Vegetarian Pyramid Series - Seitan

Friday, October 30, 2009

Posted by DK

It sounds like ‘Shaitan’ and probably looks like one to most of us! But sometimes good things come in ugly packages and Seitan follows that literally. The first time I saw it, I made up a face similar to its looks but then after reading considerably about it, I thought why not. I am so glad I did cos not only it is an excellent meat replacement, is a super duper source of protein for vegetarians like me. Come to think of it, it doesn't taste bad either.

Image source from wikimedia

So what exactly is Seitan?

It is made from gluten, the protein part of wheat. It is popularly known as ‘vegetarian meat’. It is also known by other names in different places – wheat meat, gluten or simply gluten meat. It has a very chewy and firm texture.Instead of reaching out for imitation meat in your local stores, which by the way has loads of additives, it would be a great idea to use seitan instead. It is immensely nutritious and without any artificial flavors. Seitan does not have any flavor of its own and hence it benefits from a marinade. Mostly you will find the precooked variety of seitan, hence simply adding it at the very end is enough. You can chop it or slice it and it goes extremely well in stir fries or stews of any kind.


Mostly available in health stores and in Asian specialty markets. Next time you visit one, don’t forget to look out for Seitan.

Benefits of Seitan

The protein content is humongous - About 85gms of Seitan consists of 18gms of Protein! It is also filled with essential amino acids and if cooked in soy sauce based broth then it would enhance the amount of vitamins and minerals. A four-ounce serving of seitan supplies between 6 and 10 percent of the U.S Reference Daily Intake of vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron.

To kick start your cooking with seitan, here are some sample recipes with Wheat gluten.

I have one simple and amazing recipe with Seitan. Its Vegan sloppy Joes. You know how some kids have problems eating any vegetables? ( or should I say anything healthy?!!). A friend of mine recently brought her son, who is die hard carnivore, to my place. Being a vegetarian, I thought why not make something which looks like a non-vegetarian and also has nutrition. I made these sloppy joes with couple of vegetables, beans and seitan and they were gladly gobbled up by him!

Other interesting recipes from the net

  1. Southern Fried Vegetarian 'Chicken'
  2. Mexican "Seitan" Fajitas
  3. Spicy "Seitan" Buffalo wings

This post was written by Dhivya

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‘Earth to Table in the Shortest Time’… The locavores have arrived!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Posted by Deeba PAB

Locavore a term coined on World Environment Day, 2005, to promote the buying /eating of produce grown within the 100 mile (160Km) radius.
The issue being addressed in 2005 was the alarming trend of produce being transported half way across the globe to feed a ‘global appetite for exotic fare'. What was satiating the palate was no different in calories, but meant hugely in terms of miles it travelled, the cost of shipping … in other words, the significant carbon footprint it left stamped on a burdened Earth.

I am a firm supporter of the 100 mile diet. My Indian lamb chops taste as good as any I have had. New Zealand lamb chops may still be the best, but I am ‘palate happy'. I cringed when I heard of a new butter chicken launched in a city in India, advertised as “Anaarkali, the classiest Butter Chicken on earth is about more than just exotic ingredients & years of research.” A dish that serves 2 is for Rs 6000/- (USD 136/-), counts as its ingredients fresh tomatoes and Hunt’s Tomato Paste, Danish Lurpak Unsalted Butter, Fillipo Berio Olive Oil and Evian Natural Spring Water. It might well be the best butter chicken on the face of this Earth, and the entrepreneurs mean well as they are donating part of the proceeds to charity, yet, wouldn’t ‘eating off the land’ have been better for Earth?

