July 27, 2020

The New Wave of Veganism

Veganism, a philosophical lifestyle choice than just a diet is here to stay. It is a thoughtful way of life where the consumption of anything that is of animal origin is avoided by choice. 

When we say veganism as a lifestyle it is not just about the diet; a vegan is not supposed to use any animal-based products even for clothing or any other purpose. People opt for veganism because of ethical reasons involving animal rights, environmental factors, or health benefits. 

When it comes to the subject of animal rights, the prevention of animal exploitation is the key factor for vegans to choose veganism. Having an emotional attachment with animals also adds to this, but mostly they believe in the right to life and freedom for every sentient creature. As far as animal rights are concerned avoiding animal products in any way is the only solution to animal cruelty.  

The adverse effect due to the consumption of animal products is not only limited to animal exploitation, but it affects the environment as well.  The commercial production of animal products causes an adverse impact on the environment because of the farm to fork processes. The acres of land required growing the amount of crop feed for meat and dairy production adds to serious environmental issues such as deforestation and species extinction. On the other hand, for a vegan diet, the quantity of crops and water required is considerably less, making it an easy and effective way to reduce the harmful impact on the environment. 

Apart from the above-said reasons, nowadays, more people are turning to veganism for health benefits also. This plant-based diet is packed with all the essential vitamins, minerals, iron, protein, and calcium helping you to have flawless younger-looking skin and boosted energy levels.  

The vegan diet is usually low in saturated fat, high in fibre and rich in antioxidants which help you fight against the modern-day health issues such as diabetes, heart disease cancer, and obesity.

Going vegan is easier than ever before with its increased popularity which is making it quite mainstream now.  It is not a difficult routine to follow even if you want to eat out once in a while as you will easily find vegan items on most of the menus. 

 

July 23, 2020

Salad Party – Cooling off the Heat

Summer brings some refreshing thoughts of lemonades, citrus fruits, ice popsicles, and colourful salads. It is this time of the year when we gear ourselves up to try and shed all the extra calories we had during the winter holidays which was followed by the lockdown during which we all turned towards food for comfort and coped with the stress with our endless rounds of snacking and indisciplined food habits. Now that it is bright, sunny, and open, it's time to take things into our hands and restart the summer on a healthy note with a refreshingly light & tasty salad party. 

As assumed, salad parties are not about healthy and boring food on the counter. It is more of a casual and open-air party that you can set up for your friends and family by the poolside or in your backyard garden on a weekend to enjoy the warm weather with them. Since the party is held in an open-air environment, there will be more physical activities like sports and games involved in making the party more fun.

Throwing a salad party is not only healthy for the guests but time effective for the host also. You don't have to cook much for a salad party, all you have to do is to cut some veggies and fruits, thus making it an excellent platform for you to showcase your knife skills too. 

Serving salad from starter to dessert gives you a variety of effortless options. You can make bite-size starters with raw veggies along with feta or goat cheese, grilled meat pieces, mushrooms, olives, etc. the options are plenty to serve the starters with some bread and dips.

To serve some drinks, you have lemonade, fresh juices, or impress the guests with your own fruit punches.

For the main course, you can choose wholemeal salads like Shrimp Ceasar Salad, Thai Beef Salad, or a Modern Tabbouleh, that provides itself as a complete meal.

When it comes to desserts at a salad party, fruits and nuts come to the rescue. Play with different fruit combinations with your choice of nuts, drizzle some honey or even melted dark chocolate and satisfy your sweet tooth on a healthy note.

As far as kids are concerned, be easy on them and serve them some ice creams, sorbet, custard, or even some whipped cream along with the fruits and nuts, and they would be more than happy to have them. 

When you decide to throw a salad party, remember it is a win-win situation for everyone. It's healthy, relaxing, fun-filled, and satisfying for both the guest and the host.

Let's get a whole new healthy party season started!  

