COMPASSION, SENSITIVITY ... & CHILDREN!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Posted by Deeba PAB

"The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope."
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
~
India has been in the news on the book & film front of late, & this time, the underdog & poverty are coming to the forefront. Am currently reading Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger (Winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize), which talks about India’s underbelly, dominated by poverty, in a really engaging narrative. I’m halfway through the book & admire the way this young man presents his story; fiction, but for us living here, very much the reality!
~
We are also just back from seeing Danny Boyle's 'Slumdog Millionaire', a low budget, love story, with all the trappings of a typical Indian masala film. Inquisitive to feel the hype for ourselves, we were astounded & amazed at the film. Perfect in every frame, fast paced, technically good, & above all touching the life of the common man in Mumbai, sometimes in a heart-wrenching manner. For me, it was the heart that beats. A film that left me with mixed raw emotions, so much poverty, so much deceit in the underbelly, so much despair, but then again, hope conquers all as the film wraps up.
~
Why am I talking about this?
It’s about sensitivity & compassion - To accept what we know, to open a window for the children to step out of their protected spheres, & look at other aspects of life. We took the kids to see the film with us, despite many telling us that the language was inappropriate etc. But reality is reality, & when presented in such a cutting edge manner, it is imperative that we appreciate life in every avatar, & learn compassion. The film was a lesson of life delivered in just 2 hours. In a nutshell…touching! Here is a small story about little Rahul. The past few days I’ve been going to the bus-stop to drop the son for school as it’s been foggy every morning. Each day we wait at the stop, & alongside is a little temporary shanty where a man sits by a small wood fire, boiling milk & making chapattis/flatbread, with a toddler in his lap. It’s freezing cold, but the man, who is a watchman / chowkidar, follows the same routine every morning, & the little kid adoringly follows his father. My son watches with me, & last night I found him diving into his toy box. He was quite affected by the daily scenes, more so after watching the film. He pulled out some toys, & asked his sister to put a bag together for the little fellow. We dropped the stuff by this morning…the JOY on the little mites' face was untold. He first stared at us unbelieving, then gently came up & took this car, & the other stuff. The next 10-15 minutes were pure happiness for both father & son. The father, passionate in his care for the boy, heated the little ones shoes in front of the flickering flames, before putting them on the bare feet.
My heart is heavy, but I’m glad my kids feel compassion, & understand economic & social disparity in their own small ways. It’s little things that make a difference, & hopefully many of ours will lead to change the world one day.
"Compassion is the radicalism of our time."
HH the Dalai Lama

This post was written by Deeba /p>

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10 Simple Ways to Cut Food Costs in Tough Times

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Posted by Mansi

All around the world people are facing tough economic times, and cutting costs wherever you can, no matter how small they seem, can be a prudent thing to consider at this moment! Its easy to stop taking vacations or reduce cost of fuel by trying to carpool, but one of the most challenging things is to find simple yet innovative ways to cut the cost of food and your monthly food and grocery bill. Of course, the first and foremost thought is indeed to stop or restrict eating out at restaurants, but what other ways can you use to reduce your monthly food expenses, with minimal effect on your lifestyle?

Here are a few tips and tricks that can come in handy. Just like all of you, I'm trying to be frugal too, trying to plan things more efficiently to avoid unnecessary expenses. Here are a few ways that I found easy to follow, and can really help you save a bunch.

1. Restrict outings at high-end restaurants for special occasions only; try cooking at home more often, and when you have to eat out, choose chain restaurants, or select places where kids eat free. Look out for restaurant specials and coupons; most of them offer 10-15% off these days which can help conserve some Moolah.

2. Now more than ever, is the time to clip coupons for grocery stores, and use them efficiently. Use online tools like coupons.com or coolsavings.com, and do not throw away the coupons you receive in mail as junk, without taking a good look at them.

3. Plan your weekly meals way ahead of time if you can, so youcan finish your grocery shopping in one trip, restricting to no more than 2 trips a month. This will not only save gas, it will also help you use up all the food lying in your fridge and pantry, reducing chances of extra spending or food getting expired or wasted.

4. Stock your pantry with some frozen or canned foods and vegetables; they stay longer and can be easily used to cook something when you are short on time. However, refrain from indulging in frozen or packaged dinners which can get really expensive, and will usually suffice for just one or two people.

5. Be a smart-shopper, and STOP being a Shopaholic, at least for the time being. Make a grocery list ahead of time, and stick to buying just the things on the list. Avoid loitering around dessert, drink or snacks aisles - and if you don't trust yourself enough, take a spouse or friend with you who can pull you away from excessive shopping in case you get swayed!:)

6. Stock up on the Staples - I always make sure I have my essentials like flour, rice, pasta, pasta sauces, noodles, cheese, salad etc, stocked on hand for times of need. A little bit of planning and management will reduce sudden eating-out plans, as well as come to rescue when you don't have enough time to cook.

7. Bake your own goodies! Seriously, if you compare the cost of cookies, cakes, desserts bought as staples for kids, you'll know that a 99c worth cookie-dough weighs out compared to a box of cookies at $3.99. You don't need much math to figure that out, right!

8. Switch to low-cost fruits and vegetables like bananas, oranges, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, etc when you are trying to save, and limit expensive fruit indulgences like strawberries, blueberries, pomegranates to once a week.

