Traditional Indian Teas

main-qimg-adaee3ab7be2f4ad8848dcc8e26e0d4c-cAround 10 years ago when I was in the USA I learnt about how cows are factory farmed in inhumane, unnatural conditions and fed with hormones. I decided to go vegan for 6 months and see how I felt. The most difficult thing for me was to get rid of the so called “Indian tea”, made by boiling milk, black tea and sugar. I had a hard time drinking bland tasteless herbal teas. But I told myself it is just a matter of 6 months, honey! Take it as an exercise of will power and self control.

And by the end of 6 months I had started liking herbal teas, my taste buds seemed to have become sensitive and not wanting a strong “kick giving” tastes. I wanted to give myself a treat with Indian tea. Started making myself the treat! And guess what…I could not bear the smell of it! I had to go out of the house while it boiled. After coming back I poured it into my cup and tried drinking it. But I felt like throwing up. Instead I threw away the tea.

I was very surprised how my taste buds had changed. Think for yourself what could be the health benefits of the Indian tea and then think for yourself what could be the health benefits of herbal teas (mint, lemongrass, bergamot, tulsi, oregano, thyme, and so many more).

Last year I went to India and my family members were forcing us to have the Indian tea. And we made fun of how it is not an Indian tea but a british tea and how we are still the slaves of the British :-). I visited a restaurant in Mysore and ordered a “Kashaya” and then it struck me that THIS is the INDIAN TEA 🙂

So I have been making herbal teas and Kashaya at home. Here is a very simple recipe. I make garam masala at home since I do not eat chillis, instead use black pepper. After sieving the garam masala I transfer the left over to a bottle (lets call it garam masala husk :-)) to use in Kashayas. Now here is the recipe for a kashaya:

Ingredients

  1. 1/2 tsp clove powder.
  2. 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder.
  3. 1/2 tsp black pepper powder.
  4. 1/4 tsp turmeric powder.
  5. 1/2 tsp cardamom powder.
  6. 1 tsp of xanthum gum powder(dinka in marathi). This gives the tea the desired thickness.
  7. 2 tsp of garam masala husk.
  8. 5 cups of water.
  9. 2 tablespoons honey.

Mix all ingredients except honey. Boil until the quality halves. Let it cool a bit and add honey and drink warm!

Today I had it with barley flour samosas and stone ground cilantro-mint-tamarind chutney 🙂

 

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Benefits of Pranayama

Am reading this book by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati on pranayama and practicing pranayama after taking a yoga teacher training course in India and I feel so sad for knowing about pranayama so late in my life. I wish those who read this post get to know about it and teach their children Pranayama at an early age. Below I am sharing some excerpts from the book, sans the scientific jargon!

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1. With sustained practice of pranayama, the structure, the skin and the smell of the body begin to change.

2. One is full of fresh energy and the senses are calmed and their outgoing tendency diminishes.

3. Impurities are removed not only from the physical and panic bodies, but also from the mental, psychic and causal bodies.

4. The intellectual capacity increases and the mind and thoughts become more powerful.

5. Negative tendencies begin to top off almost automatically. The small things that could earlier spin one out of control dissolve into nothing.

6.It creates static electricity in the body thus recharging the positive ions breathed in from the environment and converting them into negative ions. The effect is the same as that created by rain and thunderstorm.

7. Contrary to popular belief, the oxygen intake reduces by almost half in pranayama, does NOT increase. However, pranayama allows more time for oxygen to mix wth the blood, more time to eliminate waste through breath and blood. After pranayama, the strengthened respiratory apparatus is able to bring in more oxygen through the rest of the day.

8. All organs are massaged making the digestive and eliminatory system healthier.

9. Exercises whole cardiac system, especially Nadi Shodhana is excellent for Hipertensive people, as it brings the systolic-diastolic ratio to normal.

10. It harmonizes, purifies and neutralizes the secretions of the endocrine glands. During certain pranayama the circulation of the blood becomes very rapid and quality of the blood is also rendered very rich, the endocrine glands function in enhanced way.

