The Calorie Night’s Watch


A double onslaught fast approaches- One of the most anticipated series Games of Thrones makes way as well as the pile on of calories. My arch nemesis for the longest time, the best description of these suckers is something I read; tiny creatures that live in ones closet and sew clothes a little bit tighter every night, drawing an analogous quest and claim for ‘Waist-eros’. Hopefully this season will be kind and not indulge me in binge eating over marathon sessions. Now while I sit back awaiting a challenge laid down by the lovely folk at PEMA a wellness resort in Vishakhapatnam, where I’m enticed to a multi-coursed 500 gram gourmet meal, the intrigue and surprise on my face runs comparable to the time the Mother of Dragons sat down to Khal Drogo’s breakfast specialty- a horses heart. Luckily, this all-vegetarian led holistic healing centers atop a hill with the picturesque coastline ahead has thrown down the gauntlet. Challenge accepted.

With grams weighed and a calorie intake monitor in place under the strict eyes of dieticians and master chef’s creating wonders, this is one of my meals. Starting off with a Curried Cauliflower soup (200 grams at 59 calories) followed by Herbed Mushroom Caviar (120 at 97) and a Soufflé de legume (200 at 186) and Honey glazed apple sandwich (100 at 70) totaling to an astonishing 412 calories over this four-course meal! Speechless. With the right exercise, water intake and calorie count with expert supervision for a variety of body cleanses, I drop an astonishing 3.5 kilos in 5 days. But it did get me thinking- the calorie wars can be won if we condition ourselves to avoid ‘binge eating and drinking’ over our favorite prime time shows. But if the need does arise, there’s hope in these substitutes that could combat one’s meteoric calorie rise.

Moong dal- Every Indian’s favorite, this dal is full of Vitamin A, B, C and E and many minerals, such as calcium, iron and potassium. It is often advised by dieticians to replace fatty foods with Moon dal as it is a weight loss food that is rich in proteins and fiber, so one feels fuller after having a bowl of dal for a long time and curbs your cravings. My recommendation would be adding finely chopped onions, tomatoes, boiled potatoes, sprinkle of rock salt, pepper, a dash of lemon and top it with coriander and bhel- “Voila! Chaat a la Moong”. Try substituting this for the buttered popcorn. Don’t hate me just yet.

Dhokla- This humble dish from Gujarat is famous all over. This light and fluffy delicacy is seasoned with coriander leaves, mustard seeds, green chutney and fried green chilies. Made from fermented flour it is rich in nutritive values. Being steamed and not fried, dhokla has less oil content, makes them low on calories. 100 gms of dhokla contains only 160 calories! Need I say more?

Cinnamon- Everything is nice about this weight loss food. This nutty flavor spice is also known for its diabetes fighting properties. Add ground cinnamon as a replacement for sugar in cake dough or in your tea and coffee to get the most out of this wonderful spice every day. If it’s too much of a hassle indulge in dark chocolate, the darker the better and stick to a few pieces, please.

Beetroot juice- Yes this is the odd one out, but trust me beet juice gives your body a stamina boost allowing you to exercise longer and burn more calories post the show. Beets are a blood-building herb that detoxifies blood and renews it with minerals and natural sugars. This weight loss food also aids in eliminating toxins from your body. Try my favorite concoction- 2 medium sized beetroots, 2 oranges, 5 slice of fresh pineapple, 2 tablespoons of Lemon Juice and a sprig of Mint. Voila- should keep your cravings to the least minimum. Blend and savor. 

Valar Dohaeris Caloris Non! (Loose translation; All Men must NOT serve calories!) Shoot me already. 

Enjoy the show.
 

Advertisements

The Stuffed Moppet 

Namaskaaram! A warm and sticky welcome from God’s own country-Kerela. An encounter with a doctor at a recent check up had me take notice of what exactly I was fuelling my system with. A whole representation of eating habits, which I’ve mustered along the way, my drastic weight loss due to troubles plaguing the mind and soul initially, a culmination of all of these had me realize over a period of a decade the amount of misguided abuse, I had let my body suffer at my own hands. We all look out for that twelfth hour of immortality when pitted against a wall. Not at the risk of sounding like the harbinger of doom and despair, but its always great to have a reality check every once in a while.

