Vegetarian Pyramid Series - Kamut

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Posted by DK

“What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.” (Isaac Newton)

This proverb holds so true whenever I visit my local health stores. Every time I assume that I am getting to the end of familiarizing myself with myriad range of whole grains (or any other ingredient for that matter), a new one pops up taking me completely by surprise. This is what happened about 6-8 months back when during my window grain shopping. I saw some fresh Kamut grains.

I got very curious and researched more about them. Kamut is an ancient grain and relative of Wheat. It was supposed to be originally from Egypt where stories go as far of it being taken from the Egyptian tombs. Some other studies say that they probably originated from Asia too. Anyways irrespective of wherever they are from, they are available in most areas of North America, Australia, Europe and in few Asian countries.

How to use Kamut?
Kamut is available in various forms in the market now days. You will see

  1. Kamut Berries (see how to cook them here),
  2. Kamut flour – these make delicate baked goods inspite of being high in gluten. Use them in place of whole wheat pastry flour in any recipe. I sometimes use them to replace half of white flour in my baking recipes,
  3. Kamut Cereals sometimes find their way into my breakfast as a hearty porridge
  4. Kamut crackers makes a great snack in the evening topped with dips and salsa
  5. Kamut pasta making life much easier especially in cases when other forms are not available. Also its so much simpler to consume this whole grain in this form without getting into any time consuming effort too. No excuses to avoid eating them in any case.

Health Benefits of Kamut
Though it’s a cousin of Wheat, it has a higher nutritional value than whole wheat. It compares in the following points
  1. 40% more protein,
  2. more minerals,
  3. 65% more amino acids,
  4. more magnesium and
  5. 30% more vitamin E makes it stand up mightier than wheat.
The controversy - to eat or not to eat, that is the questions (for celiacs)

From what I read in few books, they claim that Kamut (though wheat based) could be tolerated by people suffering from Celiac – if eaten in moderation. But other sources deny this claim outright.

Few people from Gluten Intolerance Group actually were kind enough to point that out to me in my Article about Kamut in my blog that it is not advisable for such people (including wheat allergies) to consume this grain which in some cases could lead to death (!!)

The end result? I would say better safe than sorry. If you have any wheat allergies or are suffering from celiac disease, avoid even going near the grain! Whenever there is dispute about such things, I usually take the safer route and would advise the same.

For the rest of us, if you have never tried this grain before, here are couple to start off. Simple, fast and delicious.

This deliciously simple and subtly healthy kamut pasta with baked asparagus is a winner in its own right.

Everything but the kitchen sink Kamut Pilaf is not only hearty but also healthy with mixed greens and baked Tofu. What a way to clean your fridge out :)

This post was written by Dhivya

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Back to School with Healthier Lunch Boxes

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Posted by Meeta K. Wolff

j0175437Soeren's already back at school since the past few weeks, but in many countries schools are still out for a few weeks. Not sure about how you feel, but vacations always bring back some of the easy going feeling and especially after summer break I seem to be scrambling to keep up with the hectic pace school life and chores bring along.

One thing that needs attention everyday is packing balanced and healthy lunch boxes. They need their daily nutrients to keep them active and give them the power to get through the day. Unfortunately, in our convenient world, lunch boxes are often filled with packaged ‘convenience’ foods. Full-calorie soda, chips, and cookies can add up to a lot of excess fat, sugar, sodium and calories, which may contribute to long-term health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Furthermore, these extra calories also make kids sluggish or cranky in the afternoons.

After packing lunches for Soeren over the past few years I have learned quite a few things. Next week he's going to be 7 and very much has a head of his own. So, I know that the lunch boxes has to have items which he enjoys and is most likely to eat.

What we've done is made a chart and included included all his favorite healthy foods. The chart divides the foods into different groups and we try to focus on a variety to be able to provide a balanced lunch box. This provides the energy and nutrients needed to grow, play, learn and stay healthy.

The basics are simple - the lunch box needs to include:

  • One serving of vegetables or salad and a serving of fruit (preferably fresh, but canned or dried can counts).
  • One serving of a low-fat or fat-free dairy item such as a low-fat cheese stick, a yogurt cup, milk or some cottage cheese.
  • One source of protein. Things like meat, chicken, fish, eggs, peanut butter or beans.
  • A healthy drink such as water or unsweetened 100% juice or as Soeren likes a mix of 100% fruit juice with some sparkling water.

With this in mind the chart is fairly simple to create. Below I've made a copy of Soeren's chart.