9. Teach and coax your kids to finish the food on their plates and not waste it. Sometimes, its hard to accomplish this, and parents can try to finish leftovers from their plates to reduce wastage. But take this opportunity to explain to kids the importance and value of food and inculcate better values.

10. Finally, try to tackle this as a family. Its not that hard to give up on some indulgent choices once in a while. Switching to a low-cost version of coffee at Starbucks, or brewing your own one at home instead of buying one everyday on your way to work can really add up on the savings! Involve every member of the family and discuss how you'd like to save on food-costs; get ideas, get approvals so everyone's on the same page, and it won't be as tough as you imagine.

I'm sure there are tonnes of other ways to save money, but these are just some that we are trying to stick to at home. Hope they come in handy to a few of you. Please feel free to share your tips and ideas with us too.

Remember, small changes can add up to a lot when you look at it over time, and the best part is, you won't even realize that you are missing something!


This post was written by Mansi


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Meal-time Inspiration

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Posted by Mike of Mike's Table

If you're the one cooking the meals for your family, finding inspiration for what to cook can be a job in itself (and you haven't even started cooking yet). We all have some regulars we all fall back on, but in all likelihood, we've all gotten stuck trying to figure out what on earth to cook tonight/tomorrow/whenever. And if you're like me, living in an area where a decent restaurant is nearly impossible to find, you've got all the more pressure, er, "incentive" to figure something out.



My first impulse is to try to pick out whatever fruit/vegetables/herbs/protein are currently in season (and ideally, locally grown) and see if any ideas emerge from that (e.g. citrus season, blue crab season, etc). Aside from being a big money-saver, this is one of the easiest ways to get the most flavor from your food, so let nature do the work for you.

My next impulse is to go to my fellow food bloggers. There's a lot of very creative people out there with focuses on certain regional foods, styles of cooking, or even all things cake. I also like to go window shopping--we eat with the eyes, too, right? Until you find the sites you want to read regularly, it can be a bit daunting given how many great food blogs there are out there, but finding something that catches your eye is never difficult.

Another favorite place for me to go, my seemingly never-stops-growing collection of cookbooks. Since finding a great cookbook can be a rare thing (I have found plenty of not so good ones, unfortunately), I thought I'd share a few of my favorites:


  • Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Volume One by Julia Child. You may have shied away from French cooking before, but there's a lot of surprisingly simple fundamentals that are the foundation of a lot of the food we eat today. Julia is one of the best teachers, with a charming voice that even comes through in this tome of a book, guiding you through the simplest and most complex of dishes and techniques. Not necessarily a quicky what's-for-dinner cookbook, but an indispensable one.

  • Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. If you do any amount of baking, this book is spectacular. Breakfast, dessert, or whatever, the recipes are very approachable, the tone friendly, the photos beautiful, and most importantly, the end result tastes fantastic.

  • Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey. If you're looking to get started with Indian cooking (and I seem to keep finding this to be true when I talk to people about cooking), this is a great place to get your footing. The recipes are adapted to be mindful of ingredients that easily accessible in western supermarkets and are easily approached even if you've never made a masala.

  • The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. If you've ever had an inkling to make your own ice cream, sorbet, or just about any frozen dessert, this is your go-to guide. Whether it be the classics or some off-the-beaten-path kind of flavors, this is a fun book if you like to keep your freezer stocked (as I do).



Lastly, whenever something pops in my head that I'd like to make, I jot it down on a list at home so that I don't forget it. Maybe it's from reading a web site, a great meal at a restaurant, or whatever. It's a good way to keep me from forgetting things and prevent my creative well from running dry.

Where do you find your inspiration for meal time? Magazines? Web sites? Books? Mystical incantations? I'd love to hear--dinner is approaching.






This post was written by Mike



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Votes and Food Blog Awards

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Posted by Meeta K

foodblogawards2008

I awoke to exciting news this morning: The Daily Tiffin was amongst the five finalists in the category Best Food Blog - Group for the annual Food Blog Awards!

This one's special to me because The Daily Tiffin is a blog I have experienced ups and a few downs with. However I have a fantastic team behind me. Some have been around for quite some time others have recently joined and others yet - left their memorable mark. All - however, added to the flair and filled The Daily Tiffin with life and spirit. Post for post - they research and take time from their busy schedules to make The Daily Tiffin a place for "A Healthy Family Lifestyle!"

Our regular readers need to introduction to the individuals that make up the Daily Tiffin, but if you are new around here let me introduce you to our fantastic Daily Tiffin Team.

And because you will be making the 15 of us, that make up The Daily Tiffin, very happy, I'd like to request you to cast your vote for the Daily Tiffin in the Food Blog Awards 2008, category Group, by January 24, 2009.

For our new readers to The Daily Tiffin, please take a few minutes to browse through the blog. Besides a few grand lunchbox ideas, we also have extensive posts on nutrition, health and of course food. We discuss family rituals, children, parenting and tips & tricks. If you are looking for fitness or exercise you'll find informative posts - all this - on one blog!

You see why I think this one is special don't you?

I thank all those who nominated us for this honor. Most of all I thank this unique team for their hard work and effort!

Now allow me to solicit a few votes for us ;-)

Vote for The Daily Tiffin as Best Food Blog 2008 in the category: Group - vote here

This post was written by Meeta

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Tiffin Tuesday - cutify your lunch!