 We really are what we eat. Travel took me far down south; it’s always a pleasure walking into the kitchens of Maggie Q, a Brit living here since 1994 can aptly be described as ‘spontaneous combustion’. Warm, caring, razor sharp wit, unapologetic and carefree would be the best way to describe her. A practitioner of Ayurveda mastering the ancient scrolls in existence since 900 B.C, she is happy to share. Slightly perturbed about my said given condition, I’ve been codenamed ‘Moppet’, a small endearingly sweet child. She aptly describes my current condition as somewhere in between a lopsided Dwarf and a Tooth Fairy. A detox and body prolife was in order not to mention a jolly good ol’ stuffing. Now I know what is running through that mind of yours, however focusing on power health foods ‘stuffed’ with the right healing herbs and spices is what was what the doctor prescribed.

 Stuffed Yellow Chillies- 350 grams of yellow chillies approx. 2 inches, ½ up roasted and grounded peanuts, ½ cup roasted and ground sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut, 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, ¼ cup water, 3 tablespoons sunflower oil, ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds, ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ turmeric. Wash and dry the chillies, cut one side of each length wise making a pocket. Scrape out the seeds for a milder dish. Blend the ground peanuts and sesame seeds with the coconut, cilantro and water into a low thick paste. Stuff the chillies with said paste. On a heated pan add oil followed by mustard seeds, cumin seeds, salt and turmeric. Sautee on a medium flame till the seeds pop. Add the stuffed chillies to the pan on medium heat. Gently and frequently turn the chillies on all sides until the skin is evenly brown and chillies are tender. Served hot! Keep in mind, this is a hot and pungent dish, sharp, penetrating and a stimulant. This forms a great digestive apart from being a very scrumptious dish.

While the first dish invigorates and targets certain organs closer to the digestive system the second is the counter balancing effect to a stuffed meal. Light, scrumptious, highly fibrous and a great balancer to the fiery chillies is the ladyfinger.

Stuffed Okra (Ladyfinger) – 350 grams of fresh okra, ½ cup ground roasted sesame seeds, ½ cup ground roasted peanuts, 2 tablespoons unsweetened, shredded coconut, ¼ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon masala powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro leaves, 1 tablespoon chickpea flour, ¼ cup water, 3 tablespoons sunflower oil, ½ cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds

Wash, dry and cut of the ends of the Okra. Pocket the same as done with the yellow chillies earlier, Make a mixture of the sesame seeds, peanuts, coconut, turmeric, masala powder, cilantro, salt, chickpea flour, and water into a paste for the filling. Heat the frying pan to medium and add oil, cumin and mustard seeds. Cook till the seeds pop and add the okra and turn for 10-15 minutes till brown and crispy. This forms a great laxative apart from other beneficial healing properties to ones digestive system. Serve with chapati’s (Indian bread)

Stuffed out, the rejuvenation process has begun. 

The Summer Dip 

The Heat is on”,- lyrics apt for the current weather situation. Glenn Frey definitely knew what he was talking about, however profoundly missed the gravity of the situation here, in scorching Goa. Normally, I would be on meticulously planned travel to a pleasant destination, the mountains up north perhaps- however this was the first for me back home due to a multitude of commitments in and around. With temperatures soaring enough to just ‘dip’ into my well, this is literal and -yes I have one of those in my yard at home. Futile and cumbersome, though exhilarating from a daredevil perspective if I may say so, it wasn’t merely enough to combat the double whammy of humidity and heat.

 I read an article somewhere, about research in relation to how hydration affects our mind, our mood, memory and learning, thinking and reaction time. What we are unaware of is the drastic impact; the external temperatures are having on us internally. Call it more of a ‘mute syndrome’ if not looked into carefully. It’s played havoc and had some rather adverse reactions to my metabolism from rashes to heat boils physically to mood swings and mild cases of depressive surges mentally- all warning signs for a rapid change in diet and water consumption. A human being on average consumes 3-4 liters of water a day. While that is great, the weather around is not really conducive for an appetite and eating is becoming rather cumbersome, more of a force-fed chore.

 At the local grocer store, I decided to list down a few home made dips that have been added to my diet to combat the ‘water shortage’ within with outstanding immediate results. It is great for the in-between meal cravings. Here’s a list of 3 food dips to make your summer a breeze, no pun intended.

