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Authors Posts by Nahid Ameen

Nahid Ameen

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The best and one of the most amazing dairy alternatives can be easily made at home. And yes you can make it too! With nuts and seeds you like the most and water. That’s it!

Vegan and raw food lifestyles made nut milk (also spelled mylk) extremely popular. I first learned about Nut milk when I watching David Wolfe (the raw food guru) making a tonic elixir using almond milk as a base. That begun another journey towards using spices, herbs and superfoods in my smoothies.

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I discovered as I taught my students to make fresh nut milk it was creamy, smooth, frothy, rich and nutty! I love using a tablespoon of hemp seeds with my almond milk and it makes it more delicious. I do not vote for soy and rice milk. If soy is not organic the chances are they are GMO and rice milk is way too watery and sweet for my palate. Best of all almond milk really do taste much better. Although you can find “Almond Breeze” or any other brand of almond milk in any healthy food store or a specialty grocery store, they would always contain “un-pronounceable, non-food” preservatives.

Here we go with an incredibly fun, easy and simple recipe that you can make at home:

Best Almond Milk Recipe:

Recipe guideline:

  1. Pre-soak raw almonds overnight with a cup of water.
  2. If you can peel the skins. If you press it between your thumb and index finger it literally pops out. I do this while watching TV.

Utensils needed:

  1. Vitamix/Nutri Bullet or a high speed blender required.
  2. Nut milk bag or a strainer (you can find it in my store)
  3. Stainless steel bowl
  4. Glass bottle or glass jar with a lid

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup almondsIMG_1363
  • 1 tbsp. of hemp seeds
  • 2 cups of filtered or spring water
  • 1 tsp. of organic vanilla bean powder
  • A pinch of sea salt

Directions:

  1. Rinse and drain water from the pre-soaked almonds.
  2. Put all the ingredients (but the sea salt) inside the blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Put the nut milk bag and open it on a stainless bowl.
  4. Pour the almond milk on the milk bag and slowly squeeze out the liquid until all of it is in the bowl and you are left with the meaty almond chunks.
  5. Pour the milk into your glass jar and refrigerate.
  6. Add the pinch of salt and shake the jar or bottle well.
  7. Make smoothies, hot chocolate, desserts using this milk.
  8. This will stay good in the fridge for 5-6 days.

Creative ideas:

  • Add spices like cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg or a yogi tea spice mix.
  • Add raw unpasteurized honey or medjool dates to sweeten the milk.
  • The residue (almond pulp) from the almond milk can be used in baking or as a face mask. IMG_1368

Benefits of Almond Milk:

  1. A great source of omega 3 which is an essential fatty acid. This fatty acid is healthy fats that great for heart health, hormone balancing, lowering blood sugar and weight loss.
  2. Almonds are rich sources of an array of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, tryptophan, iron, coppers, zinc, selenium, manganese, magnesium.    It is so creamy that is can easily replace dairy if you are allergic to it. Almond milk is amazing for people with lactose intolerance because it is lactose and casein free.
  3. Amazing for bone health due to its calcium and magnesium content.
  4. Almond milk also contributes towards vision health as it contains vitamin A, omega 3 and vitamin E.
  5. The vitamin E is a powerful fat soluble vitamin and antioxidant that also increases availability of vitamin A. The vitamin E is amazing for skin health.
  6. If you can still drink it when you are doing a raw food cleanse.
  7. If you make it at home you know there are no antibiotics, or hormones in the milk.You can drink almond milk on its own or used in smoothies, and desserts.
  8. Almond milk does not contain any cholesterol.
  9. Almond milk also contains high amount of potassium that helps promote healthy blood pressure.
  10. Almond milk also have small amount if protein, iron and B vitamins – all of these are great for growth, energy and muscle repair.  IMG_1380

 

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Dosha: PK

If you have picky eaters in the house (kids maybe?) and you have a hard time feeding picky eater super nutritious food, I assure you that sprouting is the best way to go. It’s fun, budget friendly and super easy to make. Best of all you only need some seeds, a bowl or a container and water to get sprouting in your kitchen.

Get the kids involved in sprouting and they will absolutely love it. To see how food grows and how you can turn a seed into a living organism is crazy fun to watch.

“Sprouting” is a method where a seed cracks open, and stalk comes out of it. Simply put sprouts are germinated seeds of grains, lentils or beans. These seeds are now power packed with nutrition, rejuvenating and provides a crunch in salad bowls. I am sharing the benefits of the sprouting seeds, the process of sprouting and what seeds to sprout.

Benefits of sprouts:

  1. Living Foods: Sprouts are living foods that are fresh and natural. Choose organic or wild crafted seeds for sprouting.
  2. Alkalizing: Sprouts supports out immune system and assists in purifying the body due to its alkalizing effect.
  3. Nutritional Value: Eating even half a cup of sprouts will increase the nutritional value of your daily diet. They supply us with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein and chlorophyll. Research indicates that sprouted seeds have extremely higher content of nutrition than raw seeds. For example, when sprouted some seeds provide us with significant amount of vitamin A, B, C and E, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc etc.
  4. Protein: Sprouts are also rich in protein making is great for vegetarians and also good for people who are trying to lose weight.
  5. Enzymes: Any living foods, fresh fruits and vegetables contains rich amount of enzymes and enzymes support our digestion, reduces inflammation and helps with joint health too.
  6. Enzyme inhibitor and phytic acid: One of the first thing you learn when you come to my Ayurvedic cooking class is the importance of soaking and sprouting grains, beans, lentils, nut and seeds. In order to sprout a seed you need to add water and the water breaks down the enzyme inhibitor in the seed which makes it easier to digest. Raw seeds are sleeping, not alive and the only way to wake them up is to soak them. Sprouting inactivates phytic acids from the seeds which make it better digestible.
  7. Fiber: We all need an extra hand in getting more fiber in our body. Sprouting is a great way to get fiber into your diet. Fiber binds the toxins in your body to get rid of them and it also helps push bowels from the large intestine.
  8. Essential fatty acids: Eating sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds will also supply you with essential fatty acids.