Posted by jokergirl@wererabbits



Often it takes very little extra effort to give your lunchbox that extra "cute" touch. For instance, the easiest way to do this is to stick a face somewhere in there.
Now I'm not a big fan of elaborate "kyaraben" ("character bentos") which often neglect proper food balance and taste in favour of elabotare, time-consuming food sculptures. But if you want a quick way of making a lunchbox into something special sure to put a smile on your (or the receiver's) face when opening it for lunch, look for the nearest surface to draw a face on!

These kittens are made out of inarizushi (fried tofu pouches stuffed with sushi rice), cut pieces of Nori and pickled ginger for the ears. A very quick way of making the bento cuter!
They are playing in a broccoli forest with carrot flowers, a fishy of soy (fits the kittens), rolled egglog and some grapes.

I've used a similar trick before to pep up a 5-minute leftover bento with the help of a hardboiled egg, a knife and a nori hole punch:



See? Cute is easy!






This post was written by jokergirl from WereRabbits



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Vegetarian Food Pyramid – A Series

Monday, January 19, 2009

Posted by DK



In recent years, with words like Diabetes, Cholesterol and Blood Pressures becoming commonplace in many households, we all are turning to crash diets, low-carb foods and probably to Jenny Craig’s. And no – I dint leave out the obvious “exercise” by mistake. The fact is, that anything worth taking effort, is thrown into the back burner by many of us. I am not going to elaborate on the benefits of exercise, it has been insisted at Daily Tiffin often enough. I am going to concentrate more on foods which not only help to us get healthy but also help to reduce the unnecessary bulk efficiently, without having to go through yo-yo dieting.

Vegetarian foods need not be bland or boring. Consuming whole foods mean that our intake has not been heavily processed by way of chemicals, additives or unnecessary flavorings. Such foods are loved by our body and regular ingestion of these will purge our system of harmful toxins. The purpose of this series is to talk about such foods, expand our knowledge base more about these ingredients with some basic recipes, which are delicious and colorful to boot, so that we can start adding them in our day to day meals. One doesn’t have to become a vegetarian to be healthy – it simply requires us to include some good food options to make a difference to our lifestyle.

I. Grains.

Let me kick start this series with the staple of all foods - Grains. They are available in so many forms from whole grains, rice, cereal grains to flours and the options are endless. They have been cultivated all around the world and are a staple in most of the countries. Each one of them have their own value added benefits which make them one of the most sorted out food groups by health gurus.

1. Oats

This is commonly seen in almost all our pantries. Oats are warming, filling and are popular grains in many places around the world esp. Scotland, where they are usually enjoyed as pancakes, oatcakes and as hot oatmeal. They are available in a variety of forms – as regular oatmeal, rolled, flaked or as oat bran. Here are the various types and their ways to cook and benefits.

Types of Oats

a. Oat Groats.

These are whole oat grain - the hulled whole kernel. They have a nutty flavor and a very chewy texture. They are best in breakfast cereal although from my experience they are an excellent rice substitute too. Have you ever tried to make patties with these? They are excellent – taste wise as well as nutrition wise.

How to Cook Oat groats?

Clean the groats well with cold water. Soak Oat Groats overnight. One can use any of the following methods to cook them.

Stove top method:Simmer 1 cup of groats with 2 cups of water, salted. One can also use milk or broth instead of water. It takes about 45min to 1 hour

Rice Cooker method: The process is similar to cooking rice. Use 2 cups salted water/broth to 1 measure Oat groats. It usually takes me a little more than 45 minutes.

Crockpot method: Although I have not tested this method personally, this works very well for an acquaintance of mine who uses 2-1/2 cup to 3 cups salted water for 1 cup of oat groats for cooking in her crock pot on low overnight.

b. Oat Bran

Image courtesy : Purcell Mountain farms

This is the outer coating of the oat grain and is rich in fiber. These are mostly available in your local health markets. The bran is an excellent addition to cookies, muffins, breakfast, breads, pancakes, cereals or as topping. I have sometimes used them even in Roti’s (Indian flatbreads) to good effect. It is better to buy Oat bran in small quantities since they go rancid quickly. Freezing them prolongs the shelf life.

c. Rolled Oats

Rolled oats are nothing but groats which have been pressed flat by heating. Rolled Oats are found in different forms and one would often find these common types in the market:

1. Old Fashioned Rolled Oats:

They are made by heating groats and flattening them with a roller. The very thin rolled version of the same produces very creamy oatmeal than thickly rolled ones. The Quaker Old Fashioned Rolled Oats are thinly rolled and theirs is considered the industry standard and considered to be the regular Old fashioned rolled oats. The thicker ones are referred to as Thick Old Fashioned Rolled Oats.

How to Cook Old Fashioned Rolled Oats:

Stove Top Method: Bring required quantity of water or milk to a boil. Stir in the oats and stir occasionally for about 5-8 min over medium heat until done. Use sugar or salt as per taste.

Microwave Method: Combine the oats with either milk or water along with salt(or sugar) in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for about 3-5 min. The cooking time varies depending upon your microwave. Stir well and then serve , topped with fruit of choice, with honey or raisins etc.