11. Transition from childhood to adulthood becomes smooth if children start practicing pranayama at the age of 8. This is because pineal gland normally begins to decay with the onset of puberty. Pineal gland acts as a check for the pituitary gland. Pituatary gland is responsible for controlling the growth and functions of the other endocrine glands. If the pituitary gland is not regulated form an early age, an imbalance arises between the physical and mental development and the emotions mature before they can be handled. To prevent the decay of the pineal gland, children should start practicing pranayama at the age of 7 or 8.

12. The spine receives a pull during pranayama, thus toning the nerve roots and giving a strong stimulus to the whole nervous system.

13. Alpha waves are emitted and beta waves are reduced in the brain. Alpha waves bring harmony to the brain.

 

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Tawa Sabudana Vada/ Pan fried Yucca patties

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I stopped eating fried food many years ago. And so I could not eat sabudana vada anymore. All these years I was making only Sabudana Khicdi at home. Today I tried sabudana vada on tawa. It was super delicious and needed very less oil to cook.

Ingredients:

  1. 1.5 Cup Tapioca Peals/Sabudana soaked overnight. Make sure to just cover the peals with water. Too much water will make them soggy.
  2. 1 Cup ground crunch peanut powder. Use a stone mortar for better taste.
  3. 1″ ginger finely chopped
  4. 5 Sprigs of Cilantro finely chopped
  5. 1 green chili finely chopped
  6. 1 tsp roasted cumin seeds
  7. 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  8. 2 Potatoes cooked and mashed
  9. Salt to taste

Process:
Mix all ingredients well so that it makes a binding mixture. If it does not bind sprinkle some water and mix the ingredients again. Massage with the hands like you would do to make a dough.

Heat the pan, make small balls of the mixture, flatten in your palms and spread on the pan. Brush with coconut oil. Once done on one side turn over, brush with coconut oil and remove when done. Alternatively you can bake them.

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Makes 15 vadas.

Serve with buttermilk. I am a vegan so I used almond milk, salt, lemon juice mixture and gave it a tadka/tempering of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves.

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Slow Cooking

I wish to share how I slow cook at home. I had started steam cooking after reading its health benefits as it retains the most nutrients. But gradually I realized by how much it reduced my time in the kitchen. I have the below steamer, it has a timer and 3 tiers. I can put rice, vegetables to make a curry at the same time. But that is not the real advantage for me. The real advantage is that I can work in the garden, go for my evening walk, clean my house, do yoga, sew or practice violin WHILE cooking. And if I do not return on time, the food does not get burnt, instead it stays warm for many hours!

So for those women who say they do not get time to do exercise, slow cookers are a boon 🙂

staemer

After many years of steam cooking we bought a slow cooker to cook beans like garbanzo, kidney beans, black beans for which we were otherwise using a pressure cooker. And not just that this slow cooker cooks about just anything. I make rice pulav, daal, polenta(like upma), sheera and much more in this. Again it has warm, simmer, low, high cooking settings and turns to warm mode once the timer is done. So I can put my lunch to cook in it, go to the farm and return after 4 hours for a hearty meal 🙂

slow cooker

Now with so much time saving, I have started to think of going back to traditional grinding for making chutney and am going to buy a silbatta of stone!

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It is never too late :-)

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I never liked my handwriting but then never put efforts to make it beautiful. Since around a year am teaching kids English in a local poor village and one of the kids who is 8 has such a beautiful handwriting that it inspired me to make mine too beautiful. Just my first day’s practice improved my handwriting on the white board to such an extent that I was really surprised. And so am continuing to improve it.

Here is the video which I found helpful:

Through his channel I came to know that he composes and plays music and does paintings with different mediums…what a store of talent!