How to grow sprouts:IMG_1384

Utensils required:

Sprouting Jar

Filtered water

Seeds

Process:

  1. When you select your seeds to sprout, make sure to pick through and discard any discoloured, broken, dark and mouldy seeds.
  2. Using a sieve (especially if seeds are small) wash the seeds thoroughly.
  3. In a regular glass jar or a sprouting jar soak them in filtered or spring water.
  4. Screw the sprout jar lid on the jar and keep the jar away from light.
  5. Remember to check the soaking chart (or you can google it) because depending on the size and hardness of the seed, soaking time will vary between 4-12 hours.
  6. After soaking discard the water and rinse the seeds well.
  7. Keep the seeds moist (damp) until they sprout.
  8. Rinse the seeds couple of times a day.
  9. Some seeds start to sprout in 3-4 hours and other may take up to 2 days.

Notes:

  1. If you are using a regular jar for sprouting then cover with a thin cloth and hold the cloth in its place using a rubber band,
  2. Seeds need to be kept moist and aired but not soaked/wet, otherwise there is a chance of mould growing in the seeds.

What seeds can you sprout?

Here are few of my favourites. For best sprouting results start with whole mung beans (green), chickpeas, and sunflower seeds.

Pulses (legumes): red lentils, whole lentils, pea, chickpeas, mung beans.IMG_1385

Cereals (grains): oat, wheat, corn (maize), rice, barley, rye, kamut, quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat.

Seeds: sesame, sunflower

Brassica family: broccoli, cabbage, mustard, watercress, radish, arugula (rocket), turnip etc.

Parsley family: carrot, celery, fennel and parsley

Allium: onion, leek

Wild Foods: alfalfa, red clover, fenugreek, milk thistle

Ayurveda and Sprouting:

Just like any other food, sprouts too have side effects if eaten in excess. They can cause flatulence if eaten in excess. Ayurveda recommends sprouts mostly for Pitta and Kapha dosha. Excess gas can cause bloating which may not be desirable if you are a Vata dosha person (air and space humor). Some raw sprouts may also have hemagglutinins, which is known to  inhibit the absorption of proteins and fats. The best seed to sprout are mung beans. Mung beans are known to support weight loss, hormonal balance, increase fertility and reduce PMS as well as menopause symptoms.

Creative way of using sprouts in your meals:

1.      If you own a grain mill, you can make homemade sprouted flour.

2.      You can make bread with sprouted grain flour.

3.      Enjoy sprouts with your salads and soups.

4.      Stir fry sprouts with garam masala and other microgreens.

5.      Add sprouts in your homemade sandwiches and wraps.

6.      I learned from my Atlanta trip (at a raw food class) to use sprouted chickpea when making humm

7.      Eat sprouts on their own as a breakfast dish.

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‘Breathing is the physical part of thinking and thinking is the psychological part of breathing.” – Ayurveda

Pranayama is a part of Yoga system that teaches you the art of extending your breath in many different ways. When practicing pranayama the breath should be skillfully inhaled, exhaled and retained. It teaches you to change the depth, rate and pattern of breathing.

Pranayama is a Sanskrit word which literally translates into “extension of the prana or breath”.  ‘Prana’ means life-force and it is the life-force or vital energy that pervades the body. Prana is the link between mind and consciousness. The physical manifestation of “prana’ is breath and ”ayama” means to extent or draw out the breath.

When the Breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the Breath is still, so is the mind still.” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Breathing is vital for our survival as it is the only way we can send oxygen inside our body and into our organs. We can live for months without consuming food and days without water, however we can only survive a few minutes without breathing. When you learn the breathing techniques it will positively affect your actions and thoughts. Every thought we have changes the rhythm of our breath. When we are happy breathing is rhythmic and when we are stressed breathing is irregular and interrupted. Mastering the art of breathing is a crucial step towards self-healing and survival.

Best time to practice:

Pranayama or breathing exercise can be a great way to start your day. Early morning is the best time to practice pranayama, especially outside where you can find fresh air. It is recommended to do breathing exercises on an empty stomach. There are some contraindications to these breathing exercises that I will discuss when I explain the pranayama’s.

Benefits of Pranayama:

  1. Pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress related disorder.
  2. Pranayama improves the autonomic functions.
  3. It helps relieving the symptoms of asthma.
  4. It reduces the signs of oxidative stress in the body.
  5. Practicing pranayama everyday can assist in steady mind, strong will power and sound judgement.
  6. Regular pranayama can extend life and enhance ones perception of life.
  7. Number of studies show that pranayama causes change in the cardio respiratory system including lowering of blood pressure
  8. Certain pranayama’s are excellent for weight loss.

 Getting ready for Pranayama:

To do pranayama sit facing east or north in a comfortable cross legged position on a yoga mat. Make sure your head, neck and chest are in a straight line and keep your spine stretched. Pranayama should not be performed within an hour of eating, bathing or sexual activity without at least an hour gap.

Who should not be doing Pranayama?

Pranayama should be practiced with care and it is better to do advanced pranayama with a teacher’s guidance.

  • Pranayama is not recommended during menstruation, and pregnancy.
  • Anyone with any form of heart condition, particularly if they have a recent history of heart attack. People with low blood pressure must practice pranayama under the guidance of a teacher or Ayurvedic Doctor.
  • Avoid if you have fever, bronchitis, or pneumonia.
  • Anyone going through radiation or chemo therapy.
  • Not recommended for anyone going through psychological condition, sadness, grief, trauma, anger, anxiety, depression or suicidal feelings.