 Mango Salsa Dip– Yes, I can see a smile on your face. While this is a sweet caveat in the making and should be had in moderation, given how heat retentive the king of fruits is, a cup of mango slices will rehydrate ones body with half a cup of water!! Do try and consume it moderately. Also the Salsa dip made with Yellow and Red Bell Peppers is an added bonus with more vitamin C than oranges as well as retention of also 92 percent water- a delicious hydrating addition to your summer diet. 

Tzatziki Sauce (Yogurt and Cucumber Dip)- The good old fashioned cucumber and yogurt; commonly known as ‘raita’ to many households. This is spin on the Greek version of the same- for that extra zing. Very easy to make and goes famously well with pita breads, chips and toppings. While the cucumber does its part with 96 percent of water to ones body, the yogurt has multiple benefits ranging from cooling the body to good bacteria for the gut. The process is simple; Line a colander with two layers of cheesecloth and place it over a medium bowl. Place the yogurt on the cheesecloth and cover the colander with plastic wrap. Allow the yogurt to drain overnight. Lay grated cucumber on a plate lined with paper towel; and drain it for 1 to 2 hours. Combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, parsley, mint, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

 The Pineapple Cream Cheese Dip- With a name as sultry as Ananans, this dip is sure to make your taste buds tingle. All you need is 100gms of softened cream cheese and 200gms of crushed pineapple drained with juice reserve with 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed. A ten-minute preparation will have the entire family licking their chops and asking for seconds instantly. Mix the cream cheese and crushed pineapple first and allow it to breathe for a few. Mix the reserve juice from the pineapple to open the consistency and get the desired texture needed. Add the garlic and chill in the refrigerator until serving. Not only will you have friends and family asking for more, the pineapple delivers the compound bromelain, a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and this tropical plant packs in 87 percent water. Best served with a hot toasted baguette.

 So the next time someone asks you to take a Dip, make sure you have more than your swimming costume on. As for me, I’m heading back to the well.

 

 

A ‘Whirlwind’ Experience at Sea

Statutory Warning! The next 1282 words, describe a ‘Whirlwind experience‘ aboard a floating world in the middle of the ocean. Granted its not an apt choice of words and I got home all accounted for, it did feel like just that- the minute I boarded the Mariner of the Seas by Royal Caribbean – a colossal 138,000 tons cruise ship, with 15 decks of activity poised in serenity at the Singapore Harbor.
 

From afar, one would be misguided to underestimate the ‘fun’ hidden within. After all, it does look like any other cruise ship meant for the honeymooners of mush. Looks can be deceiving, and I happened to witness it first hand the minute I boarded. “There is something for everyone”- a line that has been used beyond reckoning and is rather staid these days, not to mention over promised, would be the apt title for this ‘cruise’ and it sure lives up to its name. Let me give you a few activities that left me spell bound and thoroughly engrossed enough to realize that 96 hours passed me by. Did someone mention the relativity of time in a Interstellar manner of speaking?

 THE Dreamworks Parade


Its an all star round up when life size characters of King Julian and Princess Fiona and Kung Fu Panda parade up and down the gangway to welcome one and all aboard this journey of Fun and Frolic. They even are amazing enough to click photographs with. Check out Julia from Madagascar, she is a whole lot of hug and is quite supportive for ones weight ego issues, in a diminutive matter of speaking.

 For the DareDevil in you


One realizes that moment of self proclaimed fallacies in regards to ‘physical fitness’ when the sign up for the adventure zone. You have a Rock climbing wall for the enthusiast such as ‘moi’ to climb atop and suspend oneself 25 feet above deck with unparalleled horizons of the deep blue sea and all that lurks within and shout out with arms wide stretched ‘I am the king of the world’ and play spectacle to all below who guffaw at your idiosyncrasies. 


Or if that doesn’t cut it for you, try colour-coordinating footwear to match golf balls on the mini golf course during putting practice. Mind the wind and draft, it plays havoc on ones putting stance, or maybe it was the alcohol talking from one of the many bars around. For all the ‘insomniac hoopsters’ in the house, there is nothing like a great game of Basketball at 2am in the morning.