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Nut Pulp Patties

patties

Ingredients for the patties:

  1. Pulp left from making milk from any nuts. In the photo the nut pulp is of hazelnuts and apricot seeds – 1/2 cup
  2. Parsely finely chopped – 1/4 cup
  3. Finely minced garlic – 3 large cloves
  4. Salt to taste
  5. 2 tsp of oil
  6. 1/2 cup wheat flour
  7. Water as per need

Process: Mix all ingredients well with water and make a dough. The dough will not feel like it sticks together and that is ok because we are not going to roll it rather pat in the palms to make the patties. Let the dough sit for 15-30 minutes. Divide into equal parts and make patties using the palms. Cook them on a large flat pan all together with a lid on the patties. The lid is important to keep the patties soft and moist. Turn over and cook until done with lid on.

Ingredients for the topping:

  1. 3 medium size carrots
  2. 1/2 cup loose parsley
  3. 1/8 cup raisins
  4. 1/4 cup pine nuts
  5. 1/2 lime’s juice
  6. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  7. 1 tsp of salt

Process: Add all to a food processor and make a coarse mixture.

Serve: Scoop 2 tablespoons of topping onto each patty and serve. Makes 8 patties. We had it with warm nut milk of (apricot seeds, hazelnut, cacao powder, jaggery, rose-water)

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Mudra Magic! My first experiences with Mudras

Sharing my experiences with mudras(will keep adding as I keep experimenting):

1. My first encounter with mudras was with my father. He started doing prana-mudra after reading that it is good for the eyes. My mom and dad both had glasses for reading. My mom’s number kept increasing but my dad’s number stayed the same and he said it is because of prana-mudra. My dad was a chain smoker!

2.Decades ago while studying for my engineering I was told by someone to do Adi mudra to get rid of sleep. I just did one fist with my palms in the lap or on the table and continued studying for my exam and lo behold the sleepiness was gone. I was feeling heat in the head.

Adi Mudra
Adi Mudra

3. Last month I did a yoga teacher training course and we had our first class on Mudra Yoga. Next day was a Sunday and we went on a 12 hour city trip most part of which was done walking. I had bought new box heel sandals and I am used to only flat sandals. So after few hours I started having pain in the lower part of the spine. So I did the Merudanda mudra in downward direction while continuing walking. And again, in just 10 minutes my pain was gone!

Merudanda Mudra
Merudanda Mudra

4. Then after some weeks I developed dry cough and I used Surya+Jalashamak mudra and Linga mudra for 15 minutes each daily. But these I did along with ginger+tulsi+honey tea, warm water drinking. The cough lingered very long but I did get relief from the mudras, I could feel the heat in my chest with those mudras. Meanwhile a friend who was very skeptical about mudras also tried these mudras for her sinus and she said she was surprised to see them working!

5. Just today I woke up with a stiff neck. Whenever it used to happen before I could not move my head side ways for many hours and it pained. Today when it happened I started doing Merudanda mudra thinking I will have to sit at least for 15 minutes to make it work. But as soon as I did the mudra I felt a warmth in that spot and not even a minute passed that it healed! It is amazing.

Surya Mudra
Surya Mudra

 

Jal Shamaak Mudra
Jal Shamaak Mudra

 

Linga Mudra
Linga Mudra

Interestingly if you do this mudra right, with the thumb erect, 2 points start throbbing. And these are exactly the 2 points which are mentioned in acupressure to relieve asthma and breathing difficulties and for cough.

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So what exactly are mudras???

Each finger in our hand represents an element as shown below. Our yoga teacher told us some interesting details :-).

5 Elements 5 Fingers
5 Elements 5 Fingers

In India we are used to showing the pinky to ask/tell that we want to go to the bathroom to urinate because pinky stands for water and we show thumb to indicate that we are thirsty because thumb stands for fire/heat. Think of the thumb as the king and the other fingers as slaves. When the tip of thumb touches the tip of any other fingers the other finger element gets balanced.

So if thumb tip touches the index finger tip, the air element in us gets balanced and so the functions of the body and mind controlled by the air element come into balance.

If the thumb tip touches the bottom of the index finger, then the slave is higher than the king and the air element increases.