Basic Pranayama practice:

Before doing Pranayama’s such as Bhastrika, or bellows breath, practice purification of nervous system which is called Nadi Shodhona in sanskrit. It is recommended to start Pranayama practice with “alternate nostril breathing” and “breath awareness.”

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Anuloma Viloma):

This pranayama is breathing through alternate nostrils of the nose. It is otherwise known as Purification of the Nervous System or Nadi Shodhona Pranayama. It is very calming and purifying.

Position: Sit comfortably in a chair with your feet firmly on the floor. Or sit cross legged on the floor.

Repetitions: Begin 10 rounds with breathing through the left nostril and 10 rounds breathing with the right.

Steps to practice Anuloma Viloma

Alternate nostrils are closed, generally by using the right hand’s thumb, ring and little finger. The thumb is used for closing the right nostril and the ring and little fingers are used to close the left nostril. The mouth is closed, and is not used for breathing. No sound should be produced while inhaling or exhaling.

The cycle of practice is:

Round One:

  • Begin by focusing your attention on your breathing for a minute. Observe the flow of breath in both nostrils. pranayama_fingers01
  • Form the Pranayama Mudra on your right hand and raise your hand. (See picture)
  • Close the right nostril is closed with the right hand thumb and inhale deeply through the left nostril.
  • After inhaling, close the left nostril with ring and pinky finger and exhale through the right nostril.
  • After exhaling through the right nostril and inhale through the same nostril.
  • Close the right nostril after inhaling and exhale through the left.

To summarize in this round you will – inhale left – exhale right – inhale right – exhale left. After 10 rounds return the hand to the knee and form a “gyan mudra”. Then concentrate for one minute on normal breathing.

Round Two:

  • Position the left hand in Pranayama Mudra.
  • Repeat the process beginning with the right nostril inhalation.
  • Now inhale right – exhale left – inhale left – exhale right.

After 10 rounds return the hand to the knee and concentrate for one minute on normal breathing and the rhythm of the heartbeat.

Mrigi Mudra Pranayama

Benefits of Anulom Viloma:

  • With this pranayama you will instantly experience peace and blissfulness. As though you were transported into a new world.
  • It is said in the yoga science this pranayama cleanses 72,000 nadis or channels in the body.
  • It helps purify the blood and the respiratory system.
  • The deeper breathing enriches the blood with oxygen. As a matter of fact large amount of oxygen goes to the brain, lungs, heart, and capillaries.
  • It balances and calms our nervous system so when stressed this is extremely beneficial.
  • It helps relieve anxiety, nervousness and headaches.
  • This pranayama helps to strengthen the respiratory system.

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I smell the most aromatic flavours when spices sizzle and dance in ghee. I feel the warmth in the kitchen and my mouth waters instantly just by the smell of heated ghee. For me ghee is an elixir and the ultimate brain food. This is the quintessential source of vegetarian fat that is used in South East Asian cooking. It is extremely popular in Ayurveda as a medicine itself and also as a medium to deliver medicine in your body.

While growing up we did not like the fat in our milk. So what my mother used to do was save all the cream and fat from the milk. She had a container full of cream and fat in the freezer that she would top up every day. One day I saw what she was doing and asked her what was she up to? She told me, Nahid dear, I will be making homemade butter and ghee. And I was super surprised and excited. I loved ghee! Just didn’t know you could make it from the discarded fat of the milk. Hmmm….

How butter is made:

A milkman would deliver fresh whole milk early in the morning, from the cows he raised. Oh yea! As young children we indeed had the luxury of drinking raw unpasteurized milk. My mother only made sure the milk was warm before she gave it to us. We never liked the fat or cream on top of our milk, so we used to scoop it out. After that my mother started collecting the cream and soon was able to accumulate a big bowl of it, since we had milk delivered almost every day. She stored the cream in the freezer.

If you are interested in making ghee this way all you have to do is separate the cream from the milk. This is easy because the cream portion of the milk is lighter than the liquid part of the milk and would always rise on the top. When you leave the milk on your counter top for an hour or so, you will see the cream rising to the top.

Once my mother collected enough cream, she would then defrost her frozen cream, add water to it and churn. The churning made it thicker and turned into a homemade butter.  All she had to do now was to squeeze out excess water from the butter before suing it to make ghee. YUM!

Easy ghee making: 

The kitchen smelled like festive room that was filled with aroma, flavour and crazy deliciousness, when my mother started melting butter over low heat for a long period of Cultured Buttertime. All I could think of, at the time was when will she make Biryani (traditional rice & meat dish) from it? Once the butter started to melt she would wait until she could see bubbles that indicated that water was evaporated and the milk solids would separate from this golden, rich liquid. She would then strain the liquid and store the ghee in a glass jar.

Ghee making recipe: VPK

I will share a rather easy recipe with you. You can make it at home using organic unsalted butter or use cultured butter (if you can find it) for best ghee ever! If you have the patience you try it at least once to make it like my mother and collect the cream from whole milk. It takes about a week or two to accumulate cream from milk. I called my mother and she said she used to get 4 cups of cream for 2 litres of milk (approximately). If you want to make it using a quicker method than buy organic butter and follow the recipe below – for an easy make.

Ingredient:

1 bar of organic butter, unsalted

Utensils required:

  • Stainless steel pan
  • 1 large spoon
  • Sieve
  • Sterilized glass jar with lid, to store ghee

Preparation:

  1. Place the butter in a stainless steel, heavy-bottomed pot.
  2. Melt on low heat for approximately 2 hours.
  3. Adjust the heat until it begins to bubble or simmer. This simmer is an indicator that water is now evaporated from the butter.
  4. In an hour, you will see white foam will begin to accumulate on the top. Scoop out some of it.
  5. After close to 2 hours give it stir with a big spoon. The foam starts to reduce and break up, and the butter will look like a uniform golden color.
  6. If you see brown sediments have begun to form at the bottom of the pan, the ghee is ready. Make sure you do not burn it during the final minutes of cooking. Remove from the heat and allow cooling.
  7. Put the sieve on top of the glass jar and pour the liquid ghee into the jar.