This is not about food snobbery. It’s all a matter of perspective, and it’s heartening to see foodie bloggers playing a hugely responsible role in following a locavore diet. It’s wonderful to see them following seasons, blogs glowing orange with anything from persimmons to pumpkins announcing fall. Even better to see folk roasting their own pumpkins for puree! It’s imperative to begin counting ‘Food Miles’, or the distance food travels from where it is grown. The words ring loud… the closer the food, the better the taste! Andrea Meyers leads with her Grow Your Own event, a twice-a-month blogging event that celebrates the foods we grow or raise ourselves and the dishes we make using our homegrown products.
In September this year, the Obama administration launched a 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative to connect consumers with local producers. The idea is not to limit choice, but to expand consciences, and encourage healthy seasonal eating. 2 recent cookbooks that sing the locavore anthem of ‘Earth to table in the shortest time’ are worth a mention. In their book, Earth to Table, renowned chefs Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann remind us of the relationship between local eating and taste, and demonstrate how you can reduce your carbon footprint without diminishing your enjoyment of food. Bringing together stories of the passage of seasons on the farm; how-to sections; stunning photographs; and, of course, creative and delectable recipes that will leave anyone wondering why they ever considered eating a tomato in February. In Cooking for Friends, award-winning chef, world-renowned restaurateur, bestselling author, and Hell’s Kitchen star Gordon Ramsey offers us more than 100 exceptional recipes from his own family table. The way Gordon cooks here embodies his strongly held views: use in-season, fresh ingredients at their peak; support local producers and farmers' markets whenever possible; and celebrate the food culture and its many influences.

This post was written by Deeba

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Tiffin Tuesday - Getting Back Into The Habit

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Posted by Petra Hildebrandt

It's been a long time since I've posted a bento here - or on my blog. It is not that I don't pack lunches any more, but... most days I just grab some leftovers, and an apple or banana, and a cereal bar, and I'm done.

Although it is not quite 2010 right now, I think it is time to start over and make 'New Year's resolutions', to set up new goals, and get back to packing lunches which are not only nutritious, but also fun to look at. Even if you don't pack meals for a child but for an adult, enjoying your lunch visually is a great part of the food with love theme, I think.

And it doesn't have to be elaborated, fancy food, or decorating stunning anime images on a rice bed (which I could never do, anyway):

Here I packed tiny tomato halves with a tuna salad stuffing, tiny cucumber and carrot bites for crunch and color, a slice of buttered wholegrain bread (wrapped in cling film to prevent it from turning soggy), 3 mini chocolate muffins, dried mango, banana chips, the last of the plum harvest, and an apple. Basically a pantry raid, but looks so much better than just a sandwich or a box with noodle salad :-)

So, when do you get back in the habit?

This post was written by Petra

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Nursing: A Journey to a Destination

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Posted by Hilda

Any men out there who start to read this, gag and want to skip this article, if there is a woman in your life who might get pregnant and deliver a child she intends to nurse, I'd try to at least get halfway through it. I promise I won't get graphic.

Disclaimer: This post is meant in no way to make a statement about the merits of nursing over formula or vice-versa. I don't see anything wrong with feeding your baby formula, I was a formula-fed baby and I turned out ok (I think anyway).

The last time we saw our pediatrician at the 6-month appointment, he took one look at my baby and said "she looks perfect, she could be an advertisement for breastfeeding." I think it would be hard to describe the sense of relief I felt when he said that. I didn't originally think that I would be writing about breastfeeding/nursing here, but when I told K.'s Godmother what the doctor had said, she immediately insisted I had to write about it for my next DT post, if only to let other soon-to-be mothers know that as hard as it may be in the beginning, it can end up being perfectly fine. You see, it was very difficult for a while. 

In England, midwives are the bulk of the maternity unit staff, rather than nurses, and because they are the main baby birthers in the public system (a doctor is called in to supervise if there is an issue of some sort but otherwise midwives often deliver babies themselves), many also consider themselves to be the authority on everything pregnancy and baby-related; this results in, over a post-birth period of 48hrs, receiving the advice of at least four different midwives on the proper nursing positions, times, frequency, etc... and they all have different ideas about every part of the process, all in contradiction with each other. The day I left the hospital, I had a breakdown on the phone with my sister because my baby seemed a bit jaundiced and had needed hardly any diaper changes that day, so she couldn't possibly be well; surely I was doing something wrong. The midwives weighed her, checked her bilirubin level (for jaundice), reassured me that she was fine, and off we went with a stash of painkillers for me.
The timeline from then on went basically like this:

Day 4 - Morning: Community midwife comes to the house as part of the National Health Service. First helpful with tips to improve latching position and keep baby awake during a feed, but also thinks baby looks very jaundiced and even though the hospital pediatrician has declared her to be fine, I become extremely anxious.
Day 4 - Afternoon: Our pediatrician checks baby over thoroughly and plots out her bilirubin level on a special hospital jaundice chart so we can see that she's fine. He declares her to be in very good health. Says to put her in sunlight for the jaundice.