If the index finger tip touches the thumb bottom, then the slave is enslaved to the king and the air element decreases. And so on for other fingers.

There are more complex theories behind it which I need to study first and then will share. But for now they work for me and my friends, so try it out and share your experiences!

A good video on mudras in general not just from yoga perspective:

Update

4. I hit my spine with something really hard, like a rod, some weeks ago. It pained when it hit but then I was fine and I ignored it. After some days I started using a new chair, learning a new violin technique and I started getting numb fingers, dizziness and vomiting like feeling frequently. I had forgotten about the hit on the spine and thinking the chair and the violin are the culprits kept practicing light stretches and yoga. It was getting better, then coming back. So one day, when my back and neck were feeling stiff and I was feeling dizzy, I asked my husband to massage my back and when he touched the spine he noticed a big bump in my spine and I screamed in pain. It was then I understood that it was because of that hit I was feeling so all these weeks. Next morning we went out of town and I started feeling dizzy in the car. It was a 35 minute ride so I did Urdhva Merudanda for upper spine. And to my astonishment the lump vanished, the pain vanished, and so did the dizziness and vomiting sensation. I was not really sure and I thought it would come back. But it has not yet and 4 days have passed since then.

Merudanda – 3 positions

 

3. Some days ago I had menstrual cramps and I would usually take bach flower rescue remedy and sleep over it. And all my day would have been dull and in slight pain. But today I did Apana-Vayu mudra. I sat with a 15 minute timer but just in 10 minutes the pain was gone!
Surprising thing is that I have menstrual cramps only outside India, in India never and the flow is also less in India and exactly 5 days long whereas outside India it is 7-10 days longer. Am hoping with regular practice of yoga, pranayama and mudras it will be normal.

 

Apana Vayu Mudra
Apana Vayu Mudra

2. Today I was heavily bloated looking 9 months pregnant and feeling heavy. So I tried vayu mudra and I felt lighter. Then I tried apana vayu mudra and I started burping uncontrollably for next 15 minutes. Phew! 🙂

1. Today I had continuous lower back pain, which I ignored yesterday thinking it will heal on its own. I had carried heavy tanks of saw dust uphill on my shoulders day before yesterday. So today I did resting crocodile pose with a heat pad on the lower back, along with merudanda for lower-back and it healed in 10 minutes.

 

 

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First Play Dough

IMG_5343This is the first time I made the play dough. Going to use it this weekend with the kids. Lets see how it goes.

Recipe:

1/4 cup plain white wheat flour

1/8 cup salt

1 Tbsp yucca/tapioca starch

1 tsp oil

Natural color

Mix all well together slowly with water. Add little by little water to get a dough, knead well, put into zipper bag and freeze until use.

I thought about natural colors and looked around and used things from the garden. So here is how I got these colors. I mixed the below ingredients to the basic recipe to get the colors.

Red/Orange – Achiote seeds from the garden, ground up.Unknown
Green – Hibiscus leaves blended with water and boiled to thicken up.

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Black – AshesUnknown-1
Yellow – turmeric

Turmeric-leaves

5. Blue/Purple – Fresh wild purple/blue flowers ground up with salt. I do not know this plant in my garden but it blooms a lot.

 

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Appachhi/Patties

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I love making such kind of patties for lunch along with a large salad and a chutney. I keep trying various flours and grains for such patties. This time the recipe is:

1. 1/4 cup Barley
2. 1/4 cup Quinoa
3. 1/4 cup White dry corn pieces
4. 2 small onions chopped fine
5. 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
6. Salt to taste
7. 1/2 cup water
8. 2 TBSP plantain flour

Soak first three items for 4 hours. Drain, wash, blend with water. Add the plantain flour. Mix well to make a batter, not too thin and to thick. Add rest of the ingredients and mix well. You should be able to pour the batter with a tablespoon on the pan. Turn when cooked on one side. Cook until cooked on the other side also.

Chutney: soaked and boiled tamarind with water, coriander leaves, dates, garlic – blend all together and serve with the patties.

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