Notes:

  1. After sterilizing a jar and its lid in a pot of boiling water, remove and dry the jar with a clean towel.
  2. Make sure only the golden liquid oil and not the sediment at the bottom of the pot is poured into the glass jar.
  3. Store in a cool place. (does not required to store in the fridge)
  4.   Use ghee for traditional cooking or stir fired vegetables. I stir ghee into my khichari.

If you are in Mississauga or Toronto  then you can easily get homemade ghee from Conscious Health. Click here to check it out. Keep an eye on my future posts for recipes that include ghee and benefits of ghee.

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Suitable for Vata and Kapha Dosha (VK)

After being away from Bangladesh for more than 4 years now, I miss my mother, my best friend and the aromatic kitchens of my aunts. When I was growing up we only had one fast food joint called “Swiss Bakery” (later there were fast food places in every nock and corner). It was very near my home on Bailey Road, where the sophisticated shoppers would come for Saree’s (An outfit that all married Bangali women would wear), to look for the best in Bangali literature in a book shop named “Tobuo Boi Porun” (Still Keep of Reading Books) and to watch latest show at the theatre. Swiss Bakery was at the heart of Baily Road where they sold chicken sandwiches, beef pies, chicken in pastry, and sweets. It was rather a gourmet affair at the time. I feel silly today for craving all the baked goods from Swiss Bakery. Although they were good, but what I miss today if a good meal cooked by my mother or my aunts. Sometimes I can tell whose cooking it is by smelling the food.

When you enter their house around lunch or dinner time, the aromas you will smell from their kitchen is unforgettable. Both my mother and my aunts did their own grocery shopping from the local market also known as Bazaar. Sometimes the hawkers would come around our house shouting (rather rhythmically) out the names of the vegetables that they were carrying. The LUXURY! And the entertaining part of it all was when you get to see them bargain. Ah…well, let’s not go there and reveal family secrets. Once shopping was done the preparation of spices, vegetables, fish or chicken would begin. You can hear the chatting in the kitchen, the sound of grinding, pounding. slicing, sizzling and stirring of the spoon in a “karai” (pot). Best of all, the cooking aroma from the kitchen towards the end would sometimes giveaway what would be for lunch or dinner.

One aroma that I always remember fondly is that of a Panch Phoron that literally means Five Spices or five flavours. This is a rare treat only when you visit a Bangali home. Although is may does resemble a spice mixture used in South Indian or Sri Lankan cooking when they temper their lentil soups or dals. Pach Phoron is a delicate blend of five spices – cumin, mustard seeds, fennel. fenugreek and nigella seeds. Every Bangali make their own and keep it in their kitchen to prepare tempering for lentil soups, make “shada torkari” (assorted white vegetables – because no other spice will be used), and to make a simple vegetable dish. You can make a single vegetable taste like flavour bursting in your mouth by simple adding the Panch Phoron. The array of vegetables that can be used to go with Panch Phoron are eggplants, spinach, yam, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, beans etc. – just to begin with. You can add it to mangoes to make flavourful chutney.

The best thing about Panch Phoron is – it does not need to be grinded. It is one of a kind spice mix that is a blend of five whole spices.

Panch Phoron Blend:

  • 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. of whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp. of whole fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp. of nigella seeds
  • ½ tbsp. of black mustard seeds
  • ½ tbsp. of fenugreek seeds

Panch phoron is super easy to make, because all you do is mix all the five ingredients in a bowl and store it in a jar, untoasted. Keep it in a cool place that is away from heat and light. Wow! It is that easy. That means no cooking, grinding or toasting required.

When to use Panch Phoron in cooking:

  1. You can use Panch Phoron at the beginning of cooking vegetables, so the flavours of the spices are coated very well with the vegetables.
  2. Or you can “temper” Panch Phoron in cooking oil separately and add the hot spice into a dal or soup. Tempering in a method where you fry spices in a separate pan and add the hot spices on top of the cooked food. It is also popularly known as “tarka” in South East Asia.

How to use Panch Phoron in cooking:

  1. In a karai or pan heat 2 tsp. of mustard oil or ghee until it reaches a smoking point.
  2. Add 1 tsp. of the five spices and lower the heat to avoid burning and sputtering of the seeds.
  3. Once you smell the flavours turn of the heat and add it to you cooked dal or lentil soup.
  4.  Or once the aroma of the spices are released sauté your favourite vegetables in the pot with the spices in them.

Tips: When you are using Panch Phoron for dal as a tarka, add minced garlic, 1-2 bay leaves or 4-5 curry leaves to make the tarka extra delicious. YUM!!

Names of the spices in Bangla:

Cumin seeds – Jeera

Fennel seeds – Mouri (sauf in Hindi)

Fenugreek – Methi

Nigella seeds – Kalojeera (Kalonji in Hindi)

Mustard seeds – Shorisha (Sarso in Hindi)

You will find all these spices in any Indian or South East Asian grocery store. You can also fine pre-packaged Panch Phoron. Because they are all whole spices, you can easily afford to buy it as a spice blend.

Benefits of the Spices in Panch Phoron:

Cumin (VPK): It is a cooling spice and is known as the “seeds of good digestion.” Cumin enhances absorption, supports digestion and metabolism without overheating the system. It is a good source of iron and manganese. IMG_2544

Fennel (VPK): A cooling spice that gently stimulates the digestive fire or HCl, without creating body heat. An excellent source of vitamin C, it is also a very good of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, folate, and molybdenum.

Fenugreek (VK): Support fat metabolism, increase break milk in mothers with newly born babies.