 A Jacuzzi and Movie


Not all Fun and Games require physical exercise. After the bitter sweet realization sets in and parts of ones body, unheard of before- scream for attentive rejuvenation the best way to swallow ones bruised pride, no pun intended, is to catch a movie on a larger than life screen close to 70mm theatre sized format, in the middle of a bubbly Jacuzzi at 9 pm till midnight. I had a wonderful time watching a country western- The Magnificent Seven, with a beer in one hand and a shower of rain from above during the movie. A surreal experience indeed. Do remember to keep the towel handy, as the wind gets rather gusty in the wee hours of the morning. A definitive experience- with like-minded company, to redefine the term ‘Netflix and chill’. Goes without saying I wasn’t so lucky given three hairy men sharing my tub. Three more and I would be living my country western flick in real bubbly life, as a matter of speaking.

 John Travolta meets Evgeni Plushenko


Contrary to popular belief, the ship while cruising is as stable as a Professor delivering a lecture on quantum astro physics on a cold winters day in Harvard. However, if some wish to get ‘Jiggy’ with it, allow me to suggest two multiple varieties on two different surfaces. For starters you could head to the neon lit discotheque at the far end of the ship, and boogie away to Saturday night fever Travolta style, and bust a move while you at it or be a vision on ice like the 4 time Olympian Evgeni Plushenko. Yes don’t look so baffled, I assure you I am not doing a Hemingway through this article and this piece is written and edited sober. There is an ice skating rink in the middle of the ship!!!! And you can learn the art of making a complete fool of yourself and redefining the term ‘Bottoms Up’ every few feet on twin blades. Whats more allow for the show to begin post ‘your’ practice rounds and see these graceful figurines make you feel inadequate and left footed every step of the way. Please wear full pants, I speak from experience having to break away follicles of hair like icicles due to the severity of the cold.

 A Yankee and a show  


Given all the vigorous and not so vigorous activity leaves one famished. What better experience than to dine at Johnny Rockets, one of the specialty restaurants transporting you back to the days of jukeboxes, hamburgers, hotdogs, sundaes and corn chilly fries. The Strawberry milkshake is best left to be sampled as words currently transport me to the chunky bits of fresh strawberry amidst goodness of brain freeze slush. Set in a 60’s setting of the American diner this is a fun filled experience for adults and kids alike with a set menu that includes some scrumptious mouthwatering fare that would appease the palates of adults and kids alike. 


Consume the meal with gusto and don’t miss to catch the Musical at the indoor theatre Gallery of Dreams. 


Its a world class production and keeps ones feet stomping through the spectacle.
 Jackpot ‘Kaching!!!’


Right about now, the only infamous words coming to my mind is the sputtering of Clint Eastwood to the tune of ‘Feeling lucky punk’. No, I am not held at gunpoint nor am I in a Mexican standoff at the Roulette tables in the casino below deck. A full-fledged casino to satiate the appetite and wallet of the gambler in you, this gambler paradise has something for everyone. From slot machines to Blackjack to 21 one never gets bored. I even managed to win a little as a first time gambler. What can i say, beginners luck perhaps? After all, the house always wins right? Maybe not applicable in this case given it’s technically not a house? One would never know!! To question or not to question, that is the answer. Strictly for adults only.

 As I sign off, I would like to harp upon the activities NOT covered in the gambit of Fun and Frolic aboard. Time did not permit me in a 19 hour day of whirlwind madness to indulge myself in the VitalitySM Spa with 100+ treatments with medi-spa treatments and acupuncture or the 4 pools including the Solarium that is an adults only retreat. 

Nor was I privy to the state-of-the-art Fitness center with classes that included Tai chi and yoga or indulge my shopping delights in the duty-free shopping on the Royal Promenade including a Coach¯ store, jewelry, perfumes, apparel and shopping etc. Time also did not permit me to enjoy my stateroom with ocean facing balcony that had a flat-screen television with touchscreen way finders and digital signage to get the digital geek in me fed and be happily content. However having witnessed it all, I am eager and ready to get on my next cruise for a longer duration of time to plan my schedule more meticulously to experience all that it has to offer. 

Boredom is never an option aboard the vastness of the ocean thanks to Royal Caribbean and Tirun Marketing. 