 

July 18, 2020

Urban Farm to Table

Vegan, organic, farm-to-table, etc. are familiar terms for healthy eating. These days, it is a common trend to see restaurants and cafes adapting to healthier ways of serving food. This is a welcome change that we hope continues to permeate our lives. 

The extreme commercialization of raw food materials has made us realize the importance of organic farming for a healthier lifestyle. We are well aware of the downside of eating adulterated foods, however, we still refuse to take any healthy initiative for our own betterment. We blame our circumstances and changed lifestyle and are averse to taking that extra effort for our well being and continue putting our health in jeopardy. 

When we, as individual households find enough excuses not to do our bit, a recruitment company called Pasona in Japan is doing it all in their office premises.  How would it feel to walk into an office lobby to find yourself surrounded by a rice paddy field? Well, don't be so surprised, this is exactly what you will see at Pasona. They have turned their nine-storey headquarter building into an urban farm-to-table office. It is heartening to know that while everyone is still hesitant to do a little for themselves, a company is taking such a big step for their employees. 

Image Courtesy: Kono Designs

The business house, when renovating an old nine-storey building into their new headquarters, came up with this fantastic concept of bringing together farming, health, and a positive environment under one roof. Materializing the idea, the lobby at the company entrance welcomes you with a scenic view of a rice paddy field giving you a heads up of about 280 types of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs being grown within the office spaces. 

Image Courtesy: Kono Designs

Once inside, you will find tomato wines suspended above conference tables, shrubs, and trees used as partitions for meeting spaces, bean sprouts grown under benches, crops & employees sharing the same space, and much more. In short, the office building atmosphere bursts with freshness and energy. The nine-storey office building has dedicated 1 Acre to green space that is taken care of by the employees themselves supported by a team of agricultural specialists. 

Image Courtesy: Kono Designs

The building uses both soil-based and hydroponic farming. Hydroponic farming is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions via water without soil. It uses energy-efficient lighting and advanced irrigation techniques.

Image Courtesy: Kono Designs

It is remarkable though to see employees of a company growing their own food in the office, which is to be later served in the office cafeteria. Although the office farm only covers a part of what employees eat, it sure does take care of the company's carbon footprints. When asked, more than 80% of the employees report feeling more energized and thus could perform better at their jobs. The fresh green atmosphere makes them feel positive, motivated, and ready for more. 

This is the kind of initiative that will not only promote urban farming among common people but will also support the future sustainability of farmers.

July 17, 2020

Sandwiches – The travel-friendly food

‘Convenient’ is the word associated with sandwiches. Everyone loves sandwiches for their convenience and versatility in taste. It could be a tasty snack or a healthy meal in itself, depending on the kind of filling that has been sandwiched in between the slices. In the list of foods loved equally by kids and adults, sandwiches have a dominant position.

It is a known fact that kids are more than happy to see their lunch boxes packed with sandwiches and other accompaniments. Moreover, sandwiches are the best way to make kids eat their veggies along with their favourite sweet versions. Remember our childhood picnics and school days when we used to get those yummy butter-jam sandwiches along with the cheesy club sandwiches and chips? Although, growing up has toned down our taste buds to adjust with healthier versions, I must say those were some guilt-free indulgence days.

While travelling, we prefer to carry something light and handy to eat and there is no better option than sandwiches. It is the convenience of all essential nutrients in a meal, neatly stacked and packed in between slices of bread, that makes it an excellent food to carry when travelling. This can also avoid health problems caused by eating from outside. The option of customizing the filling makes it a universal food suitable for every culture. The usual choices of fillings are meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, cheese, butter, jams and sauces. A sandwich could be sweet or savoury.

In the Middle East sandwiches are more in the form of wraps, where the fillings are wrapped inside a flatbread. To name a few some of the regional wrap delicacies are Shawarma Sandwich and Falafel Wraps. These are wraps where grilled meat and fried falafel balls are topped with hummus or tahini and rolled in Arabic bread, which is typically a flatbread and served with pickled and fresh vegetables.