Mustard Seeds (VK): It contains selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. It is an excellent source of iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, niacin, protein and dietary fiber. It is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Nigella Seeds (VK): Balances the hormonal system, adds a unique flavor, and balances the subdosas of the colon and stomach.

I find this is the most commonly used spice in our kitchen. My husband’s new found love of Panch Phoron is so much that I often run out of it. Panch Phoron not only adds a different dimension in your cooking but also sweetens the cooking oil when you are frying it. Note the all the spices in the blend are seeds.

I feel that this spice blend is mostly suitable for Vata, and Kapha dosha. I tried to make it Tri doshi by reducing the amounts of mustard and fenugreek. I have lowered the proportion of the fenugreek because it is bitter and mustard because it is pungent.

I promise to share one great recipes using Panch Phoron in my upcoming blog posts.

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I am getting nostalgic in my kitchen here at Conscious Health. It is like aromatherapy in the room with the freshly toasted spices on a heated pan. When the exotic spices from South East Asia expelled their aroma, I was instantly transported in my mother’s kitchen. My mother, all my aunts, my best friend’s mothers and my own grandmother have their own version of this rather larger than life spice mix, known as Garam Masala. In Bangladesh we call it Gorom Moshola. Both mean the same – Mixed hot spices.

If you love South East Asian food or you are thinking in your head to attempt for the first time a deep, dark and delicious curry recipe, then I urge you to make your own IMG_2537Garam Masala. I assure you that you will know the difference when you make it from scratch and add it your dish versus buying it pre-packaged. Not an ounce of adventure is hiding it that packaged garam masala. One of my aunts was extremely particular about the spices that went into her mix and the exact quantity of them. I used to ask her to make me a bottle when she made hers. So if you know someone who has a special Garam Masala recipe, something that was handed from the generation past, please ask them to make you a bottle. You may have to bribe them, of course an ethical bribe. Anything for a

As a teenager I spent many hours in their kitchens – all my aunts, my grandmother and my best friends mothers. I had a strong bonding with all of them. So guess what? When it came to sharing recipe, most of them did not hesitate. So here it is – my most favourite Garam Masala recipe that is aromatic, hot (as in sexy), rich, deep and ummm…head spinningly delicious.bottle of homemade and fresh Garam Masala.  And if they give you the recipe – oh my, you are in for a treat. You can now enter into your own culinary adventure to India, Bangladesh or Pakistan, from the convenience of your kitchen.

Garam Masala Recipe:

Serving: Makes one small jar

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. of whole cumin seeds
  • 4 tsp. of whole coriander seeds
  • 2 pods of green cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. of black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. of whole cloves
  • 1 mace skin
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon powder

Preparation: 

  • Measure all spices and keep them in a bowl, except for the cinnamon powder.
  • In a pan heat all the whole spices for 2-3 minutes.
  • After spices are toasted, turn the heat off and let them cool.
  • Add all the spices into a spice grinder and include the cinnamon.
  • Alternatively use a mortar and pestle. (I make all my cooking class students do this!)
  • Once spice is blended, run it through a sieve.
  • Store the freshly ground homemade Garam Masala in a glass bottle.

 

Garam Masala

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If you love doing yoga or you are curious about self-healing, then Ayurveda is perfect for you. I will explain very simply what Ayurveda is and how it can benefit you and your family members. As you read this blog, you will go deeper into a trance of knowledge, taste the rich flavour of this medicinal practice and learn all about the magical powers of spices, herbs and food. You will see nature unveil some juicy and enticing stories from its womb about what it produces for mankind. All this and more without any spells, witches, portions or political conspiracies. Ayurveda will share with you some secrets of self-care, cleansing, self-healing and living in blissful state of being. It will nurture you, nourish you and provide you salvation. It shares gems of knowledge about human health, nature and our connection to the universe. It shares fairy tale like stories of healing, energy and strength. Without Ayurveda there is no magic, or no fun in healing.

My introduction with Ayurveda:

It is said that Ayurveda is 5,000 year old ancient healing science. The word “Ayu” means “life” and “veda” means “knowledge”. Ayurveda teaches us the knowledge of life and health. 5,000 years ago the world map did not look the same as today. My country was not yet separated from India. Hence I consider Ayurveda as my own heritage as well.

Growing up in Bangladesh I learned many “home remedies” from my mother. She always had an answer for digestive discomfort or hormonal imbalances. She was not a nutritionist or an Ayurveda expert, however she knew what spices, herbs and foods to use to alleviate ailments that were due to an imbalanced body. She taught me to eat papaya to improve my digestion and regulate my menstrual cycle. She taught me how to clean and cook food in a way that will provide maximum nutrition and what spices to use for glowing skin. This is how I learned about Ayurveda at the beginning. Ayurveda offers an amazing balance between the art and the science of living.

Being aware of your body-type:

In the magical world of Ayurveda, the ancient healers related our body profile with nature. The “panch-mahabhutas” or the “5 elements” that are present in this universe are earth, water, fire, wind and space. Our body too, represents and holds these five elements and from these five elements Ayurveda finds its theory of 3 body types or dosha types for each human being. All of us have these 5 elements present inside the body, however some of us may have one element more and the other elements less. This finding of which elements within you is dominating, explains very easily what your dosha is.

The three body types are known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Vata is a subtle energy that represents movement, and movement is possible when there is space to move. Thus Vata holds the nature of wind and space elements. A well balanced Vata person has a quick mind, loves to move around, shows flexibility and creativity. It is hard for Vata types to stay in one place either physically or mentally. An imbalanced Vata person may experience fear, anxiety and nervousness. Like the air and the space, Vata people have cold, dry, light and mobile quality within themselves. If you are a Vata person than eat warm foods and spices, do warm oil massage to keep warm and combat dry skin, and avoid eating cold, raw and frozen foods

Pitta is a subtle energy the represents heat and metabolism. It showcases the very nature of fire and water. It governs the body’s digestion, absorption, metabolism and temperature. A well balanced Pitta person is blessed with good digestive system, strong appetite, intelligence and sound sleep. An imbalanced Pitta person can get easily agitated, become aggressive and lean towards hatred, jealousy and anger. Like the fire and the water, Pitta people have hot, oily, sharp, and mobile qualities in them. If you are a Pitta dominated person then avoid excessive heat, limit salt intake, avoid spicy, fried foods and reduce citrus fruits during summer.