I'd been told that it would take 6 weeks to establish the nursing completely, but I'd also been told that I seemed to be a natural at it and that I had the latching down properly somehow from the beginning, the main issue was that I had this baby who just couldn't last more than a few minutes into a feed without falling asleep and I was having a great deal of difficulty keeping her awake long enough to eat.

Day 6: Baby has slept entirely way too long at night and I haven't been able to feed her at regular intervals. Am worried about my milk coming in and the supply being sufficient with a baby that doesn't create a demand (it's a demand-supply system). Midwife visits and weighs her, declares she is not putting on enough weight. We should supplement feeds with formula.
Day 8: I've developed an infection and must urgently return to the hospital, nursing baby in tow.
Day 9: I have an operation under general anesthesia which makes me drowsy and sick to my stomach. I am exhausted and have a hard time waking regularly to feed a baby I can't wake to eat and who won't stay awake through a 45mn feed. Am convinced my supply is not going to get established and my fatigue only augurs bad things when I'll get home. Am hysterical on the phone to my sister about the baby not putting on enough weight and my supply dwindling. Am sent home with more painkillers and antibiotics.
Day 11: Midwife visit, I am advised to really supplement more with formula as she is not gaining enough weight, and by then am a complete mess. Tired, in pain, with an adorable baby who seems fine and alert when awake but who is asleep when the midwife visits and isn't gaining weight quickly enough. Try to pump to increase my low supply.  I supplement grudgingly, feeling excessive guilt even though I know very well that it would be fine if I ended up not nursing and giving her formula, after all I was a formula-fed baby. No matter how much coaxing we do or what we try, she takes almost no supplemental formula.

Day 16: Midwife visits, the baby is an ounce shy of her birth weight and a few days away from being declared as"failure to thrive". Am about ready for the loony bin. Make my husband buy a medical scale most often used for weighing babies so I can weigh her every or every other day.
Day 17: The health visitor, a person who basically checks in on the family from a child's birth until he/she is 5, comes by and I see my first glimpse of hope. She says that though she has no empirical evidence to support her thoughts, her experience is that in cases such as mine, as soon as the new mother stops taking the painkillers, the milk supply increases dramatically and the baby gains weight very well. I'd taken my last pill that morning and wait to see what might happen over the next couple of days.
Day 19: Even though I can't measure it, I know my supply has increased and baby is starting to wake up to the world, clearly the painkillers were not helping in this whole debacle.

Over the next few weeks, I had to sort through a number of other hiccups in the process (biting, soreness until I thought I couldn't possibly get through one more feed) until by about 6-8 weeks in, just as predicted, and in spite of everyone saying it would take me less time because I seemed to be doing well the first couple of days in the hospital (even though I wasn't), I'd figured out 95% of the problems and was nursing her fairly comfortably. I'm still nursing her now as she discovers solid foods.
I often thought about just giving up, especially since we'd found a brand of formula that she actually seemed to like when we first had to supplement her, the point being that it was only perseverance and the will to nurse her that got me through. During those first three weeks in particular, and still fairly often until she was about 2 months old, I never thought I'd make it this long or that the pediatrician would ever say that she looked wonderful and could be an advertisement for nursing.
I know this has been a long post, but I wanted to share that, just in case one would-be mom reads it and it makes a difference. Experiences like nursing that are very personal can make one feel very guilty or inadequate when they don't go well and it becomes hard to share, so if this helps even one woman out there, it's worth putting the rest of you to sleep.

This post was written by Hilda

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Posted by Jamie


Oh, happy the parent who has children who eat everything. Happy eaters are a joy to behold, watching as they merrily lick beaters and agree to taste test all cooking adventures. Pure pleasure is the child who digs the serving spoon into the bowl and piles it high on his/her plate, no matter that he/she has never eaten it before. Garlic, eggplant, carrots, mascarpone cream, preserved lemons or pumpkin desserts don’t lead to wrinkled brows, turned up noses and groans of disgust, but rather interest, excitement and licked lips.

The persnickety child's dream!