Picture courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Images shot on IPhone6  

 

The Easter Egg Hunt 

Nearing the end of the Holy period, my Instagram feed is cropping up temptations aplenty. From White & Dark Chocolate coated bunnies and decorated eggs to Minion shaped marzipan ones, each has me impatiently counting down the days till Easter Sunday. During this period of abstinence, many friends around gave up the consumption of eggs as part of the diet and it got me thinking about the historical significance of the Easter egg also known as Paschal eggs. Did you know? Eggs, in general, were a traditional symbol of fertility and rebirth, in Christianity, for the celebration of Eastertide, Easter eggs symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus, from which Jesus resurrected. Quite fascinating. One ancient tradition was the staining of Easter eggs with the colour red “in memory of the blood of Christ, shed as at that time of his crucifixion. This custom of the Easter egg can be traced to early Christians of Mesopotamia, and from there it spread into Russia and Siberia through the Orthodox Churches, and later into Europe through the Catholic and Protestant Churches.

 Speaking of history- I have my own history with eggs, not the Easter kind but the white ones with the ‘yucky yolk’ in the middle. I wouldn’t say a bad one but rather an unpleasant one. For the longest time I was harangued for leaving the yolk on my plate and at times subjected to be force-fed. Then as I grew older armed with half baked knowledge of the perpetual medical debate of cholesterol and how the ‘yolk’ was bad for you, had a bitter sweet remedial victory to the likes of “I told you so” to said authority. Memories are made of collective experiences and this had me stray far away from the goodness of protein found in them.  

 However eggs have been gradually shedding their bad reputation and gaining in popularity among health-minded eaters of all persuasions, from egetarians to protein-seeking athletes. Most experts now agree that eating eggs in moderation-up to one whole egg per day- doesn’t increase heart disease risk in healthy people.

 I am of the firm belief that mixing things up and eating a variety of foods is the best way to ensure you’re getting enough of all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function optimally. So it pays to alternate egg dishes with other healthy options, like fiber-packed oatmeal or yogurt with fresh fruit and nuts. Eggs are high in protein, which appeals to people looking for morning meals that have staying power. But there are plenty of other breakfast-friendly foods that accomplish the same end: Yogurt, soy and cow’s milk, beans, nuts, seeds, and certain whole grains like quinoa all deliver a nice hit of protein in a naturally nutrient-dense package. Here are a few egg free breakfast hacks for the busy bee in you.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal- This is my all time favourite, just for the peanut butter that adds dimension to the meal. Cook 1/2-cup oats with 1-cup soymilk, and stir in up to 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter. This serving gives you for 21 grams of protein!!!!

White Bean-Avocado Toast- Mash 1/4 of a ripe avocado with 1/2-cup white beans plus fresh herbs if you so desire, and spread over a hearty slice of toasted whole-grain bread. Prep time- 5 minutes and throws in 14 grams of protein.

Banana Bread Smoothie- A simple blending of 2 cups Soy Milk ¼ cup Walnuts, 2 large, very ripe Bananas, 1 tsp pure Vanilla Essence, 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon, 3-4 seedless Dates, a dash of Sea Salt and 2 handfuls of Ice and voila that’s 35 grams of protein in ten minutes.

As for self, I know what the near future holds in the form of sweets and meats galore. Here is the big question plaguing me- What size of the egg shall I buy? Will it be Chocolate- the way it was in 1873 when J.S.Fry & Sons introduced the first chocolate Easter egg in Britain or would it be the Minion shaped Marzipan eggs with semblance to the ones I tasted in the Philippines ‘mazapan de pili’, all those years ago from ‘pili’ nuts? 

Heres wishing you all a Happy & Joyous Easter ahead!!

For more follow me on @nolansatwit on Instagram and Twitter. 

 

 

The Sleepy Minion 

An excerpt from Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost- “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep” generally sums up and epitomizes our current lifestyle for the present generation of ‘millennial’. We work hard, party harder, love deeper, socially antisocial, and technologically slaved sleep deprived beings on most counts. Sometimes I wonder and wish for an additional seven hours to a twenty-four hour day to get the job done. It’s harmful. I know it. What am I doing about it? Nothing really. Well not until I met Calin from Nebraska at the recent Saturday Night Market.