Kapha, represents our bodily structure with bones, muscles and tendons. It also provides the glue that holds our cells together. You guessed it right – Kapha is the earth and the water energy. Kapha qualities are dense, heavy, slow, cold and soft – just like water and earth. A well balanced Kapha person is loving, caring, calm, forgiving and shares a lot with others. However, an imbalanced Kapha person is lethargic, possessive, greedy and envious. If you are dominated by the Kapha than follow a disciplined life, avoid cold and oily foods, get plenty of exercise and keep warm.

Wow! Now you have a whole new vocabulary. This is just the beginning of your learning about Ayurveda.

Medicinal power of foods

Shhh..!! Don’t discuss this with Medical Doctors who thinks food has nothing to do with healing. Write down all these secrets in a notebook and leave it for the generation to come before the pharmaceuticals companies patent the herbs and spices. Or maybe the big corporations will take away all your memories of how to prepare good meals by offering your packaged, processed, canned and bottled foods, in the name of convenience.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Understanding the power of food for healing is very simple. You just have to learn how to observe, taste and understand foods that you consume from nature. Ayurveda talks about food and diet as a healing medium. If focuses on the shape, color, taste and reaction after eating the food to understand what it can do for us. For example, when you crack open a walnut from its shell, it looks like the shape of the brain! And guess what it is packed with Omega 3 that is amazing for your brain health. Almonds and bilberries have the shape of the eyes or eyeballs and they are indeed good for your vision, and saffron strands looks like semen and is indeed good for the reproductive organs. Black, blue and purple foods are rich is minerals such as zinc, potassium etc. Spicy and pungent flavour foods improves our metabolism and bitter tasting foods purifies the blood.

Now you can start looking at your fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs differently. Bite into them, taste them and savour them in your mouth. When you have one food at a time you will appreciate nature more and understand its healing power of foods.

Combo Body-type

Only a small percentage of people are purely Vata, Pitta or Kapha. When do learn more about yourself and start being aware of your body and mind more, you will understand that each of us possesses a proportion of all three doshas. Some of us are share two dosha traits and some all three. In my own case two doshas – Kapha and Vata, combines to determined my physical appearance and personality.

Way of preparing foods

Ayurveda prefers cooked food versus raw food, especially for Kapha and Vata dosha. They often experience cold body temperature and therefore it is recommended to eat warm foods for both these dosha’s.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Previously people used to consume ripened fruits and mature vegetables. However in today’s date fruits and vegetables are picked quite early before they get enough sun light. Therefore, to include the fire element in our meals it is recommended to eat cooked foods.

Raw foods are great and are full of enzymes but they are hard to digest. When you cook the vegetables down the fibres softens down and is then easy to digest. Raw foods that were grown closer to the ground or inside the ground may also contain parasites. Therefore you must wash and clean you produce properly. Adding spices such as garlic, ginger, black pepper, and long pepper will also reduce the chances of parasite.

Adding spices and herbs

We are now on my favourite topic, spices!! I use them in everything that I consume – juices, smoothies, teas, main meals and even desserts. No meal is complete in my house without spices. In my kitchen I possibly have 45-50 different spices and dried herbs. I just love cooking with them. I also make my own spice blends such as garam masala (Staple in South Asian cuisine), curry powder (commercial spice blend mostly in Western countries), Dukkah (sesame spice blend), chat masala (Pakistani & Indian spice blend) and paanch phoron (5 spice mix – a Bengal spice blend).

Now there is something you must know. If you apply heat to these spices, they release their essential oils and all of them have medicinal values. This is why I toast my spices before I make my spice blends. Some of the major Ayurvedic spices are turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, ginger, black pepper and coriander seeds. All of these spices are suitable for all three dosha’s. (Black pepper in excess may aggravate Pitta)

See this chart below to enter into the world of magical wonderland of spices and herbs

Spice Benefits
Turmeric Anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, anti-viral. Great for glowing skin and weight loss.
Cumin Supports digestion
Coriander Seeds Supports kidney and urinary tract
Cinnamon Balancing blood sugar and improving circulation
Cardamom Assists in liver detoxification. Eases tension and stress related digestive problems.
Ginger Improves circulation, soothes throat and alleviates nausea.
Black Pepper Antioxidant. Enhances bioavailability of vitamins and minerals from other foods.

To conclude I want to say that Ayurveda teaches us to apply common sense when looking at nature and ourselves. As you learn more about Ayurveda you will know how simple and easy healthy living is. It is so simple that people in this industrial and informational era finds it hard to believe. Start with basics by introducing real, wholesome and unprocessed foods from nature. Look, taste and understand them, take a little time in cooking for you and your family.

Wait for my next blog and I will simplify how you can choose the foods when you are imbalanced and heal fast.

 

It’s not what you think!…okay, may be a little. I will be talking about picking chickweed. What weed??

Chickweed, also known as starweed, is a cooling and alkalizing herb.

My walk at High Park, Toronto this past weekend inspired my new kitchen creations at home. I leaned all about Herbal Medicine and Edible Weeds from my Herbal teacher Susan Elliotson. She owns an amazing property at Caledon, Ontario where she teaches students Herbal Pharmacy courses. Learning from Susan made me fall in love with herbs and edible greens. I also met Karen Stephenson at Susan’s place who is a wild edible enthusiast. Karen is all about wild foraging, and incorporating edible wild foods or weeds into her diet. When invited for the “wild edible walk in the park” this weekend I just couldn’t resist! Simply put she knows her local weeds that nature offers for free! I have long been waiting for Chickweed to make a Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Chickweed Pesto! Upon my request Karen brought me a bag full of chickweed for me to play with in my kitchen.