2. Quick- Cooking Rolled Oats:

Just as the name emphasizes, these are quick cooking variety of Oats and this is because these are made by flattening the pre-cut groats and rolled very thinly using the rollers. Although it is called as Quick cooking, it takes more or less the same amount of time as that of Old fashioned Rolled Oats. Cooking Instructions are same as that of Old Fashioned Oats. I find that it takes about 2-4 min to cook these quick cooking oats.

3. Instant Oats:

Usually there is no cooking involved in these varieties and just adding it to warm milk/water is enough. These are precooked, hence the speed at which it is done. Although they are convenient, it is not advisable since it is loaded with preservatives and other additives. Instant Oats = Instant harm! :) Any recipe asking for Instant Oats can be substituted with quick cooking Oats.

d. Steel Cut Oats ( also referred to as Scottish Oats, Irish Oats or pinhead Oats)

These are immensely healthy since they unrefined and are closer to the natural oat grains. These are formed by cutting the oat groats into smaller pieces. As the name suggests they form the basis for making the Traditional Scottish porridge. They take a little longer time to cook than regular oats.

How to Cook Steel Cut Oats:

Stove-top Method : For 1 cup of Oats bring about 3-4 cups of water to boil in a saucepan and stir in the oats. Keep the heat on high and keep stirring until it thickens up – approximately 5-8 min. Once it becomes thick, stir well, lower the heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and let it cook for another 30-45 min until done. A little milk can be added once done.

Microwave Method: This is not the best method since its need stirring quite often so that the oats does not stick to the bottom. But if needed, follow the same method as mentioned for stove top method taking care to stir every 5 min. The cooking time, although is much lesser taking approximately 20-25 min, again depending on the microwave.

e. Oat flour

These are excellent alternatives to refined flours in baking, although it requires other flours to rise since it does not have any gluten required for bread to rise. If making quick breads, then no additional flours is necessary. Oat flours can be made at home very easily by grinding rolled oats in a food processor. It takes about 2 cups of old Fashioned Rolled Oats to make 1 cup of oat flour.

f. Oat Sprouts

One of the best ways to consume Oats is by sprouting them - which are much thicker than other sprouts. The benefits are countless and they are an excellent addition to – breads, soups, smoothies etc. Make sure you use unhulled Oat seeds for sprouting. Oat groats do not sprout.

How to Sprout Oats:

1. Rinse the oats in cold water until the water runs clear. Transfer into a wide-mouthed jar or sprouting vessel and cover it with twice or thrice the amount of water. Cover the jar and let it soak for 8 hours.

2. Drain and then rinse the oats. This time return them into a jar without any water and cover the mouth with a cloth. Direct sunlight should be avoided.

3. Repeat step 2 every 8 hours for 2-3 days until you see the sprouts. Rinse once again and store it in the refrigerator. They keep well for 10-14 days.

Health Benefits of Oats

Oats is one of the nutritious grains whose health benefits are immense. From helping to lower the bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing the good cholesterol (HDL), to helping prevent certain cancers, Oats are especially considered to be a boon to people suffering from Celiac disease. They are high in fiber, phytonutrients, Vitamins E and B as well as iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

Oat bran consists of bulk of dietary fiber of the grain. Oat Sprouts are rich in vitamins and minerals including essential amino acids and proteins. The whole grain oats is said to contain 7 B vitamins and 9 minerals and twice the protein content as that of wheat. Isn’t that amazing!

What better way to start a day,knowing that every spoonful of that simple oatmeal is loved by our body.

This post was written by Dhivya



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Diets, Diets, Diets - Which One's For Me?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Posted by Meeta K

It’s funny how the new year begins with good intentions to eat better: eat less, more nutritiously, less- sugar, more vitamins. I presume that several of us have “loosing weight” as one of the resolutions on our list. Don’t worry you are not alone! January and February are probably the months when people start more diets than any other time in the year.

After the Holidays, I too have been feeling a little unsatisfied with myself. Too many sweets, too much eating and my pants were giving me signals that I needed to take action. I have always been very careful with what I eat. Being a mum of a 6 year-old I pay close intention that our meals are healthy and nutritional. So, a little indulgence here and there, when the bigger picture fits, is OK. However, my weakness has always been sweet desserts and treats and especially over the period of Thanksgiving right through to New Year’s I tend to indulge more than I should.

The result is often that besides my scales showing me things I do not want to see, my energy levels are at a low, I feel down and am often easily irritable. It’s not surprising really – because the more sugary foods I eat the more I crave and these bad sugar and carbohydrate treats simply causes me to feel bad.

Sound familiar to you? If it does than it I am sure you have certainly considered going on a diet to get rid of the extra weight and to start a new regime that will make you feel better.

Generally there is nothing wrong with a diet but one really should consider the contents of the diet and exactly what it preaches. A diet that revolves around drinking powder mixed shakes all day and a big meal in the evening cannot be a healthy option.

It should not be only about loosing weight, it should always be about keeping your body fit and healthy. My dad, who has paid meticulous attention to his food and nutrition, always tells me that our bodies are the running motors and we have to look after this motor throughout our lives. No wonder at the age of 68, he still weighs exactly the same as he did 25 years ago and has the energy of a powerhouse (bless him)!