Whether you are travelling or packing up something for a picnic, sandwiches or wraps are the kind of food that makes a perfect healthy light meal to carry along. Sandwiches are portable, easy to eat, customizable and will keep you full and active.

July 16, 2020

SUNNY SIDE UP

Eggtravaganza! That’s what you get when you put the egg to perform myriad culinary tasks with barely a notice. With impressively palatable and health credentials, the humble egg has time and again proved its versatility as a kitchen staple. An intriguing story behind it goes to school chefs, who used to ask new recruits to make an omelette—a deceptively difficult task that can tell you a great deal about a new chef's technical ability and attention to detail.

If packed with flavours and innovation, the egg can be so mind-blowingly rich and is vital to a number of classic recipes. It can be used to prepare pasta, meringues, soufflés, and custards; from pancakes to pies; to bake cakes, cookies and glaze breads; to whisk sauces and whip up mayonnaise; from simple sandwiches to lush gravies; even to glue things together. It's that versatility, both in the number of dishes that you can conjure up and the number of ways you get there, that makes them so appealing and interesting.

Speaking of the healthier side of things, research has shown that eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet, containing a little bit of almost every nutrient we need. Omega-3 enriched and/or pastured eggs are even healthier. Besides being a very good source of inexpensive, high-quality protein with all the essential amino acids in the right ratios. It is also an anti-oxidant and contrary to belief also promotes heart health. Eggs contain Choline – an important nutrient that many people do not get enough of.  It is used to build cell membranes and has a role in producing signaling molecules in the brain, along with various other functions. Eggs are highly fulfilling and tend to make you eat fewer calories, helping you to even lose weight.

Even though we have been preparing them for decades, there are still plenty of creative ways you will discover if you get innovative. Carefully transforming an egg into a spectacular and out of the box dish speaks volumes about a chef’s skill and culinary versatility. With some experimentation, practice, and really valuable insights from the experts at ICCA, you can up your egg game. 

 

July 15, 2020

A Probiotic Dairy Guide

Probiotics have been in the spotlight since the last few years as one of the most important dietary intakes for a healthy digestive and immune system. Being aware of its health benefits, people are trying to accommodate their daily dose of probiotic supplements in their dietary intake. 

Probiotic, for most of us, is a health tag that is mostly attached to yoghurt and we believe that we are getting a good supply of probiotic health boost by including yoghurt in our diet. Unfortunately, this is not the case with many of the yoghurt-based products that are available in the market today. Yes, there is a catch in yoghurt consumption too that you need to be aware of. 

Let's begin with explaining probiotics. These are live & active cultures of microorganisms that are in favour of your health and are usually present in yoghurt. Yoghurt is prepared by adding live cultures to pasteurised milk to get the milk fermented to give a live and active food that is easier to digest than milk or other dairy products. It also has reduced lactose content due to the lactose consumption by the microbes.  

The problem with depending on store-bought yogurt is, some brands of yogurt might have live cultures and some may not. The lack of live cultures happens when they pasteurise the yoghurt after it has been fermented which kills the probiotics in it. The key is to look out for the label that indicates the probiotics are still active or make yoghurt at home which you can trust blindly. 

The second problem exists only if you have a sweet tooth. If you choose to have your yoghurt sweetened with sugar, corn syrup or any artificial sweeteners, remember that sucralose in the sweetening agent kills the probiotics and you will end up having a dead food. 

If you are looking to get some good dose of probiotics from the yoghurt you consume, then it is recommended to have unsweetened plain yoghurt or plain Greek yoghurt with any natural sweetener if needed.  

Speaking of fermented foods, especially dairy, cheese is another important health food. It is not just a chunk of fat as they call it. When it comes to aged cheese the fat portion of grass-fed cheese is actually good for your overall health.  

Fermented dairy products are generally the easiest to digest since they have already been pre-digested by the microbes in the fermentation process. A truly aged cheese that has gone through multiple stages of fermentation from various forms of microbes is a good aid to your dietary needs. 

