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Health Benefits of Turmeric

While turmeric may primarily be known for adding color to dishes, this vibrant ingredients has a lot more to offer. It is a main component of many Indian dishes not only for its subtle earthy flavor, but also for its various health benefits. In fact, turmeric is well known in holistic medicine for the number of health boosting properties that it offers.

But to retain its healing properties turmeric should be stored in a cool, dark place as it is highly susceptible to light and may begin to lose its potency within a six month period, or sooner, if exposed to light or heat.

The most potent of its compounds is known as curcumin that displays effective anti-inflammatory properties. This active ingredient in turmeric has been studied extensively and some of the benefits that are rendered by this potent ingredient can include:

  • Healing wounds, bruises and sprains: Traditional homeopathic wound and sprain treatments involve making a paste with turmeric. Using one part salt and two parts turmeric with enough water to a desirable consistency, the paste can be applied to the affected area. Acting as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent, turmeric proves to be an effective disinfectant.
  • Immunity booster: Compounds in turmeric help stimulate the body’s immune system making it better equipped to ward off against bacterial, viral and fungal infections. A common remedy to feel better during flu season is to mix a little bit of turmeric powder in a glass of warm milk and drink it up daily.
  • Digestive aid: As a digestive aid turmeric may be used to relieve a troubling stomach. There are different components in turmeric that stimulate the gallbladder to produce bile that in turn enhance digestion and alleviate the discomfort associated with gas and bloating. Turmeric can further deal with most types of inflammatory bowel disease including ulcerative colitis.
  • Liver protection: As a natural detoxifying agent, turmeric can cleanse the liver and reduce the effect of toxins on the body.
  • Arthritis: The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin are effective for treating different types of inflammatory conditions like osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Diabetes: Some studies reveal that using turmeric can be effective in the treatment of diabetes by moderating insulin levels. Its consumption also improves glucose control and can help in boosting the effect of medications that are used to treat diabetes. Likewise, turmeric is also thought to be helpful in reducing insulin resistance that can prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Inflammation in the brain is thought to be one of the primary triggers of various cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. The use of turmeric is conducive to overall brain health as it can aid in the removal of plaque building in the brain. As such it is suggested that the healing properties of turmeric can be beneficial in preventing or at least slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

While the benefits are many, turmeric should not be used by people who suffer from gallstones or bile obstruction as it may worsen the condition.

What Is Ayurvedic Cooking?

The ayurvedic cook bases his cooking skills on knowledge that has been acquired from studying herbs, spices, vegetables and legumes in the Ayurveda doctrine and how these foods can be beneficial to maintain physical, intellectual and spiritual balance.

Ayurvedic foods are flavorful, appetizing and aromatic creations that have a number of beneficial heath boosting effects. The primary aspiration behind ayurvedic cooking is the cleansing of toxins from the body because Ayurveda dictates that the food we eat not only affects the body but also the mind and soul, so an individual’s relation with food is also an indicator of their relation to different aspects of life.

For instance, if the food is full of prana, or life source, it will give the individual a chance to live life to the fullest. Food that is prepared with ayurvedic cooking principles will offer so much more than mere satiation and will also nourish the mind and the senses while also promoting physical energy, intellectual capacity, and positive thinking.

These basic principles of ayurvedic cooking go beyond the mere choice of fresh foods but also takes into account other factors like the cooking process, digestion as well as nutrition. In fact, Ayurveda considers these three factors to be interrelated with a focus that foods are prepared with love and consideration. This positive energy will reflect in the digestive part of the process by making the same foods easier to digest and will enhance the body’s ability to distill maximum nutrition from the foods.

In addition to the choice of foods, another important consideration in meal preparation is that the meal caters and satisfies the 6 tastes of an ayurvedic meal. Namely these include, sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter. When all six tastes have been included the result is a well-balanced meal that will deliver energy to the body and rejuvenate the mind.

Likewise, ayurvedic cooking principles also demand that food is only cooked until it is made digestible and not overcooked. This practice allows food to retain most of its nutritional value and food items like vegetables should be steamed, beans and lentils soaked and sprouted, while grains should be rinsed well before cooking.

When selecting ayurvedic foods, individuals also need to mind the freshness of the foods. Only fresh foods should be selected as stale, processed and preserved items will be deficient in nutrients, lack vital energy and be tougher to digest properly. At the same time, food selection will also need to be based on choosing seasonal fruits and vegetables. Since the best varieties are available when in season, these foods will provide the best nutritional value as well.

Once these basics have been complied with, individuals can then familiarise themselves with the three body constitutions in Ayurveda as choosing the right foods will impact their body constitution and help maintain equilibrium in the body.

Overall, Ayurveda is not only a way of healing but also a way of life that takes into consideration every aspect of life that can have an effect on the overall health of an individual.

The Must Haves of Indian Cooking

While certain other cuisines may stress more on the slicing and dicing, Indian cuisine focuses more on spicing. For it is true that spices are the key to successful Indian cooking. Having said that, there are a whole lot of spices to deal with when it comes to preparing an Indian meal.

However, do not be intimidated by this prospect for with a few handy tips most of the mysteries of Indian spices and cooking techniques can be unshrouded allowing you to cook your favorite Indian food at home.

Regarding spices there are two usual inaccuracies that can make or break the resulting dish. For many people, Indian spices can be scary so they will often choose to put too little when making a dish. This will simply result in the dish not having enough flavor and becoming bland to taste. However, on the other hand using too many spices will likely make a dish too hot and flavorful to handle, once again rendering an undesirable effect. The equilibrium lies in between where spices are added in the right quantity to enhance the food’s flavoring, and not completely overwhelm it.

For novice cooks, the best option is to follow the recipes closely and once they have mastered an understanding of spice usage, they can feel freer to experiment with them.

Because some of the recipes may display a number of steps for the cooking process, it is best to have all cooking tools ready before beginning to cook. This preparatory step is also important as many of the dishes are cooked at a high temperature and there just won’t be any time to go around looking for ingredients or tools with the dish placed on the stovetop. If everything is not present on hand, the chances of burning your dish greatly multiply.

Some of the essentials that are always needed for making Indian food can include the following:

  • Heavy pots and pans: Indian cooking basics dictate that there should be at least a few heavy pots and pans in the kitchen. As mentioned earlier, most cooking will be done on high heat, so the heavier and more solid the pan, the better.
  • Coffee grinder: This naturally becomes a basic when you need to grind the spices. Although Indian spices can also be bought prepackaged, some cooks may prefer to grind their own fresh spices in the kitchen. Plus experts always stress the difference between freshly ground spices as opposed to store bought ones.
  • Slow cooker: Some traditional Indian dishes like dal or lentils are prepared by slow cooking. To get good results, it is handy to have a quality slow cooker on hand.
  • Flat frying pan: Known as tava, this Indian flat frying pan is needed for making Indian flat bread or roti. This cooking utensil is slightly rounded at the bottom and is ideal for making chapatti, dosa and parathas.
  • Good quality blender: Since chutneys are integral sides to any Indian meal, investing in a durable blender is recommended. This will make the task of preparing quick and efficient chutneys, rather than having to do the hard work manually.

How to Use Chutney

Chutneys are a condiment used widely in Indian cuisine. If anything, they can be compared to the western salsa or relish. Typically, chutneys come in slightly spicy varieties, but there are also those that are sweet tasting. In Indian cuisine, chutneys will accompany curries or rice and are also a favorite to be used as dips for traditional Indian snacks like samosa, pakora or poppadoms.

For the better part, chutneys are usually made fresh with a meal but since not everyone has the time to spare, they can also be bought premade from the market. Now many grocery shops and online stores also feature chutneys as part of their Indian food range and you can check some exciting chutney flavors available at http://www.vedicaorganics.com

Given their very versatile role in Indian cuisine, chutneys become integral when serving favorites like idli, dosa, and bhel puri among others. In fact, chutneys are the driving force powering Indian street food. This mainstay condiment can be served as an appetizer and be made from a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. The formula is to allow one main ingredient to dominate the flavor with the others enhancing that particular taste. For instance, tamarind chutney, an all-time favorite is primarily made from tamarind paste with other ingredients like dates, sugar, salt and red chilli powder added to enhance its flavor. The result is a sweet yet tangy condiment that goes really well with pakora and pani puri.

Likewise mint chutney is another favorite that uses fresh mint leaves which have been pulverised and mixed into yogurt while being spiced with ingredients like onion, garlic, lemon and cumin to be made into a refreshing condiment. This type of chutney is usually served with rice and vegetable main dishes and is equally popular with many Indian snacks as well.

Textures for Indian chutneys can range from thick, chunky mixtures to runny consistencies that each vary with the type of chutney being prepared.

When using chutneys to make otherwise plain food more exciting (not to say that Indian cuisine isn’t exciting) but the task of making chutneys can be a rather creative experience. Taking a mix of fruits or vegetables pickled with vinegar for some or blended in yogurt for others, chutneys may be cooked for long times while others like the mint chutney mentioned above may be prepared without any cooking involved. As such chutney flavors and combinations are an endless possibility.

For a homemade version of these concoctions, produce that may be less than perfect, such as bruised fruits, woody beets or soft vegetables can also be used without having to waste them. However, spices and herbs used should never be stale. This makes chutneys a somewhat more forgiving creation to make as it can accommodate most blemished produce due to its long cooking process.

Chutneys also make for great canning as they use natural preservatives for prolonged storage needs. Many types of chutneys will keep well when refrigerated for some time while others are best when used fresh.

Using Turmeric in Indian Cooking

Turmeric is a spice that is used extensively in Indian cooking. It is also the ingredient that gives many Indian dishes their distinct yellow color. Typically, the yellowish hue is associated with using curry powder, but then again, turmeric is one of the main ingredients used in curry powder.

Many traditional Indian dishes use turmeric to spice up the flavor as well as add color to food. This can include an array of curry mixes, chutneys as well as pickles. Turmeric also works well with many types of chicken dishes while also being used in rice, with vegetables and in salad dressings.

It may also be referred to as Indian saffron at times and if the purpose is to get that perfect yellow color where saffron is unavailable, a little bit of turmeric can be used instead to get the desired visual effect. However, it is important to use turmeric sparingly as it is an extremely pungent ingredient and a little can go a long way.

Organic turmeric powder can be procured from general grocery stores and online suppliers like http://www.vedicaorganics.com.

Here are some quick ways to include this potent ingredient into your meals:

Indian Chicken Curry

2 lbs boneless chicken pieces,
2 tsp salt
½ cup cooking oil
1 ½ cups onion, chopped
1tbsp garlic, minced
1 ½ tbsp ginger, minced
1tbsp curry powder
1 tsp each- cumin powder and coriander powder
1 tsp Vedica Organics organic turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
15 ozs crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 tsp salt
½ cup water
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Heat oil on high heat and partially cook chicken pieces until browned on the outside. Set aside.

Reduce heat and add chopped onion, ginger and garlic to the skillet. Cook till onion softens and then add in the dried spice powders along with the red chilli powder and salt.

In a separate bowl mix the tomatoes, yogurt, 1 tbsp. chopped coriander and 1 tsp salt. Add to skillet. Return chicken pieces to the skillet and pour ½ cup water into the mixture. Bring to boil while turning chicken to coat in sauce. Sprinkle with garam masala and 1 tbsp chopped coriander. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until chicken is no longer pink. Sprinkle with lemon juice to serve.

Curried Potatoes with Cauliflower and Peas

2 tsp ghee
1 large onion chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp Vedica Organics organic turmeric powder
6 medium potatoes, cubed into ½ inch pieces
1 head cauliflower, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup peas

To start off, heat ghee over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook till softened.

Add in minced ginger, garlic, dried powders and sauté for a few minutes. Then add in cubed potatoes, cauliflower pieces and cook for a few more minutes. Add ¼ cup water and let simmer till potatoes and cauliflower are soft.

Serve with rice and raita.

The Fundamentals of Indian cooking

Just as any other type of cuisine may involve a science as well as an art to the cooking process, so does Indian cooking. However, in this case, the fundamentals of great cooking date back thousands of years. In fact, many of the basics of Indian cooking can be traced to the holistic teachings of Ayurveda which suggests that the use of fresh and natural ingredients are needed to keep the body heathy and are also a given to heal any ailments.

Many of these fundamentals lie in the correct blending of Indian spices without making the dish too hot or letting one flavor completely overwhelm the others. Instead, the element of heat and amalgam of different tastes is fused together in such a way that the resulting dish becomes an appetizing masterpiece. Also, contrary to popular belief, not all Indian dishes are swimming in sauce but some of the most favorite concoctions are dry curries with very little or no gravy.

For many people the number of spices going into an Indian dish can be confounding but there is indeed a method behind the madness when it comes to blending spices and giving each particular dish its unique flavor profile. Just as other cuisines, say Italian for instance, demand that basics like oregano, basil and rosemary are always on hand, Indian cuisine does the same, only with its own particular spices.

And while there is an array of Indian spices, herbs and condiments to choose from narrowing it down to these few basics can make the seemingly dauntless task of Indian cooking fairly simple and realistic for most people. Having these few key ingredients at hand can get you started on preparing authentic Indian dishes at home:

Aromatics: Just as taste is integral to Indian cuisine, so is the aroma. Therefore, consider mainstay ingredients like ginger root, garlic, onions, fresh mint and coriander a must for all of your Indian cooking needs. Not only do the first three aromatics kick start the cooking process but the final two need to be on hand to outfit your dish with a final garnish.

Ground spices: While garam masala is the undisputed king of all Indian spices, certain others need to be accessible separately so that the right flavor can be enhanced and modified where needed. Chief among these include cumin, coriander, paprika, black pepper, turmeric and red chilli powder. And although salt and sugar are not essentially spices, they will need to be readily available when you embark upon the adventures of Indian cooking.

Whole spices: The five most common whole spices needed to season your dish include green cardamom, cloves, and mustard seeds, cinnamon stick, and cumin seeds.

Others: These ingredients are already likely to be present in any kitchen and include cooking basics like tomatoes, lemon/ lime, green chillies, vinegar and yogurt.

Learning to mix and correctly blend these ingredients is a matter of time and some practice. It is important to remember that using the correct proportion of spices is relevant as it will impact the final flavor of the dish, making it either too strong or too bland.

Restorative Yoga for Relaxation

While many yoga styles are invigorating practices, restorative yoga is a type of relaxing yoga discipline that uses the assistance of props like yoga blankets, towels, blocks, bolsters and straps among others to help ease in a yoga pose and hold it there for a longer period of time. Poses done in restorative yoga are different types of stretches that may need to be held for a duration of time ranging anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes.

Many of the moves are passive stretches that are held in seated or supine postures and can also include gentle inversions. Typically a restorative yoga session will be a rather relaxing one and makes for a good counterpart to more active types of practices. Although the poses are done with additional support from yoga props, they will still feel like a good stretch since the positions need to be held for an extended period of time. As such restorative yoga is an unwinding practice that will leave individuals feeling refreshed and exhilarated.

This yoga practice is recommended for those people who need some recovery time in their busy schedules. Taking time out gives individuals a chance to rebound from routine hassles and when done with restorative yoga practices, also to relax their muscles, lower heart rate and authorize the nervous system to stop reacting to stressors. It offers a therapeutic opportunity to lower chronic stress as well as gives the body some downtime.

But restorative yoga is not only for the sole purpose of relaxation. In fact, it is a gentle type of yoga that is also suitable for people who may be recovering from an injury and whose body may not be strong enough to deal with the demands of a regular yoga session. The stretches of restorative yoga poses are done in comfortable positions where muscles are relaxed and tension released slowly.

Many of the restorative yoga poses are done so that the head lies below or near the same level as the heart. Known as inversions, these positions help stimulate reflexes that calm not only the brain but also the heart. Well known poses like Legs up the Wall are gentle moves that aim to achieve these benefits.

Likewise, many of the positions are done in a reclined pose where participants lie down on their back and relax. Positions like the Corpse Pose, Reclining Bound Angle Pose and the Reclining Hero Pose are some examples.

Since restorative yoga poses are devised to open up the body in a gentle manner, there is no forcing involved while getting into the position. Staying in passive positions supported by props, all the focus is on relieving not only muscular tension but any mental conflicts as well.

So the next time life takes on a fast pace, slow down, breathe deep and consider a restorative yoga class. For this yoga type will definitely help you balance a fast lifestyle and offer healing capacity to alleviate mental and physical symptoms that are stress related.

Different Ways of Using Lentils

Lentils are a staple in the Indian cuisine, and a main protein source for those who follow a vegetarian diet. There are many varieties available and the colors and textures are as varied as their individual tastes. Typically, lentils can range from an assortment of hues from green, black, brown, orange, red, to yellow and gold. And though each type features its own unique flavor, all are packed with protein, fiber, iron and folate.

For the most part, lentils can be prepared fairly quickly with cooking times ranging from 20- 45 minutes. They can be consumed whether hot or cold, although in Indian cuisine, most lentil dishes will be served hot. And while they may not look very hearty, lentils will often satisfy the most indulgent appetites. In addition to offering excellent nutritional value, lentils are also an affordable option for everyone and they are as easy to store as they are to cook.

Plus there are a number of health benefits associated with adding lentils into the diet. Namely, these benefits can range from lowering cholesterol, regulating blood pressure and preventing heart disease among many others. So here are a few different ways to incorporate lentils into the diet:

Dal:

For Indian food fans, lentils go by the name of dal and are typically prepared as thick, hearty stews. Dals are the easiest types of food to make as the cooking process does not require much more than cooking the lentils in water or broth with a few essential like onions, tomatoes and some Indian spices. Most dals are served with either a serving of rice or chapatti / flat bread.

Salads:

But lentils are not restricted to making dals only and can be incorporated in healthy meal ideas in a variety of other ways. For instance, certain lentils that hold their shape well such as the green and red ones can be prepared and mixed into any type of salad. Lentil salads can be packed with so much nutrition and be so hearty that thy can serve as a complete meal on their own.

Meat alternative:

Likewise, lentils can also be a most suitable alternative for ground beef in recipes like tacos, meatballs, burgers, and even shepherd’s pie. For those people who follow a vegetarian or vegan way of eating substituting lentils for ground beef offers an excellent solution to enjoy their favorite dishes without compromising on its nutritional value or taste.

When replacing meat with such alternatives, lentils are also an effective way of reducing the amount of saturated fat intake that is otherwise consumed.

Entrees:

Served on their own, lentils may be relegated as a side dish, but when paired with rice or veggies, the dish instantly becomes a nourishing and substantial entrée. In fact many world cuisines, including Indian, Mediterranean and Lebanese use this formula for a number of their appetizing entrées.

Soups:

This goes without saying but lentils soups are the best. They can be paired with vegetables or mushrooms to devise creative blends of hearty flavor and offer excellent nutrition.

The 6 tastes of Indian cooking

According to Ayurveda principles, there are six key elements of taste in every Indian dish. Each of these tastes has its own effect on the body and by understanding these effects, individuals can make better nutritional choices that can provide both nutrition a swell as healing to the body. These tastes can be listed as sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent.

Sweet: This tastes has a cooling effect and when consumed in moderation can deliver energy, stability, grounding and vitality. Consuming sweet foods help nourish and build tissue in the body. However, when consumed in excess, the same can lead to inertia and complacency. This taste can be acquired from foods like honey, dates and licorice directly, and in a more subtle form from wheat, rice and milk.

Sour: This taste has a warming effect on the body and helps promote digestion. Sour taste can improve appetite but when taken in excess, it can also cause acid indigestion, ulcers and heartburn. To include this taste into the diet, foods like grapefruit, lemon, yogurt and vinegar can be considered.