For me a diet has to be something where I know I am eating sensibly and my food options are healthy. As I reviewed several diets over the past 8-9 months I was amazed at how many were promising a loss of a lot of weight in the shortest of time. We all know that these crash diets are not effective. As soon as we begin to eat “normally” again we put all the weight back on, if not an additional kilo or two. To avoid the yo-yo effect a sensible diet will offer you a better eating plan, offer you loss of weight over a longer period of time, recommend sport and exercise and explain that the diet is more about integrating a healthier meal plan into your lifestyle. It is something you then live by.

As I mentioned above I have been looking into the subject of diets for several months now. Mainly because I was interested in Ayurveda cooking, the glycemic index and the South Beach diet. The more I read about these topics the more I became aware that it was not a “diet” in the way we would consider it to be – it was a lifestyle. These programs do not promise you “loose 10 kilos in 10 days!” but rather promise you a healthier lifestyle when we change certain aspects of our eating habits.

What I have tried to do in this post is summarize a few of these healthier dieting options, listing the advantages and disadvantages of the respective diets. Please remember I am not a dietician or a professional nutritionist and these ideas, recommendations and thoughts are based on my research and common sense!

Ayurveda Diet

This diet is based on the 3500 year old traditional Indian treatment methods. According to the Ayurveda teachings, the human is one entity of body, soul, spirit and the environment.

Three biological forces, called Doshas, interact with and effect every human: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These three forces define the physical health of the person. With overweight people, for example, it is often the Earth force Dosha Kapha that is strongly distinctive.

The Ayurveda diet consists mainly of salads, vegetables, milk and dairy products, oil and ghee (clarified butter). Meat, fish and eggs are allowed in moderation. For those wanting to loose weight alcohol should be avoided, instead drink a lot of warm water and herbal teas.

Nevertheless, there are no strict dogmas in the Ayurveda philosophy. One should simply enjoy each meal and keep in mind that with the consumption of food they should establish a balance with body, soul and mind.

Advantages

Those who like exotic spices and flavors will love the dishes and food in the Ayurveda diet. Positive is certainly the higher proportions of raw vegetables and fruit – the vitamin and mineral supply is covered. Ayurveda is a lifestyle and the engagement with ones own body and nutrition, the meditation and massage leads to a relaxed relationship with ones own body. This in turn motivates to really think about the healthier aspect of dieting.

Disadvantages

Generally speaking the Ayurveda diet does not do any harm – the only fact is that there is no scientific proof that backs weight loss with this diet. Furthermore there is some skepticism from dieticians with regards to certain aspects of the Ayurveda diet – for example eating ghee (pure clarified butter) for breakfast.
You might not notice a massive weight loss with this program, but combined with a regular fitness regime, this certainly is a very healthy approach to improve your eating habits.

Further reading tips:
- Ayurveda and Food for Skin
- Eating for Balance

Glycemic Index Diet

The Glycemic Index Diet is based on the Glycemic Index (GI). According to the Glycemic Index Diet all foods can be eaten as long as they have a low Glycemic Index. It is not necessary to reducing the amount of calories and fat- consumption on the Glycemic Index Diet.

Basically, the Glycemic Index is a a type of a ranking system for carbohydrates based on their immediate effect on blood glucose levels.

The logic behind this is easy to understand. Carbohydrates with a high Glycemic Index are absorbed quickly by the body, which causes the blood glucose levels to rise rapidly. The body then releases large amounts of insulin in order to decrease the high blood glucose level. The excessive amounts of insulin lower the blood glucose level to such an extent that it can cause a mild form of hypoglycaemia. The reaction that your body gives you as a result of this hypoglycaemia is a feeling of hunger. Furthermore the higher levels of insulin make the decomposition of fat more difficult.

Those carbohydrates that have a low Glycemic Index are broken down slowly. This lower glycemic response means a lower insulin demand and a better long-term glucose control. This also means that the food fills you up for much longer.

In praxis this basically means choosing foods with a low glycemic index, which tend to be (but are not necessarily) healthier, nutrient-rich, less refined, and higher in fiber -- like whole fruits, vegetables, beans and whole wheat products.

Advantages

Following the Glycemic diet generally means a permanent change in your eating habits. Like the Ayurveda Diet, it is not a quick method to loose weight, but a philosophy one lives by, which not only will keep you at a steady weight over a longer period of time but also help to eat more nutritiously.

For this reason, here in Germany the Glyx diet (as it is called here) is often reviewed as a positive diet.

Another positive effect is that you are eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and fewer processed products. Therefore your body is getting the right amount of vitamins and dietary fiber.

Disadvantages

The fact that bleached/white flour products, pizza and chocolate bars are unhealthy for us is not a new concept for most of us. In this respect, the idea behind the Glycemic diet is not a passing fad, but a sensible diet plan.  However as in all cases one should use common sense when choosing food items from the Glycemic index - after all a Snickers scores 55 on the Glycemic Index!

One other point of critique is that the Glycemic index does not only vary from food to food but also other factors play a role in the value. The method of preparation and the combination of the foods that are eaten are some factors that can change the value of the food item on the Glycemic index. For example a boiled potato rates medium (56) but baking it raises the value of the potato to high (85).

Further reading tip: The Glycemic Index Diet (Low Glycemic Diet)

South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet teaches a way of life where you rely on the right carbohydrates and fats. This new way of eating allows you to live contently without eating the bad carbohydrates and fats. In contrast, when a person eats bad carbohydrates and fats they feel hungrier, causing them to eat more, which causes weight gain.