Calin works in the ER and goes without saying is a workaholic. She works twenty-hour days and while we walked around the grounds admiring it in entirety she had a certain sense of calm about her. She quipped of having been at ‘peace’ in a very long time, with her mind not racing in a thousand directions and being socially disconnected not to mention mentally traumatized given her work area. Having suffered a panic attack and anxiety attack almost simultaneously made her take note of her body and listen to it carefully. That’s something we both had in common. I had a panic attack but recently and that made me sit up and focus on certain ‘lifestyle’ choices that were plaguing me both mentally and physically. Over a cup of tea, notes were swapped as well as our common love for Minions- those nubby yellow henchmen of Gru from Despicable Me. Still clueless, Kindly Google!

 Now while the earlier version of yours truly would literally kill a Saturday Night in quick succession with multiple venues and a crazy all night party working towards the wee hours of the morning, the new and improved one choose a homemade recipe and a conversation to lull out a perfect set rendezvous. That’s the exact moment when revelation hit in this preparation as thunderous as Thor’s hammer and Zeus lightening bolt in unison- Banana Cinnamon Tea. Did you know? Bananas are one of the more well known sleep aiding foods. Aside from tasting great and being full of fiber, bananas are a good source of potassium and magnesium, which both act as muscle relaxants. When your muscles are relaxed, you are able to let go of stress more easily and drift into a deeper sleep. They also contain Vitamin B6, an important micronutrient that aids in the body’s production of serotonin, a precursor to the other sleep hormone melatonin. While they maybe rich in potassium and magnesium, what most people do not know is that the banana peel has, even more, potassium and magnesium than the banana itself, and it is often thrown away as trash. That was a new discovery for this preparation. 

Imagine the numerous times stress calls on us. That depletes Magnesium as a mineral in ones body first. Cinnamon apart from tasting amazing is great because it is one of the best ways to balance blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are balanced, your hormones can function in a way that allows for better sleep. If your blood sugar levels are off, then you may have energy at night, or be tired during the day.

 How does one go about this preparation? All you need is one yellow banana; I had to use five elaichi bananas present in my kitchen given the lack of a normal one. If you were using the Moira banana half of the same would do just fine given the size. A pot of filtered water and a sprinkle of cinnamon, if you like. Cut off both the head and tail end of the banana and put the banana into a pot of bowling water. Boil for about 10 minutes and sprinkle some cinnamon into the water as well. If you’d like to add some stevia for sweetening, do so. Stevia helps to balance blood sugar levels, and will not spike blood sugar levels before bed.

 Drain the same and enjoy a hot piping cup of tea allowing you into slumber land shortly thereafter.

If you like the article, would love to hear from you. Follow me on @nolansatwit

Holi Jam 

 

Holi Hai; It is such a vibrant feeling when there is a mix of colour and celebration right in the midst of Lent. A blend of religion and beliefs between different faiths is something to marvel at in a country as diverse as ours. Hope you all had a fun filled wonderful celebration. While Lent has come to be known as more of a ‘detox’ to abstain from sweets by abstaining from the same as something given up in penance, not that I believe that food is the answer, (rather more a societal adherence these days), my first reality check with this deadly substance happened a few years ago when my sugar levels were alarmingly high.

 We, in Goa, love our sweet. Lets face it. Goa poses a high number of diabetic cases due to either hereditary or lifestyle choices and no one is safe from this deadly condition. With many family members and loved ones battling this, I am susceptible to it myself. However, I was given my warning bells that tolled a lot earlier to take drastic steps in regards to monitoring the same. Prevention and observation is the only way one can keep a check. My blood sugar count every month, periodic blood tests every 6 months and trying to maintain a stress free lifestyle by eating healthy are some of the remedies undertaken. It’s a tall order but something’s got to give, right?

 Speaking of which, my routine breakfast habit has a high calorie impact, where I normally splurge on a sweet product. Raw Honey has substituted processed sugars and at times the urge for a bit of Oreo Cadbury diary milk. Tea is boiled with readily available Stevia leaves for that added sweetness, though most folk prefer my lemon cardamom tea sans dairy.

The one thing that posed a challenge with was ‘Jam’ for my poi. I love Jam especially the Mixed fruit ones and they are one of the biggest processed harmful sugar contributors to ones blood count irrespective of what the label tells you. While in a conundrum over this I happened to meet a travelling Yogi from California. She happened to enlighten me on the simple process of making a homemade jam that got me addicted to the point of Dr.Victor Frankenstein where no fruit was spared. Experiment after another with many trials and errors had me select a few favorites and processes, which are rather simple to make. I’m assured of your gratitude a little later.