You can rely on many weeds for food and medicine. Chickweed is no different. Chickweed can be found settled nicely into local landscape and is among the most popular herbal remedies today. It is an annual plant that grows in many locations in Ontario. It is an easy to grow plant that grows in a unique intertwined manner. 1 If you are interested in harvesting your own Chickweed check with your local park or local native plant societies or your backyard. Just make sure no herbicide or pesticide was sprayed around that area and it is not near the highways (lots of pollution). There are many books on how to pick wild foods that you can check out.

Before I talk about what I did with my “bag of Chickweed”, I want to share a little bit more about Chickweed and the benefits of this amazing wild edible! 

About Chickweed:

Stellaria media or Chickweed is sweet and mildly bitter in taste. It is mild enough to be eaten safely, raw in your salad. Stellaria is Chickweed’s genus name that means “star.” The tiny white star like flowers of the plant is responsible for its name. Chickweed if known to be found anywhere in the world, where there is moist and cultivated soil.2 Instead of trying to figure out how to get rid of this weed from your backyard add it to your diet for its nutritional and healing properties.

Parts of the Chickweed Plant used:

Leaves: Chickweed leaves can be used for salads, pesto sauce, sandwiches, soups and stews.

Stems: The stems from Chickweed can be used for soups and stews.

Flowers: Chickweed also produces edible flower parts that can be used in salads and soups.

Medicinal Benefits of Chickweeds:

Chickweed is well known for its emollient (plants that are used externally to soften and soothe) and demulcent (plants that relieves irritation) properties. It is a major herb for relieving skin irritation and eye inflammation, kidney and liver disorders.

5 Benefits of Chickweed:

  1.  Beneficial for the Skin: Chickweed makes excellent poultice for skin irritation such as rashes and itchiness. I have personally used Chickweed Salve to conquer itchy skin when I had hives. It is also used to treat eczema, psoriasis, boils and nettle stings.
  2.  Weed for Weight Loss: Chickweed has diuretic and laxative property therefore it reduces water retention and assists with constipation – both assisting in weight loss. However unlike pharmaceutical diuretics it will not rob the body of minerals.  As a demulcent Chickweed is said to soothe hunger pangs and relives minor irritation in the digestive tract.3
  3.  Nutrition: Chickweed is packed with nutritional substances. It is an excellent source of Vitamin A, all the B Vitamins, Vitamin C and Vitamin D. Crucial minerals such as copper, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, sodium, silica and zinc. It is high in chlorophyll and also contains omega-6 fatty acids, protein, carotenoids, coumarins and bio-flavonoid.4 Saponins in the Chickweed, like soap, emulsify and increase the permeability of cellular membranes. This increases our body’s ability to absorb nutrients, especially minerals.5 The saponins also break down the fat cells.
  4.  Thyroid: Chickweed also nourishes and regulates thyroid functions. Thus have an effect on our metabolism.
  5.  The saponins in chickweed exert an anti-inflammatory action similar to cortisone but much milder and without the harmful side effects.6 The saponins can also break down unwanted formations in the body such as benign tumors, cysts, accumulated mucus in the digestive tract or the respiratory system etc.7

 Chickweed & Cheese Sandwich

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of sprouted bread
  • Butter for the breads
  • Couple of slices of mozzarella cheese or any cheese you like
  • ¼ cup of Chickweed
  • Half of a lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp. of ground cumin
  •  Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tsp. of sesame seed oil

Preparation:

  • In a small pan add oil and stir in the chickweed. IMG_2389
  • Add lemon juice, salt, pepper and cumin.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes and turn off the heat.
  • Toast the bread slices and butter it up.
  • Add the cheese slices and sprinkle black pepper on it.
  • In the same pan you cooked the chickweed, lightly fry the cheese for a minute.
  • On the toast, put the melted cheese and the chickweed on top.
  • Butter the other slice of bread and make a sandwich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last night I made my favourite kale salad recipe and thought I should share it with you. I used the very popular dinosaur kale, also known as the black cabbage, to prepare my salad. This is an exciting leafy green that has varieties [different types of kale leaves] and provides us with a lot of nutrition. You must get organic and fresh kale. Kale grows well into winter, therefore easy to find in Canada.

Preparing kale for optimal health benefits:

Thyroid Health:
Kale belongs to the Cruciferous or Brassica family. When eaten raw cruciferous vegetables are known to suppress thyroid function for those who are suffering from low thyroid function, mainly because they contain goitrogens. Goitrogens interfere with iodine uptake and, in that way, also interfere with production of thyroid hormones. However if you steam the kale you can negate this affect. Contrary to popular belief cruciferous vegetables are not “goitrogenic” food that will cause goitor just because you eat them. In fact if you are a healthy person it will not interfere with your thyroid function.

Heart Health:
Another reason to steam or cook kale is that it can provide cholesterol lowering benefits. The fiber related components in kale bind together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they are steamed. When this binding process takes place, it is easier for the bile acids to be excreted which then results in lowering cholesterol.

Losing the Parasite:
Leafy greens before they are picked are – perfect breeding ground for a microscopic parasite to lay eggs. Make sure when you are eating raw kale it is thoroughly cleaned and washed to remove any pathogens that may still be there. Lightly steaming may help lose the parasite. I add lots of lemon or lime juice and garlic to my raw kale to negate this factor.

Preventing Cancer:
Research is now showing that kale can lower the risk of five different types of cancer – bladder, breast, colon, ovary and prostate. Isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from glucosinolates in kale play a primary role in achieving these risk-lowering benefits. The ITCs can also help detox our body at a genetic level.