The diet, which was created by cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston,  is designed to work with your body safely and effectively. This diet works in three phases, the first two for a specific timeframe and the third phase for life. There is no calorie counting and food portions are not weighed with this approach.

The South Beach Diet allows you to eat three normal-size meals and two snacks each day. The meal plans are designed to be flexible and a variety can be enjoyed, based on what sounds good to you on any particular day.

In phase 1 of the South Beach Diet potatoes, rice, pasta, fruit, sweets, baked goods and alcohol are to be avoided. Phase 2 allows you to introduce good carbohydrates and low glycemic index fruits. With the first two phases completed, phase 3 provides a change in diet for life.

The success of South Beach Diet depends on the glycemic index. Rule of thumb: always choose low glycemic index foods with good carbohydrates. Phase 1 of South Beach Diet consist of low glycemic food. In later phases, you can mix foods with higher glycemic numbers.

Advantages

The well balanced mix of fruit, vegetables and good carbohydrates with vegetables fats satiates well, without the hunger pangs. Furthermore, positive is the high portions of fruit and vegetables, and the recommendation to eat a lot of fish.

Disadvantages

Phase 1 is a radical adjustment and that is why it is recommended to stick to it not more than 14 days as without fruit over a longer period of time you will be denying yourself nutritious vitamins.  Phase 1 is the strictest phase and eating eggs for breakfast everyday for 14 becomes rather monotonous. Furthermore, it is not recommended for diabetics and vegetarians.

Further reading tip: South Beach Diet - What is it?

This is just a basic summary of the three types of diets of several. It should be a used as a guideline to do your own research on these three diets. The reason I chose the three is basically because to me they are less of a diet to loose weight only, but a lifestyle - a philosophy to change your eating habits for a lifetime. The benefit is that you will feel good about yourself, you will naturally know how to make the sensible choices in life when it comes to food. The bonus is that you will be looking good the whole time.

I personally chose the South Beach Diet and have successfully completed phase 1 and really looking forward to phase 2. I have lost 2 kgs (approx. 4.5 pounds) already and am back to my "feel good" weight. The thing that amazed me the most was that it has shown me, I consume a lot of empty sugar. For example, I always took 1.5 teaspoons of sugar in my coffee - 3 cups a day that was 4.5 teaspoons per day. I've also become more aware of combining my foods correctly and controlling my carbs.

My eating habits previously were definitely not bad but I know how I can improve it for a healthier (maybe a sexier) me! In the future I will be orienting myself more on the glycemic index and choose the right type of foods that keep me filled longer.

One last word, any diet you do choose for yourself you have to remember that if it makes you feel weak, faint, or just not good then you might want to re-consider the concept of the diet. Exercising at least a half hour each day will improve weight loss considerably.

Stay healthy!

This post was written by Meeta

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The Pantry

Friday, January 16, 2009

Posted by Peter M


I find one of the best assets to creative and healthy cooking is having a well-stocked pantry. When I say pantry, I mean the ingredients you use when cooking. The condiments you have, the preserves, the prepared sauces, dried herbs and spices and some basic ethnic ingredients that can make a your dishes go from nice to WOW!

It's January and if you're in the norther hemisphere, it's winter and you're more indoors. Take a look at the spices and dry herbs you have and start your shopping list here.

I like buying small amounts of spices and herbs from the bulk food store. I buy in small amounts so that my spices and herbs are at their full potential. For even more flavour, buy a small coffee grinder and dedicate it to grinding spices. You'll be amazed at the difference.

I have a small indoor herb collection that comes in handy for garnishes & such but one must buy fresh herbs from the market or rely on dry herbs. Again, like spices...buy in small amounts to maximize flavour.

Some condiments that I find invaluable in cooking are available at most supermarkets and worldwide. Musts in my kitchen are mustards, wine and balsamic vinegars, Soy sauce, Worcestershire Sauce, Sriracha Sauce (and other chilli sauces), honey , barbecue sauces, ketchup, relish and a new favourite, pomegranate molasses.

These are just some of the condiments off the top of my head but you get the picture. Buy some basic condiments that touch upon many ethnicities and can be used in an array of cuisines.

Sometimes you've had a long, rough day and you're the type that prefers eating at home yet you're pooped or you've hit a wall thinking what to cook.

A well-stock pantry is your best asset and when you go out to buy your ingredients, have at the top of your mind the four basic pillars of any great tasting dish:

  1. Savory, that is to say salt or seasoning. Everydish has to be seasoned properly. Salt, Soy sauce, Fish Sauce or flavoured salts can bump up your dish.
  2. Sweet. Every dish needs a degree of sweetness. In the summer, fresh herbs or vine-ripened tomatoes provide a natural sweetness to a dish. Sometimes a honey, molasses or a sugar is needed to help round'out a dish.
  3. Acid. Each and every dish needs balance and often it's an acid of one type or another that will give the Yin and Yang to your dish. There are an array of vinegars, fruit juices that offer varying degrees of tartness. Acids will also arm you with quick marinades and tenderizers if you're looking to cook some quick and tender. Try using the juices and zests of all the citrus fruits or even try combining them!
  4. Heat. Spices provide the downstroke to salt. The mildest on the heat scale would be peppercorns and the hottest on the other end of the spectrum are the Scotch Bonnet or Habanero peppers. Fresh and dried peppers are invaluable to your cooking and although you may shy away from spicy foods, I don't know of anyone who avoids pepper and peppercorns. Try a peppercorn mix, try different ones to discover their unique flavours. Experiment with hot sauces...how much can you take? Does the dish get heightened with heat? Perhaps one of your guests likes it spicy? Have something on the table for them!
Remember these four pillars of cooking. Every dish should have some level of these four senses of taste. Go into your pantry, see what's running low and what's missing in action. Your first pantry run might cause a spike in your grocery bill but future grocery runs will be cheaper and you'll cook better and your food will, no doubt taste better!