Clement was – and is – this kind of child. Maybe he was influenced by my diet when I was pregnant, a diet consisting of the savory and the spicy, couscous and tagines, stews and seafood creoles, the intense flavor seeping through my body to him, a baby growing into my adventurous tastebuds. Or maybe it is due to the fact that from the moment he could open his tiny mouth we would offer him tastes of everything soft and smooth, from fresh goat cheese to chocolate pudding, just a tad on the tip of our pinkie finger, enough to get a reaction. And the reaction was always one of pure pleasure. By the time he could sit in a high chair, he loved sucking on lemon slices or biting into cloves of garlic, he would suck down baby spoonfuls of everything that we cooked or baked for ourselves, a foodie in the making.

And he always loved everything, cheeses, from the mild to the strong, exotic food from any culture, vegetables one and all, desserts both child-oriented and adult.

And then came Simon. Ah, what do the experts say about this? This second pregnancy was punctuated by American fast food cravings and plates piled high with brownies. The tiny taste tests were mostly abandoned when he was a tot. And one day, out of the blue, he pressed his lovely pink lips together, crossed his baby arms and refused what was on the end of the fork. And life was never the same. Here was a child, adorable, sweet and mild-tempered, a child who simply said “no” to food, no to anything flavorful, anything out of the ordinary, his version of ordinary. Years followed, years of eating pasta in bianco or white rice, plain grilled fish drizzled with the smallest amount of olive oil, plain chocolate cake with a smattering of powdered sugar, simple, tiny cheese ravioli in brodo, chicken broth. Fruit he loved, almost all fruit, so mealtimes usually found Clem with a plateful of vegetables in front of him and Simon with a bowl of sliced strawberries and banana, grapes and cubes of apples or pears, anything to get the maximum mix of vitamins.

As he’s grown, Mr. Persnickety, as I call him, has continued to eat simply, from pasta with red sauce to plates of white rice or unadorned couscous grains, spurning the fragrant, delicious veal blanquette or the lamb tagine that are served as the main course alongside these simple grains. He is wary of meat, dissecting it so minutely that it would make a forensic scientist proud, slicing off even the tiniest hint of fat. Vegetables get the old heave ho and most of what I cook is insulted with a “Oh, not that! Disgusting!” Fried foods and pizza, peanut butter or grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburgers and fries all pass with a thumbs up and desserts are limited to brownies and chocolate chip cookies, the most simple of chocolate cake or coffee cake with streusel. Simon was never so simple.

Feeding your child can't always be a hold up!

So how do we, the parent of the picky eater, how do we get our little darlings to eat anything healthy, anything vegetable, anything new? It becomes a game, a test: how to we package eggplant or spinach, fish or pumpkin in such a way that will actually have them eating it? Do we cook and serve them a separate meal or do we let them go hungry if they turn up their nose at what we have placed on the table? Or do we try and imagine dishes that may please, dishes that blend the loved with the hated in such a way that the persnickety child will finally put a forkful in his/her mouth and taste and maybe, just maybe, give a gentle shrug of the shoulders and say “it’s not bad”? And clean their plate. And make the foodie parent happy for one more meal. This is an ongoing project for me and I hope to be able, over the course of time and through my posts, I hope to be able to share some of these tasty dishes, successful meals, and there are indeed a few, with you.

Have them eat better... and healthier than this!

Greek-Inspired Spinach and Feta Triangles are easy to put together, if just a tad bit time consuming because of the phyllo/filo dough, and something that even my spinach-hating son, my finicky eater, will eat with pleasure (although he would never admit to the pleasure). I have made this at one time or another in one large baking dish, the filling sandwiched in between layers of filo dough, but wrapped in individual triangles makes it more fun to eat. Crunchy, buttery and delicious, chock full of feta cheese, add pine nuts or even chopped walnuts if you dare, this is a treat that everyone loves. It can be made in advance and stored in the fridge covered well with plastic wrap, just baking before serving.


1 1/2 lbs (800 g) fresh spinach, well-cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups (235 g - one package) feta cheese, drained and crumbled
1/2 cup (60 g) grated parmesan cheese, fresh when possible
3 large eggs, lightly beaten (if you make this in pie form, use 4 eggs)
2 Tbs chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
freshly ground pepper and a dash of salt to taste
1/2 lb (250 g, about 20 sheets) filo dough, thawed if frozen - if you make these 6 large triangles, you will need 12 sheets
Melted butter for the filo

Wash the spinach leaves, shake off excess water and put into a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Steam the spinach until wilted, then pour into a colander to drain. Allow to cool until easy to handle. Press out all the excess water you can with your hands, then gather up the cooked spinach and place in the center of a clean but old cloth dishtowel. Wrap or roll up the spinach in the towel and squeeze for all you are worth, squeezing out as much water as possible. Place the spinach on a cutting board and chop.