It's said to be the best, if the yoghurt or cheese is made out of milk from grass-fed animals, as the fat content in these products will also contain important nutrients for a healthy heart, for cancer protection and body fat reduction.   

July 12, 2020

Enlightening about the Indian Cuisine

“Indians do not really eat hot, hot foods. People have that wrong impression. They eat food flavored with spices, but then the spices are not actually hot…”

An Indian kitchen will not be the most comfortable of places to be in, if you carry a sensitive nose & palate, are not adventurous about trying out new flavors, sensing different aromas and tasting new flavors. The aroma of spices (their proportion & blend) is actually heavenly for many, while very sensitive for some. Thus making appreciation something very relative so to say, however with the advent of globalization, more acceptance & appreciation of diverse international cuisines the world over today, the Indian Cuisine has carved a distinct niche of its own.

Historically India has been the focal point and cornerstone of the spice trade that from time immemorial was developed between civilizations in Asia, Middle East, Northeast Africa, and Europe. The colonial rule in India that started with the Portuguese coming to Malabar (part of the modern-day Kerala State) to trade in Pepper the “black gold”- a name attained when the ancient Romans traded Pepper for Gold for their medicinal and curative properties.

Apart from the good old Black Pepper, Turmeric (cure for arthritis, stomach pain, skin inflammation etc.), Cardamom (cancer-fighting properties), Cloves (toothaches), Cinnamon (diabetes) are just a few of the very popular spices that were highly valued for their medicinal values.

Saffron, Star anise, Cumin, and their closest cousins Caraway, Carom seeds, Fennel etc. although may not have their origin in India, but are widely used in the very flavorsome and also therapeutic Indian cooking.

The Golden Rule in any Cuisine is to introduce and use spices & condiments in their right proportions and appropriately. Any Soul Food could be transformed into a Hot, Spicy, and Heart burning experience if wrongly used, and it is the same that applies to Indian cuisine as well.

July 10, 2020

Understand the Pie Better

Pies are one of the most popular dessert choices. They are not just for dessert either, people enjoy savory pies as one of the main courses for brunch or dinner. Pies are traditional dishes that are often made and served during holiday seasons. They are pastry items with a crust and a filling, and the crusts can be of shortcrust or puff pastry. They can be filled with either pastry cream, fruit, vegetable, or meat according to your choice of making it as a dessert, appetizer, or a main course.

The Pie family is not limited to just pies with 1 or 2 crusts and fillings. There are variations to the rule, but the similarities they share with pies in various aspects make them fall under the pie classification.

Let's meet the Pie family:

Tart

A tart is very similar to a pie consisting of a filling over a pastry base with an open-top, not covered with pastry. They are thinner than pies and the pans they are baked in are usually fluted around the edges. Tarts are often eaten as a dessert. A quiche is an example of a Savory tart.

Galette

Galettes are a French word for cakes they are sweet or savory baked goodies. Galette is a rustic, free form version of an open fruit tart and could have a crust made out of pastry dough, yeast-leavened dough or a shortbread crust, They often consist of fillings with fruits, jam and different kinds of creams for a sweet version. A savory galette, maybe filled with egg, meat, fish, cheese, cut vegetables, or similar ingredients.

Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is an upside-down pastry in which the fruits are caramelized in butter and sugar, before being used. Apples are a classic choice but can be made with other fruits as well, preferably stone fruits. For this tart, the crust is carefully placed over the caramelized fruits and it is baked until the crust is browned and then inverted on a serving plate. The end result, which is a light golden crust with soft and juicy fruit cooked in crisp caramel, is a great combination. 

Flan: A Flan is an open pastry or sponge cake base containing a sweet or savory filling. It could be an inverted egg-based baked custard or an open tart with only one crust at the bottom. The flans related to pies are baked in flan rings. These are metal rings in which the pastry dough is molded, pressed neatly to the edges, and is baked alone with the ring. 

