fresh coriander is awailable in most supermarkets as well ethnic stores. Buying from an ethnic store will ensure fresher produce because of faster turnovers. To store fresh coriander, cut off the thick stems. Store the leaves and delicate stems in an airtight box in the fridge. Coriander stored this way will stay fresh for 4-5 days. Take the required quantity befor use and wash it with plenty of water. Drain, pat dry and chop it as per need.
The seeds being brittle can be easily powdered with a pestle after slight roasting. It is better to powder the seeds as and when required as the readymade powder doesn't retain its freshness for very long.

Good for you

  • Coriander is rich in iron, magnesium, manganese and dietary fiber.
  • Researchers have isolated a compound from coriander that is twice as effective as an antibiotic that works against salmonella. This proves that coriander is a natural anti-bacterial agent and its liberal use in salads and salsa is well justified.
  • The phenols and flavonoids present in coriander are known to fight allergies.
  • Ayurveda, the ancient medical science also regards this herb as an excellent natural remedy for enhancing digestion. It also alleviates problems like flatulence, bloating and loss of appetite. Coriander is also an effective detoxifying agent.
  • Children under age two, can be given a weak coriander tea to relieve them of colicky pains.
  • Coriander oil rubbed on joints is known to relieve arthritic pains.

Cooking with coriander

Recipe I

Masala Chhaas (Digestive yogurt drink with coriander)
This is a popular Indian digestive drink. It is also had as an appetiser before meals. This chhaas is low in calories, yet rich in taste.

Ingredients
1 cup yogurt (preferably homemade or Greek)
3 cups water
¼ cup loosely packed coriander leaves – washed and chopped roughly
Pinch of rock salt or sea salt
Pinch of roasted cumin seeds or powder
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of asafoetida (optional)

Directions
Put all the ingredients together in a blender and spin for 30 seconds until all the ingredients come together.

Note:
This recipe can easily be doubled / multiplied to fill a pitcher. Serve chilled in hot seasons. Make it with water at room temperature for the winters. If you like it spicier, add a finely chopped Asian / Indian green chilli to the ingredients.

Recipe II

Green Chutney / Coriander Pesto
This is one chutney that is stocked in most Indian kitchens to use as a spread in sandwiches or as an accompaniment for most snacks like kabobs and samosas.

Ingredients
3 packed cups coriander leaves (Washed thoroughly, drained) and chopped
2 green chillies (Thai chillies or you can use Jalapenos)
4-5 cloves garlic – skin peeled
3 tbsp roasted peanuts
Pinch of turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
Juice of half a lemon

Directions
1. Put all the ingredients except the lemon juice in a coffee grinder / chutney jar of a Sumeet grinder.
2. Add a few tbsp of water to grind to a very smooth paste.
3. Remove in a jar / bowl and squeeze the lemon juice on the top. This retains the fresh green colour. Check for salt. This will stay for 3-4 days when stored in an air-tight jar in the refrigerator.

Note
Use this chutney as a marinade for fish or chicken before grilling them, for an Indian style grilled fish / chicken.
You can also try this as a spread for Pizzas. Chutney thinned with buttermilk can be used as a dressing for salads.

More ideas
1.Mix finely chopped coriander in the egg mixture for preparing scrambled eggs or omelettes to add a burst of flavour and colour.
2.Garnish pilafs
3.A bunch of coriander added to the hummus ingredients gives a twist to the regular hummus.
4.Coriander seeds and stems can be boiled along with vegetables or chicken to make a flavourful broth.



Reminder!
Our first event on the Daily Tiffin this month is Show Us Your Lunchbox. Hope you will join us and allow us to peak into your lunch. Deadline April 20th.


Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: blogmeeta@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your ideas.


This Post was written by Nandita from Saffron Trail