This post was written BY Peter Minaki



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Cooking for One, Plus Everyone Else

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Posted by Andrea Meyers

The image of a family all sitting around eating the same foods at a meal is the one I grew up with. My mother and grandmothers never made separate dishes for any of their children; we were all expected to eat what had been prepared for the family, and if we didn't we like what was served we were still expected to eat and not waste it. I think that philosophy was founded in my grandparents' farm ethic as well as living life during the Great Depression. Our family still strives for that ideal, but since I started the South Beach diet I've found that I don't always eat some of the things that I fix for my family. Phase 1 of the diet removes all fruits, flours, rice, and sugar to curb and reset cravings, something I definitely needed after the sweets-laden holidays. For the past week I have avoided all of those things, even if they were on the menu for everyone else.

Preparing the same meal for everyone certainly makes it easier to plan, but it's not always possible. Flexibility is required when one member of the family is dieting, has food allergies or sensitivities, cannot eat certain foods due to medication interactions, follows a vegetarian or vegan or other special lifestyle, or is pregnant. Last week I asked my Twitter friends how they manage situations like this and got some great responses which I will summarize and add my own thoughts.

Food allergies and sensitivities are serious and require careful planning and preparation. Cross-contamination can happen very easily, and depending on the type of allergy and its severity, families may choose to avoid a food completely, such as peanuts or seafood. Other allergies or sensitivities such as gluten allergy or lactose intolerance can be managed by keeping gluten free or lactose free products on hand for the person who needs it and keeping all preparation equipment separate. My sister has a gluten allergy and when she visits I prepare gluten free meals and desserts and make sure I set aside things for her such as butter and condiments that haven't been contaminated. Recently we discovered that our toddler has a citrus sensitivity and breaks out in a rash, particularly with oranges. This one poses a challenge because he's not old enough to understand why he can't have oranges, but everyone else in the family enjoys them. This is one food sensitivity that many children outgrow, so in a few years he'll probably be able to eat them again, but in the meantime we have to hide the oranges and avoid eating them in front of him.

Pregnancy is a common reason for modifying the diet, and there are some foods that pregnant women should avoid for safety and overall health reasons. During my pregnancies I remember the pain of having to give up caffeine, sweets, sushi, and my weekly glass of wine or cocktail, but I got used to it. My husband still enjoyed his beer and wine and I thought ahead to our baby's arrival when I felt little pangs of envy, but for the most part we ate the same things. If the partner adopts the pregnant woman's diet, that does make meal planning easier, especially if certain foods or smells make the woman feel sick.

Dieting to lose weight can be torture on a family member when everyone else still enjoys their favorite foods, but everyone in the family can benefit from eating a few extra servings of vegetables, adding whole grains, and cutting back on unhealthy fats and sweets. When possible, prepare something that everyone can enjoy, or at least make sure that the dieter's needs are addressed with a few simple modifications. Try roasting vegetables in olive oil and herbs rather than cooking them with heavy cheese or cream sauces, or grilling lean meats instead of frying.

Having one vegetarian or vegan in an omnivore family doesn't have to be difficult, but communication is key. As a family discuss the choice to go vegetarian or vegan, making sure to discuss the details of what foods are considered appropriate for that lifestyle. When preparing meals, look for ways to keep things simple. For example, when making a stir fry, set aside some of the vegetables and stir fry those with tofu rather than meat, or even plan to make a family vegetarian or vegan meal at least once a week. Make sure there are options available for everyone.

Finally, no matter what meal situation you find yourself in, include all family members in meal planning and preparation whenever possible. That is a positive way to keep the lines of communication open.

Thanks to my Twitter friends @GFShaolin, @realepicurean, @KarinasKitchen, @MyLifeAsItIs, @nandita, and @sugarlaws for offering their thoughts on managing multiple meals.


This post was written by Andrea

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My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Posted by Donna



Organization is Everything
Everyone has their share of kitchen gadgets, and if you're anything like me, you have your absolute favorites. Because I live on a sailboat, the available space in my galley is probably as tiny as your smallest closet. If I'm not extremely organized, it'll be total chaos in a matter of days. Letting someone else in my galley other than my husband or son, can turn efficiency into disaster unless they know exactly how and where I like my favorite kitchen tools!



Kitchen Gadget Addiction
Having a catering business and wholesale bakery for over 15 years didn't help my addiction to kitchen gadgets! I had everything anyone could ever imagine or desire! But, I had to learn to make do with less for the sake of sanity and to keep the boat from listing to one side. Some of those appliances were heavy! Before we moved into the boat, I had to make compromises and choose between my babies...I mean gadgets! YIKES! What were my favorites? They all were! How could I choose between 25 knives and 20 pots and pans? But my husband's answer was clear, "They won't all fit on the boat! You have to choose your favorites." Easier said than done I'm afraid.