Put the chopped spinach in a mixing bowl, add the crumbled feta and parmesan cheeses, the chopped mint, nutmeg and salt and a good grinding of pepper (when adding salt, do so sparingly; remember that the feta is salty). Blend well. Now beat the eggs until well blended and stir them into the spinach-cheese mixture.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Now - the filo triangles. As you use each sheet of filo, keep the rest of the sheets covered with a just-damp towel so they don't dry out.

Melt the butter and allow to cool a bit.

Lay out the first sheet of filo with the wider length side to side, left to right. Brush the sheet quickly with butter. Lay a second sheet on top of the first and brush with butter. Repeat with a third sheet. With a very sharp knife, carefully slice from top to bottom into three equal strips. This will make the first three triangles.

Divide the spinach mixture into 6 (like I did here) or more parts depending on whether you want to make more or less triangles.* Scoop up one quantity and place it on the edge of the first strip of filo closest to you. Now, to form a triangle, lift up the bottom edge and bring the right bottom corner up towards the left edge (side), lining up the bottom and side edges to form a triangle. Holding this in place, use your free fingers to push the spinach mixture so it fills the triangle shape. Lift this up and fold upwards and continue folding until you have only about an inch of filo dough at the top. Brush this with butter to moisten, fold it over and seal your triangle "package". Place the triangle on a parchment-lined or buttered baking sheet, sealed side down.

Continue until you have made three triangles with the first three sheets of buttered filo. Repeat the process with three more buttered sheets and the rest of the spinach mixture. You now have 6 large triangles on your baking sheet. The triangles can be made ahead up to this point. Cover them well with plastic wrap and put into the fridge until ready to bake.

Brush the surface of each of the triangles with more melted butter. Bake for 15 minutes until golden.

* You can make this as one large pie, layering 8 - 10 of the buttered filo sheets in a buttered baking dish (the size of the dish depends on how thick you like the filling to be), spreading the spinach mixture evenly, then layering and buttering 8 - 10 more filo sheets on top. Bake until golden. Or you can make many more smaller triangles by cutting the filo dough either width- or length-wise into narrower strips.

Serve large triangles for lunch or dinner with a salad or smaller triangles as finger food.

This post was written by JAMIE

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Quick Parenting Tip: Consequences

Friday, October 02, 2009

Posted by Indian Food Rocks

I recently joined a book group organized by the Parent Engagement Network of our local school district where we are reading Please Stop the Rollercoaster by Sue Blaney. It is different from most other book groups as we are going to read just this one book, chapter by chapter. Book groups for this particular book have morphed into parent support groups, as we struggle to deal with the world of our growing teens and tweens. I am looking forward to sharing some of the nuggets I come away with here on The Daily Tiffin, the first of which is:

Raising our children to be independent responsible adults is a common goal that all parents share. Consequence is a lesson they need to learn early in life so that they are able to make better choices for themselves as they grow. We were talking about simple things that result in an extra chore for Mom or Dad to do like:

  • not waking up in time and missing the bus
  • forgetting to take homework or books to school
  • forgetting to bring their books home from school
  • forgetting their lunchbox at home
  • and so on.
All the above result in either Mom or Dad having to drop what they are doing and drive an additional amount to bail their kids out. Some kids need this kind of support on a daily basis - almost. That is where consequences comes in. One parent says she has an understanding with her kids where she allows them one rescue per month, or she charges them $1 per event from their allowance. This seems to work very well for them but it did not appeal to me as the underlying message is that you can buy yourself out of trouble.

Another suggestion that was put forth resonated well with me: the child takes on additional chores for the amount of time that her parent had to take out of his/her day to bail the kid out. My time for your time and the exchange must take place on the day that the support was required. This reinforces the value of time and also ensures that parental support is not taken for granted.

Do you have any tips that work well for you in such scenarios?

This post was written by Manisha

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