Nutritional affect of Kale:
According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman [author of Eat Right America], kale scores highest [along with collard greens and few others] in his nutrient dense food chart.

Micronutrients:
Kale contains high amount of Vitamin K and A. It also contains significant amount of Vitamin C, beta carotene and manganese.

Flavonoids:
Flavonoids are naturally occurring plant pigments that make fruits and vegetables beneficial for our health. They have antioxidants, anti-histamine, anti-microbial, memory and mood enhancing properties. Kale also provides us with at least 45 different flavonoids, including kaempferol and quercetin. Many of the flavonoids in kale are also now known to have anti-inflammatory compounds.

Building block of Omega 3:
Kale also provides us with a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the basic building block for all omega-3 fats. Omega 3 is known to reduce inflammation.

Fiber:
Kale contains both soluble and insoluble fiber that is crucial for our colon health.

Recipes:

Dino Kale Salad:

1 bunch organic dinosaur kale
½ garlic clove
¼ tsp. of sea salt
2-3 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup of lemon juice, freshly squeezed
½ an avocado
½ a tomato
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
Pinch of red chili flakes
Black pepper to taste

Directions:

• Cut off the stems [1/4 inch from the end] and chop kale leaves roughly. Put the leaves in a salad bowl.
• In another small bowl mix olive oil, garlic, red chili flakes and shallots.
• Squeeze half a lemon to get the juice and pour it on the kale leaves.
• Massage the juice on the leaves and let it sit for 5 minutes.
• Chop avocado and tomato.
• Add the avocado and tomato to the kale leaves and mix well.
• Pour in the olive oil mixture, salt and pepper to the salad bowl.
• You can enjoy this leafy green salad on it’s own or with a main. It is a plate cleanser!

IMG_1827

Miso and Curly Kale Soup:

Ingredients:

5 kale leaves, thinly sliced or chiffonade
4 -5 cups of water
2 tbsp. of dark miso (and a cup of water)
5-6 shiitake mushroom, sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 tsp. of cumin powder
1 tbsp. of coconut oil or ghee

1/4 cup organic tofu, cubed (optional)

Directions

• In a bowl add miso paste and a cup of water to make a thin paste of miso.
• In a pot add coconut oil/ghee, ginger and shallots. Saute for 3-4 minutes.
• Pour in the rest of the water and bring to boil.
• Lower the heat after it starts to boil. Pour in the miso paste into the soup pot and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
• Add shiitake mushroom, kale and cumin powder in to the pot.
• Bring to a boil once more and lower heat to simmer the soup for 2 minutes.
• Add the scallions at the end.
Note: You can add tofu, tempeh or seaweed to this recipe.

Reference:
1. http://nourishedkitchen.com/foods-thyroid-health/
2. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=38
3. http://www.frequencyrising.com/parasitecleanse.htm
4. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200307/flavonoids-antioxidants-help-the-mind

Ginger, turmeric, cardamom and galangal all belong to zingiberaceae or the ginger family. Zingiberaceae, are a family of flowering plants consisting of aromatic perennial herbs with rhizomes. Rhizomes are knobby underground stems that have pungent and flavorful flesh.

5 benefits of spices from the ginger family

Ginger:

In Ayurveda Ginger is known as the “Universal Medicine” and is consumed as a spice and medicine.  It is well known for its usage in digestive and respiratory diseases.

  1. Ginger relieves nausea and vomiting. Therefore it is extremely useful for pregnant women.
  2. It also relieves inflammation and pain experienced in Arthritis.
  3. It can kindle the digestive fire [stimulating HCl] and improve digestion.
  4. Ginger improves circulation in our body and keeps us warm.
  5. It is good remedy for common cold, cough and flu.

You can find high quality ginger powder in the Conscious Health Shop.

Turmeric:

Fresh root of turmeric looks like a skinny version of ginger. Turmeric is known to heal the “whole person” and it is good for all three dosha’s [body type].

  1. Turmeric helps digestion, maintains intestinal flora (beneficial bacteria’s), and reduces gas.
  2. Turmeric can be used as an antiseptic for small cuts, wounds and burns.
  3. It helps reduce anxiety and stress.
  4. It purifies the blood, and improves formation of new blood tissue.
  5. Turmeric is well known for its use as a skin tonic.

You can find high quality turmeric powder in the Conscious Health Shop.

Cardamom:

Cardamoms are the dried fruits of the perennial herbs. There are two types of cardamom available in the market: green and the black cardamom. It is the third most expensive spice in the world after saffron and vanilla.

  1. Cardamom acts as an expectorant that opens up and cleans congestion in lungs and throat, allowing us to breathe freely.
  2. It also improves circulation and increases blood flow.
  3. Cardamom is one of the safest digestive stimulants. helps relieve intestinal gas and bloating while encouraging good digestion.
  4. Drinking coffee is stressful to the adrenal gland. Therefore adding ginger and cardamom to the coffee will neutralize this effect.
  5. Cardamom can be used for bad breath and gum disorders.

You can find premium cardamom powder in the Conscious Health Shop.

Ginger & Turmeric Pickle Recipe:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup of fresh organic ginger, sliced

1/4 cup of fresh organic turmeric, sliced

1 cup of extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. of Hingvastak

1 tsp. of black mustard seeds

1/2 tsp. of chili powder

2 tsp. of salt

Juice of a  of a lemon

Directions:

1. Slice ginger and turmeric without removing the skin. [if using organic source)

2. Heat some oil in the pan and add the spices. When the mustard seeds start to pop, turn the burner off. Add the spice mixture with the ginger and turmeric.

3. In a glass jar put the ginger, turmeric, rest of the oil, salt and lemon juice.

4. This can be stored for 2-3 months.

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