 The concept is RAW. Raw jams hold all the nutrients intact especially the good sugars and what’s more the process is really simple. To make a raw jam, one simply needs to puree your fresh fruits with ground chia seeds and freeze until ready to use. The chia seeds are what cause the fruity concoction to gel, completely natural. The general recommendation is 1 tablespoon of chia seeds per cup of fruit. I happened to receive this lovely packet of juicy strawberries that deserved some overall share.

 Here’s how I went about making compote in less than 15 minutes for all to savor on the dining table. 8 strawberries, 2 tsp of chia seeds, ½ cup of water. Chop up the strawberries. Add the Chia seeds and blend to a pulp. Do taste to see if the sweet quotient is apt. If not add a bit of raw honey, though try and avoid it. Refrigerate it for 30-40 minutes for the seeds and fruit to work their magic. If the kids wish it sweeter, a great PBJ- Peanut Butter and Jelly combination over toasted bread loaves would hit the spot and add the nutrition calorie count required in the process. It is one of my favourite combinations. Note, the chunky peanut butter jams. For those not convinced there is a cooked version as well. You simply cook the fruit down until it is a thick jam-like consistency. Freeze, and only thaw enough to use within a week or so. Do note that the less sugar there is in your finished product, the shorter your end product’s keeping time. Also since this would be a first time you try it, use common sense when you open up your containers of jam or jelly. If it doesn’t look, smell, or taste right, don’t take your chances!

 May you keep experimenting and whisking up a vibrancy of colours for months on end this year.

Lent with Lentils 

 It’s the first of forty. Days when one resists the temptations of sin, prays and abstains from all forms of luxuries as an offer form of penance. It’s Lent. While most of us are reeling in from the fun and frolic of the Carnaval that went by, I find myself in a rather precarious position at the start of this holy month. In Singapore for work, and my abstinence in the form of an autocratic and totalitarian option of vegetarian meals is an interesting story in itself. A confluence and blend of cultures and a stirring hotspot of multiple nationalities – Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesia and Western influences, the food is diverse. Many lip smacking; mouth-watering dishes surround you as you enter China town- much like the temptations of Christ’s walk in the desert for 40 days and nights being tempted by the devil himself- my grandmothers bedtime story version, may her soul rest in peace. 

Focusing on food as one item to abstain from, its rather difficult when one gets an aromatic whiff of pork and mutton skewers being chargrilled by the roadside not to mention a leaner option in the steamed chicken rice cooked in chicken stock and the Hard shell chilli crabs with that taste bud tickler of a Katong laksa- rice noodles in spicy coconut curry soup with shrimp, fish cakes, egg and chicken meat!

However this is not about any of the above. It’s an account of a weak willed admitter to a world of gastronomic carnal sin- a food survival guide in Singapore. After some soul searching, I stumble upon Whole Earth- a Michelin BIB Gourmand Award winner in the heart of the city. An interesting concept much like the Trick eye museum of Sentosa where one gets to challenge and bend their imagination. What if I told you I ordered the Handmade Honey Ribs. First reactions, people. Blasphemy!! Sacrilege, Ill never get into the pearly white gates now. Quite the sinner, huh? However this is one their masterpiece creations with a myriad of ingredients including monkey head & shitake mushrooms, quite the Indiana jones version with lotus root, individually hand rolled to perfection and glazed in harmony with a delightful blend of honey sauce. MY conundrum has never been about the food, rather what can be consumed by one and all. That’s where the devil lies- finding the protein in everything I eat, given the strenuous workouts and heavy energy laden activities one has to endure as a traveller. 

Enter the holy trinity of super foods that I have come to depend on especially in times like these. Why lazy? Seeds, yes like a bird- including flax, chia, sesame, and sunflower, are packed with protein and “good” fats with a nutty taste to them, with flax being more prominent. Both flax and chia seeds contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants. These are available in a myriad of flavors and allow me to ditch the potato chip packets as a snack in between meals. Next is the Beans & Legumes. The combination of beans and rice make for a great complete protein. Beans and lentils, of course, also provide you with the necessary carbohydrate aspects for overall sustenance.

