Cooking is a great stress reliever to me and I enjoy it. I like to experiment with food and luckily I have two fans who are always willing to gobble up my experiments. So all recipes I put up will be tried and tested :-) You will find recipes using all natural, organic ingredients and without any processed foods, refined sugar, refined flour, refined oil, etc. As our awareness on food and its ingredients improve, so do our cooking and our tastes too. It makes me feel good about what I cook, and I also feel I am making a positive contribution to the world in a small way as I can.
As a family we have moved to cooking that is wholesome and healthy, yet simple and tastier too. Like the motto ‘Keep it simple’ for my cooking too. I hope this blog will be of use to some of you. I would also ask all of you to try and customize these recipes to your taste, and substitute ingredients too as I don’t feel that you need to use the exact same ingredients. Will try to add many recipes as the days go by. Feel free to give your feedback.
So here is a small background on the genesis of this blog. I have always had an interest in cooking and always look at trying new things. I came from a vegetarian family that was very concerned about health as well, so I did had a little background of healthy cooking. In fact, my dad has written a book on natural living back in India. I come from Kerala where the basic diet is still very healthy, though Indian food was becoming unhealthier by the day because as people got richer, their food choices got poorer :-).
Before coming into the US 13 years back, like most people we were under the impression that US is a very healthy country, with the likes of all the athletes/sportsmen and the Hollywood stars. Even after coming into the country initially we felt that anything we get here is healthy, even things that come in boxes, as it comes from a reputed big company and with agencies like FDA/USDA, etc. there is strict control on all things related to food/health. So all breakfast cereals were thought to be healthy and better than the steamed idli or puttu (I cringe now on the thought). The juices in the box looked nice, and were also thought to be better than water or coconut water. Luckily we did not venture into Sodas. So gullible do we become ( in spite of the two of us having a master’s degree), and believe that capitalism ensures all checks and balances. Having said that, we cannot generalize on the country because there are also a lot of good things happening in the US that is outside of the mainstream, and even we started learning about most of the positive possibilities from here.
The turning point and the learning:
Then a few things happened along in life that caused us to pause, ponder and question our lifestyle and our food choices. One was when I was diagnosed with a possibility of a medical condition (which thankfully was a false alarm). This made us do a lot of reading of the food we eat and we started to get more educated about good food choices and having a holistic view of health. The other is when my son’s class teacher read Michael Pollen’s ‘Omnivores Dilemma’ to the class, and my son used to come home every day and educate us on what he learnt from class. This got both of us interested (and excited at the same time) in learning more about the origin, ingredients, process involved in commercial food available. During this time, we also watched the movie Food Inc which was another eye opener. We were shocked to learn what we discovered from all of this, and the more we tried to dig in, the more bad news we found. There were quite a few around us who said that why try to find what is behind the food and then discover that we cannot eat them, so being ignorant was better. I beg to differ, and feel that the most important thing is for one to know and be aware of what is in the food, and then to make the optimal choice based on the situation. I can list down more than 100 things which might surprise many, but here are a few examples:
During the initial years the focus of my cooking was on taste and I also felt that if I cook at home, then it is usually healthy (which is still valid, but there are other factors). I have now realized that while cooking at home is important, what is more important are what we cook and how we cook (and do we really need to cook?). I have also realized that the real taste lies in the most natural of ingredients, and what we taste from store/restaurant is not the natural taste. We are not tied down with a specific diet, like to call ourselves as Flexiterians (flexible vegetarians).
We are predominantly vegetarians, with a small dose of sustainably caught fish added to our diet. Vegan and raw food diets are wonderful and has their merits, and we love both of those concepts. I am not a vegan nor do I subscribe to a completely plant based diet. I understand the health benefits of getting your daily calorie intake as well as your nutrition intake from plant based food. I also understand the adverse effects of consuming large amounts of animal products. I give myself a few exceptions on my plant-based diet. I grew up in India, the land of Ayurveda and other ancient medicines. I have read about (and experienced as well) the medicinal, therapeutic and nutritional benefits of ghee. I believe that consuming ghee in small amounts is very beneficial if not essential. It has been used over centuries by Ayurvedic practitioners with good results. Another one is yogurt, which is an essential part of the South Indian diet. I believe the homemade yogurt is our best source of daily probiotics (which is so essential for health) and I am not ready to forgo that. Finally, milk, yogurt and ghee are essential part of our religion, tradition and folklore. Having said that, we have reduced our dairy intake and we try to get whole milk that is local and organic, and definitely not from a dairy factory.
We have also supplemented milk with almond or coconut milk (both freshly prepared), and we have started liking cheese for the first time via cashew cheese :-). We also like to have wild caught fish once in a while. Try to have one third of our diet to be raw. I also love to cook (and eat) our traditional Kerala dishes, which is in general on the healthy side. So while we are not vegans or vegetarians or raw-foodies, we are a mix of all of that and would like to call us as Flexitarians :-).
Here is what I consider as the guiding principles to my cooking:
Ingredients: Wholesome, natural, sustainable
Cooking process: Quick, Healthy, Raw or Mild cooking
The change in our food choices was not a quick one step change, it has evolved over a period of 2-3 years and we are still evolving as we learn more. The first major change we did was in moving to consuming more vegetables, fruits and whole ingredients. We then switched to some organic produce and later to mostly organic and non-GMO, and included a lot of raw nuts into our food. The last step was in moving to a more raw-food and vegan based diet, and eliminating all processed/canned/packaged foods. I would not like to brag about the health improvements we have seen because one never knows what is in store in the future as there are a lot of things beyond our control, but we can still do things from our end and leave the rest to a higher element. Having said that, we believe food plays the biggest part in health and the results we have seen are very encouraging. In general, the instances of us getting sick has gone down drastically too. We also found that all our health numbers changed to the positive side, including good cholesterol increasing and bad cholesterol decreasing (raw nuts and coconut did the trick), our sugar levels went down (though we took more natural sugars via fresh fruits/juice, dates, honey and palm sugar). One could see change on the physical side too, especially for me. My husband and son did not have much to lose, but even for them the change was there to see. As for me, I have tried to shed a few pounds in the past via exercise and different diets, but here all I did was to eat what I liked and in a matter of 6 months I became lighter by 25 pounds. I was quite surprised too, but I know and realize that there is a lot of power behind good food.
What we feel about the change:
Beyond the looks and numbers, what is more important is the fact that we feel so good mentally also with our food choices as it has so many benefits: