Have you noticed how, recently, many of us have begun to battle with food, viewing it as an enemy; the devil that lures us to obesity and disease? Our relationship with food is an increasingly unhappy one. Given our obsession with the perfect body, we jump from one diet to another and we go from eating too much to eating too little.

I have been in the same boat, trying every new diet fad out there; from a high protein diet to raw food, low-carb, weight watchers, eating six small meals a day and then eating three big meals a day. It didn’t matter if I downed 100 grams of protein shake that my body wouldn’t digest or ate cardboard, provided it had a Weight Watchers calorie count. Why has every day eating become so difficult and complex? What happened to the age-old concept of a balanced nutritious diet, one that includes a healthy mix of carbs, proteins and fats? Why do we blindly follow the latest trending diet, without any consideration to our own body’s constitution?

Not eating a sustainable balanced diet has several repercussions; unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way. After years of agony and living through side effects like bloating, fatigue, headaches, acne and stomach ache, I decided to stop the madness and go back to my roots. I made a simple resolution to buy and cook fresh foods. Cooking has always played a prominent role in the Indian culture along with yoga, ayurveda, meditation, astrology and crystal therapy. Food and digestion are the pillars of ayurveda. Foods that are fresh, light and easy to digest are considered essential for daily life. Spices and herbs play an important role in enzyme production and maintenance. An ayurvedic diet makes generous use of fresh ingredients in combination with the right spices to support agni – the digestive fire within us.

As I took a trip down memory lane, I remembered the aromas of my mother and grandmother’s kitchen, lined with spices and condiments. I found old culinary friends – coconuts and chillies, ghee and ginger, mustard seeds and curry leaves. I started playing with ingredients and experimenting on familiar food with fusion twists. Over time, I came to realize that when performed with awareness and gratitude, the sadhana of cooking enhances the nourishing and healing properties of food and acts as a catalyst to our innate capacity for self-healing. So, here are some simple recipes for an every day healthy meal. All you need are some basic spices, which you can easily find at most grocery stores.

Masala Vegetable Khichdi (serves 2)

Masala-Vegetable-Khichdi

½ cup yellow mung dal (split yellow mung bean)
½ cup basmati rice
1 spring onion, chopped
1 medium white potato, chopped
½ cup green peas
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 green chilli, chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 small handful of cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons ghee
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 inch piece of cinnamon bark
3 whole cardamom pods
3 whole cloves
3 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoon garam masala powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups water

Wash the mung dal and rice until the water is clear, then soak it for 1 – 2 hours.
In a blender, put ginger, coconut, cilantro and ½ cup water and blend.
Heat a deep saucepan on medium heat and add the ghee, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, peppercorns and bay leaves. Stir for a minute until you can smell the fragrance.
Add the green chilli and vegetables and sauté for a minute.
Add the blended items to the pan and then add garam masala, turmeric and salt.
Stir in the mung dal and rice. Pour 6 cups of water, cover and bring it to boil. Let it boil on high for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat to very low. Partially cover the pan, and cook it for about 25 – 30 minutes till the dal and rice are soft. Serve with yogurt.

Kale Stir-fry (Serves 2)

Kale-stir-fry

2 bunches of green curly kale
1 can of organic garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
½ teaspoon grated ginger
½ teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 small red chilli pepper
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin powder
½ teaspoon black salt

Wash the kale and dry it in a paper towel. Cut away the stems. Roll up the kale leaves and chop the rolls coarsely.
Heat an open frying pan on medium heat and add oil. Add the chilli, ginger and garlic and roast for a minute till it turns light brown.
Add the garbanzo beans, curry powder, black salt and cumin powder. Sauté for a few minutes till the spices are well coated.
Add the kale to the pan and cover with a lid for 2 – 3 minutes. Once the kale is tender, add the sesame seeds, toss it well and serve.

Eggplant Masala (Serves 2)

eggplant-masala

2 small white potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 medium eggplant, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 small tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup diced onion
1 tablespoon sesame/vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
2 minced green chilli peppers
1 minced garlic clove
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water

In a large skillet, heat oil and roast the cumin seeds and fenugreek for a few minutes. Add chilli peppers, garlic, and onion, and sauté for 3 minutes.
Add potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, cayenne, turmeric and salt and stir till well coated with spices. Add ½ cup water, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the remaining water and cook over medium heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve with rice, quinoa or couscous.

Enjoy!

Bring love and respect to every stage of food preparation and cook each meal with all your heart.Sweta Saraogi

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