Main Vegetable/Salad
Fruit Dairy Protein Drink
Whole wheat pita with egg salad + quark dressing Carrots Strawberries
Natural quark w/honey and peaches Gouda cheese stick
Apple juice w/Sparkling water
Multigrain bread with tuna salad Cucumber Sticks Peaches
Chocolate milk Unsalted cashew nuts/almonds Cherry Juice w/ sparkling water
Rye bread with turkey meatballs
Bell Peppers (no green ones) Homemade apple sauce Plain yogurt w/ agave nectar and strawberries Hummus dip
Multivitamin juice
Chicken/Falafel wraps Tabouleh Honey Melon
Plain yogurt w/ blueberries    

These are just a few of his favorite things. There are plenty more items he likes but we wanted to list just a few so that both of us understand in which direction we are going. What I mean is, by getting Soeren to make this chart with me he is more aware of the healthy things he likes. For me it means something to follow when I am lost for ideas or need some inspiration.

I use the chart to mix and match and as a basis to make new creations. From a very young age Soeren ate a lot of fruit - I am lucky there as I get no fuss in that aspect. In addition I do add a healthy treat or snack, like buckwheat blueberry muffins or homemade cookies, sticky buns etc. I prefer to make these treats at home so I can manage the level of sugar and use healthy organic products with less preservatives.

It’s important to add variety and be innovative. If you’re packing cheese and cucumber, cheese and lettuce, or cheese and tomato day in and day out it most probably will get monotonous.

Apples 02a Here are a few ideas I’ve successfully put past Soeren:

  • I use different kinds of breads avoiding white bread as much as I can. I try to make variations of different sandwiches – everything from whole wheat pita, naan bread to wraps and baguettes, focaccia to ciabatta rolls.
  • Sneaky mums add salad to the sandwiches – arugula, shredded cabbage, lettuce, cress etc. Soeren has learned to love his salad in this way!
  • I use different spreads like goat cheese, cream cheese, avocado dip or a herb flavored quark. Go easy on the butter and avoid mayo.  
  • Add raw veggies like cucumbers, carrots and bell peppers to the lunch box as a side to nibble along with the sandwiches. I make this a must. Soeren loves to have a dip with these raw veggies. I often pack a hummus, herby flavored quark,  plain cottage cheese or a yogurt tahini dip for him to dunk his veggies into.
  • A nice change from sandwiches are leftovers from a quiche, spring rolls or pasta bake.
  • I pack at least 2 types of fruit in his lunch box. Strawberries, blueberries, yellow kiwis, raspberries, apples, orange wedges, melon slices – the list goes on.
  • During the colder season when the variety of fruit is not as abundant as in the summer, I often turn to dried fruit and nuts.
  • Sometimes I skip sandwiches and make a salad with couscous, bulgur, pasta or rice. Adding some shredded chicken, veggies or hard boiled eggs makes it more filling. Fat-free or low-fat dressing is often packed in a separate container.
  • Drinks – I pay very close attention to this. It’s amazing how many drinks label themselves as “healthy!” but a closer look at the label show that they are loaded with sugar. I usually buy 100% fruit juices like apple, grape or cherry. I fill Soeren’s drink thermos with 1/2 juice and the rest is topped off with sparkling water. Low-fat and unsweetened chocolate milk and unsweetened herb/fruit iced teas are also a few of Soeren’s favorite drinks.
  • Like every child, Soeren loves snacks and treats. I usually make mini treats like small muffins, cookies and brownies, where instead of sugar, I use agave nectar, honey or maple syrup. Smaller mini versions satisfy the snacker’s appetite and does not have that many calories/sugar as the larger portions. Furthermore, I try to use fruit as much as I can in my baked treats.

bento20090116 If you are looking for great inspiration you’ll find several healthy, fun, innovative and scrumptious lunch box ideas right here on the Daily Tiffin. If you’ve ever wondered what Bento is you’ll find the answer to this and much more in our article The art of Japanese lunchboxes - an introduction to Bento.

Finally there are always times when we are in a rush and the lunch box needs to be packed quickly. The best tip I can give on this is try to prepare as much as one can the evening before.

  • Fruit and veggies can be cut the evening before and wrapped in Clingfilm.
  • Frozen rolls, bread etc. can be taken out the evening before. In the morning they are thawed and ready to be spread.
  • Spreads and dips can also be made the evening before and packed in containers.

You’ll find more useful quick lunch box packing tips in our article Need for speed: A mommy's lunch manifesto. While packing lunches, hygiene plays an important role and our food safety for packed lunches article will provide you with the best pointers.