Pies and their cousins are delicious holiday classics and year-round favorites of many. Make your next friendly gatherings deliciously memorable by serving a warm delectable piece of homemade pie or a tart from our collection of both sweet and savory, pies, and tarts recipes. 

July 9, 2020

Telltale Signs of Good Meat

Beef is something that is relished worldwide in a variety of ways. Every region has their own take on this meat. Mostly loved as a main course, but as mentioned above it is consumed in many different ways such as appetizers, savoury fillings, and of course the bacon. How can we forget bacon? the breakfast favourite of many which is also a popular part of many desserts nowadays. This meat is a little tricky when it comes to cooking it. There are quite a few things that you would want to know before you are all set to cook some beef the next time.

Knowing your meat cuts is the key to a perfect beef dish. Most of us are not well aware of the fact that particular cuts of the meat make a beef dish perfectly cooked with adequate flavours. Some cuts are tender and some are more flavourful. But knowing the cuts alone will not help you, you should be having a clear idea about the dish you want to prepare before you decide on the cuts. Every dish is based on a specific cut, hence knowing the dish is important.

Now, when it comes to buying fresh meat, it is always good to go to a butcher shop. In almost all the supermarkets you can find a butcher shop where you can get your fresh meat along with your usual grocery shopping. Again, there is confusion remaining with most of us regarding the kind of meat to go for, out of grass-fed, organic and unlabelled. Grass-fed beef comes from the cows that were fed only grass and hay, but they would be also given other substitutes that are similar to their natural diet according to seasonal necessities that help them grow much faster. Organic beef doesn't give much information about what the cows are fed but confirms that it is not exposed to any kind of artificial pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, GMO's, or any other kind of chemical contamination.

There are several more telltale signs to look out for; nevertheless, these are a good platform for you the consumers. Remember get to know your butcher, they will also advise you on what cuts are best suited for your cooking method, after all, one could argue that your health is in their hands.

June 9, 2020

Pizza… Born In Italy, Loved By The World

If Pizza is in your list of favourite foods, then you are no different from the majority of the human race. Everyone loves a slice of the baked cheesy goodness. Here are some interesting Pizza statistics that goes to show just how popular this seemingly simple yet addictively appetizing pie in a box can be.

  • If there is one food item that has outpaced the growth rate above all other foods, it is the pizza. Over the past five years, pizza has positioned itself as the number 2 item in food service after burgers, averaging a growth rate of 11% a year. (Source: Food Industry News)
  • The annual consumption of pizzas worldwide – a whopping 5 billion+ pizzas a year.
  • The Pizza industry generates $32 billion per year, and the figures are only growing.
  • The record for the largest pizza ever made was a pie that weighed almost 50,000 pounds, including four tons of mozzarella cheese. The bread base was almost 130 feet in diameter.
  • Children between the ages of 3 to 11 prefer pizza for lunch and dinner, over all other foods. These figures are per a recent Gallup poll.
  • There is a pizza place in Alaska that delivers pizzas by plane.
  • The longest pizza delivery was from Cape Town, South Africa to Sydney, Australia.
  • Pizza Hut made a pizza delivery to the International Space Station in 2001. They paid the Russians $1 million to transport the Pizza and even made a commercial from it.
  • Las Vegas welcomes thousands of people each year to the Pizza Expo, the world’s largest pizza-only trade show.
  • $4,200 is the price paid for the most opulent pie created by pizza-maker Domenico Crolla. His “Pizza Royale 007″ boasted toppings such as edible gold, sun-blushed tomato sauce, venison medallions, smoked salmon, lobster marinated in cognac, and caviar marinated in champagne.
  • There is a Mathematical Theorem named after the pizza called the ‘Pizza Theorem’ which states the equality of two areas that arise when one partitions a disk in a certain way.
  • Pizza Dough Spinning is a professional sporting event where teams compete with one another at the World Pizza Championships in acrobatic dough-spinning competitions.
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