No, Not the Kitchen Aid!
It was harder to leave my Kitchen Aid mixer than it was to sell my 10 burner stove. I brought my cheesy Hamilton Beach 5-speed mixer with me. I burned the motor out in 4 months and threw it in the dumpster. The kids felt sorry for me and gave me a shiny new Cuisinart 9-speed heavy-duty hand mixer for Mother's Day. WOW, that mixer rocks! I haven't tried making dough with it yet, but it makes short work of Christmas cookie dough, whipped cream and mashed potatoes. I left my big food processor behind and traded it in for a mini chopper. Works just as good, just not as big. My blender was replaced with an immersion blender - fabulous for dockside cocktails!



Good Knives
A good set of quality knives and sharpener is essential. I can't stress this enough. It's simply not acceptable for anyone to have to work with dull, flimsy knives. If you only have so much money in your kitchen budget, spend it on a few good knives! I cut back on the number of knives that I brought with us (I didn't need 25), but I do have two of each size, for each job. Chef, boning, utility, paring, bread, carving and a set of 8 steak knives round out my arsenal of sharp pointy things.



Stainless Steel
Our first boat had a two burner stove (I have three burners now). The stove top wasn't big enough for huge soup pots. Now what? I picked through all my stock pans, sauté pans and baking pans and chose the best stainless and stoneware I could fit on the stove and in my limited cupboards. Two items I refused to do without was my stainless pressure cooker and a Microplane grater/zester. I love those things. I told my son when he gets married, I'm going to buy him a pressure cooker and show him how to use it. He laughed, I was serious!



Paring Down & Making Do
The rest of my little gadgets fit into a neat Pampered Chef tool turn-about and a few drawers. We all want to simplify our lives and pare down. Start in your kitchen. You might be a newlywed with a small kitchen and budget to match, or a single person cooking for one. If a former caterer and baker can do with fewer gadgets, anyone can!

Here's a list of my favorite small kitchen...I mean galley gadgets and appliances:

* Heavy-duty hand mixer, Cuisinart and Kitchen Aid make the best!
* Mini food processor or chopper
* Good set of knives and sharpener
* Immersion blender
* Stainless pans with lids in 1, 2 & 3 quart sizes
* Stainless stock or soup pot in 6-8 quart size
* Stainless braising pan
* Stainless pressure cooker 6-8 quart size
* 1 small sauté or omelette pan
* 1 large frying pan with cover
* Cutting boards in various sizes
* Microplane grater/zester in two sizes, coarse & fine
* Stainless spatula for flipping eggs, burgers, and scraping out burned bits!
* Stainless balloon whisks, large & small
* Stainless pastry blender
* Cookie scoops (aka ice cream or portion scoops), large & small
* Rubber or silicone spatulas in various sizes
* Dough divider or bench scraper
* Meat thermometer
* Kitchen shears
* Offset spatulas, large & small
* Pastry bags and decorating tips
* Pastry brush
* Soup ladle
* Meat mallet


By now, you've probably guessed that I have a thing for stainless steel. I also have a thing for the color red. Just saying......




This post was written by Donna



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Keep it Simple

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Posted by Kristen - Dine & Dish


My motto for 2009 is going to be "Keep it Simple". I don't know what this phrase means to you, but I know to me it means to not stress about the big stuff and to simplify every aspect of life as much as possible.

I want to continue entertaining my friends and family in 2009, but I know that with infringing time restraints and tighter wallets, it is going to take some creativity to be able to host parties like we are used to.

Many of my friends refuse to entertain, although they have a great desire to. They feel like having friends over means having an immaculate house, a grand dinner on the table, and lots of activities to keep everyone busy. I know for us, when we entertain, we truly try to keep things as low key and simple as possible. Some tips for low key entertaining are:

  • Share the responsibility - pick a theme and have each of your guests bring something. Have an appetizer / dessert party foregoing the need to create a huge meal for your guests.
  • Invite people who are compatible with each other and who simply get joy out of being together. This will decrease the stress you may have on providing entertainment for your guests.
  • Make things ahead of time. Many side dishes, main courses and appetizers can be made several days ahead of time, leaving you the day of your get together free to spend time with your guests.
  • Create a relaxing atmosphere. You have to remember that the people at your party are there to visit you, not judge your cooking and entertaining. Keep the atmosphere relaxed and those around you will catch that vibe and be the same way.
Don't let time and money woes get in the way of entertaining. Keep it simple and I am sure your friends will be inspired.

Here's a great, low stress, make ahead appetizer to inspire you to keep it simple!

Sweet Asian Meatballs
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup dry bread crumbs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 eggs
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tbsp. oil
3 cloves garlic
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup honey

1 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce (sodium reduced)


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees

2. Put meat in a bowl and break up. With your hands, blend the meat, bread crumbs, onion, milk, eggs and salt.

3. Shape meat mixture into one inch balls. Place in single layer on a jelly roll pan and bake about 10-12 minutes. Drain any extra grease off the meatballs.

4. Add oil to saucepan and sauté garlic until soft. Add the ketchup, honey, brown sugar and soy sauce. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about ten minutes. Add the meatballs to your sauce, bring back to a boil and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes, until sauce glazes meatballs. Stir sauce and meatballs occasionally so they don't stick.



This post was Kristen


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