Salty: The salty taste is heavy and heating and can also help promote growth while balancing electrolytes. It also helps stimulate water retention. However, too much salt in meals can trigger edema, hypertension, ulcers and hyperacidity. Good food sources include salted nuts, seaweed, and chips among others.

Bitter: The bitter taste is seen as being cool, light and dry. The taste is considered anti-viral and anti-bacterial in nature and is one that can enhance the flavor of other foods. Bitter tasting foods can assist in reducing toxins and fat from the body but when in excess, the same can also deplete tissues leading to feeling dizzy, causing fatigue and in some cases, extreme dryness. Excellent sources of acquiring this taste include leafy green vegetables like radicchio, arugula, dandelion and collards while others like turmeric, and coffee also deliver bitter flavor.

Pungent: When consumed in moderation, pungent foods aid in dissolving and eliminating fats from the body. When there are too many pungent foods in the diet, it can create ulceration, inflammation, heartburn, as well as some nausea and diarrhea. Pungent foods and spices can include options like ginger, garlic, black pepper, chillies and asafoetida among others.

Astringent: Astringent foods help improve absorption and have anti-inflammatory and decongestant properties. These foods also aid in constricting blood vessels that can help stop bleeding and promote clotting. However, when taken in excess, the same foods may also trigger constipation, and circulatory stagnation. Some examples of astringent foods include chickpeas, turmeric, green beans, asparagus and pomegranate.

Ayurvedic nutrition recommends that all six tastes are included in each meal, so that the body’s nutritional needs are met adequately. Since each taste feeds the mind, body, senses and spirit in its own way, a well-balanced combination of these will ensure that all major dietary building blocks are satisfied properly without the need for cravings or over eating. Including all six in every meal also ensures that all food groups as well as nutrients are replenished.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing Indian Food

Love the tantalizing taste of Indian cuisine and can’t wait to master some of its cooking techniques? Well, before you step into the realm of Indian cooking, just know that all good things come at a price- and for Indian cooking, it just might be the right amount of your time.

If you can make good curry, chances are that you can nail Indian cooking in your kitchen, but always give it the respect and effort that is its due. For trying to cook Indian food in a hurry is almost a crime where there are so many spices, condiments and flavorings to contend with. Getting the right flavor out of your dish means finding the perfect blend of ingredients and that is something which no cook should trifle with. So instead, here are a few tips to get you started on what not to do when preparing Indian food:

Cooking the onions: Onions form the base of almost every Indian entrée there is so this step needs special consideration. Frying onions for the right amount of time is crucial in Indian cooking as leaving them undercooked with lend your dish an excessive sweetness while overcooking the same with make it appear darker than usual and give it a bitter taste. To avoid these pitfalls, make sure to cook onions for the right amount of time, making them soft and translucent before moving onto the next step. A tip to minimize cooking time is to dice the onion rather than slice as this will allow them to cook faster.

Using spices: Central to flavor enhancement in Indian cooking, the spices used need to be fresh and fragrant. The magic of Indian cuisine lies not only in its flavor but also the delectable aroma that accompanies the dish when it is brought to the dining table. The source of that aroma is none other than the balanced use of the right spices. An assortment of Indian spices is readily available in grocery stores as well as from online sources, so make sure to stock up on these when you try your hand at Indian cooking. Plus, do not forget to check the expiry date on packaged spices or they will lose their freshness when used.

Thickening the curry: When it comes to making curry, its appeal lies in a thickened gravy rather than a watery consistency. This step can be infuriating for some people as thickening the gravy to retain its flavor and consistency can be a time consuming phase of the cooking process. If anything, this is the slow cooking part of the process and should not be hurried through by increasing the flame or heat underneath; instead let it simmer gently until the desired consistency is reached.

Proper seasoning: The trick is to not be frugal when it comes to seasoning the dish. While “less is more” is a common enough assumption, it does not necessarily apply to good cooking techniques. When it is time to season your dish, make sure to season generously so as not to take away from any of its flavor.