Our recipe section might also offer you with a few healthy option for the next lunch box. These sweet Asian meatballs are simple and low in stress, which work not only as a party appetizer but also are perfect in a lunch box too. Or how about quesadillas? In our article Que Sera Sera Quesadillas, we share with you just how versatile these are. They make great alternatives to the regular sandwich. My personal all time favorite are these quick Chickpea Spinach Pockets. We also have several ideas and recipes for breads, which you can easily make at home.

I hope a few of these suggestions will help you to recover from the lunch box burn out.

Do you have more helpful and yummy lunch box ideas?
What do you find challenging when packing lunch boxes?

Share your thoughts with us. 

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

This post was written by Meeta


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Posted by Deeba PAB

A few days ago the hub decided to shake the kids out of their secure bubble, & announced it was time to take a trip into town using public transport. The call was for a trip into the old city here in Delhi, 'Old Delhi, Purani Dilli or the Walled City' as it is also called, and by the Delhi Metro. The Metro has been around for a couple of years yet we hadn’t experienced it. 'Oh NO'… a huge cry rose across the room, both kids looking at me in despair. The hub always feels that the two of them have got too used to being driven around from point A to B, or using the school bus. They have no idea how the transport system works, & how we used to hop on and off buses when we were young. We’ve been on the Monorail in Sydney, MRT in Singapore, Metro in HKG, Tube in London, even the Moscow Metro…but every country is different, and ours is no exception. Hopped onto the train, stumbling around the system initially, but we soon got a hang of things. Though the journey into town was an hour long, it was stress free, in air conditioned comfort, with no crowds etc. Being a really hot and humid day, once out of the train, the heat, humidity & chaos soon hit us. We had stepped into a different world, & the kids just gaped! The walled city has a certain charm of it’s own. Lots of old dilapidated buildings, delicious roadside food (which we didn’t heat because of jaundice, typhoid fears), hundreds of people, cattle, rickshaws ... all sharing space on the road. A happy balance of complete chaos. We had fun sauntering around streets with no names, reaching dead ends, then piling into rickshaws and racing each other, passing the Jama Masjid en route, India’s largest and most picturesque mosque. Screeched to a halt to crowd into a tiny shop dealing with brass ware etc. Was fun to see the kids’ eyes light up… so much to sift through. A shop packed with fascinating bric-a-brac. They wanted everything, the daughter especially who went ballistic and almost needed to be tranquilized. I wanted everything, but then I’m ‘grown-up’, so that’s my perk!! We shopped till the hub dropped, & then set off again. The bait was the food of course! Here the kids were game. Let’s go to Karim’s was the call…a place that found its way into top Asian foodie joint listings, including the Times and BBC guides. To quote from the Time Magazine, 'Travelers in Delhi have a lot on their plate. Mughal monuments like the hulking Red Fort and the elegant Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque, loom above the city's myriad bazaars and the dusty homes of forgotten poets. But no matter how much there is to explore, locals and visitors alike always return to Delhi's most beloved haunt: Karim's. A cycle-rickshaw ride from the Chandni Chowk Metro stop, Karim's is neither soaring fortress nor ancient temple, yet it is an unmissable landmark nonetheless, often filled to capacity with the faithful. This drab roadside dhaba (or eatery) serves up the most authentic Mughlai fare in the city—which is what you might expect considering who runs the place.'The hype had been created before. We conveniently forgot to tell them that it was a glorified road-side dhaba that is famous for its food, not interiors. They were shocked & refused to eat. Hub and me exchanged looks, & told them to wait while we ate, and they could eat at home. To Karim’s credit, the minute the food was served, the kids devoured it like there was no tomorrow, enjoying each morsel.Long day done, early supper enjoyed, and we set off into the setting sun to catch the Metro back home. This time the journey wasn’t easy. We got caught in the holiday rush & were squished like sardines in a can. Crowds like we’ve never seen before, jostling for every square inch. Quite alarming actually, but surprise surprise; the kids didn’t complain. Not once. They just took to it and were quite fancy-free. Not a whine the entire hour of standing with teeming millions, not a whine when there was a power cut for a minute & my heart stopped beating, not a whine till we got back home…WOW!!Lesson learnt - It's me who has to step out of my comfort zone. I confess I was VERY skeptical and doubted this idea would work. Rolled my eyes at the hub when the kids weren't looking. Experience is a great teacher! Kids are so much more adaptable. They just need the opportunity.

This post was written by Deeba

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