 The trifecta ends with another Super seed. In 2013, the UN declared and dedicated an entire year to this seed. Quinoa. A complete protein, it consists of all nine of the essential amino acids the body can’t always produce on its own. Also look at the abundance in variety. Did you know? There are over 120 varieties of quinoa! Here’s one of my easy to make preparations- the Pineapple Fried Quinoa. All you need is 1 cup of uncooked quinoa, 2 cups water, 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, 1 medium finely chopped onion, 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 Tablespoons of fresh minced ginger, 1.5 teaspoons dried red chili pepper flakes, 3/4 cup peas, 1 diced red, 1.5 cups of fresh pineapple and you are ready to go. This is a great family snack and serves 4. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Set aside and cover it for 10 minutes. Add the coconut oil to a pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook for about 3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the peas, bell pepper, and pineapple, and cook over high-heat for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the pineapple just starts to caramelize. Add in the cooked quinoa, liquid and some cilantro for extra zing. Mix well and cook for an additional minute and voila. 

Till we meet next, have a blessed season.

 

 

 

 

Goa Garnishes Upper Crust in the latest edition! 

Read all about the quarterly round up of restaurant showcases in and around Goa- from Far East Asian Cuisine to Mediterranean Nostaligia in the latest edition of Upper Crust. Grab your copy today. 

Miguel Arcanjo: Dining with Legend

Taj Exotica, Calwaddo, Salcete, Benaulim, Goa 403716 Phone:0832 668 3333 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.2000/- + taxes

Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness and live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, or they become legends.”- Legends of the Falls. 

Touted as one of the most exclusive restaurants in Goa named after the maestro first Indian executive chef in 1939 at the Taj Mahal Mumbai- this restaurant is an ode to his legacy. A place by reservation and exclusively dedicated to the art of pampering, this establishment is situated on the lobby level of the Taj Exotica. Stately refined with an aura of luxury, a fountain in the center for company- one gazes at the open interactive kitchen set against bay windows in the distance. This is a perfect destination of special moments and events. 

A choice of air conditioned comfort during the day one can opt for sitting in the verandah overlooking acres of lush green lawns, the restaurant provides a perfect arena for the maestro’s gastronomic delights that have been painstakingly researched and restored by the chefs. Start off with the Forest mushroom cappuccino with drizzled truffle oil to get the meal underway and carry in tune with the chef’s interpretation of Masci’s favourite preparation- the Chicken Liver pate en encroute with toasted brioche and garnitures. 

The Chorizo de Goa was a beautiful mélange of cured pork sausages with a delicate infusion in a croquette and phyllo chorizo parcel and a carefully balanced Chorizo terrine cake. For a more Mediterranean flavor- try the Atlantic Black Cod which lays claim to the experimentalist ahead of his time in the way Masci would blend flavors to create a ‘Nouveau’ experience for his diners. Fish baked with fermented soybean, wilted young spinach with a brush of stewed rhubarb soy soil and lemon balm. 

For the dessert lover in you, we would recommend a spectacle the folks at the restaurant lovingly call the ‘Grand Dessert Opera’. A sinful interactive play of swirls and whirls- raspberry, chocolate and dried fruits. Wait for the end, it sure will get a response out of you.

 Koi : The Art of Zen on a plate

Gauravaddo, Behind Snip Salon, Calangute, Goa 403515 Phone: +91 98118 25551 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.1300/- + taxes

 Named after the enchanted fish – the koi, that swims across many waters of Asia, Shefali Gandhi & Aziz Lalani, have conceptualized a ‘style’ of dining that many may wish to experience. The Art of Zen on a plate as referred, the duo has endeavored to capture the tantalizing flavors of Far East Asian cuisine with interpretations of delicacies from Vietnam, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia, to name a few.

 Enter the Jade walls that compliment herringbone styled floors, the Buddha bust sets the mood for a perfect fine dine setting and allow them to you’re your mind of ‘expectations’. Start off your evening in style at the Martini bar with a wide array of signature Martini cocktails that would appease anyone fancies. The Silver Bullet Martini is a showcase with a cooled stirred martini poured over a Mont Blanc pen in a frosted glass. 

For the mains- the signature lies in the Burmese khow-suey and is a meal in itself. A slice of Japan makes way in the sashimi and sushi counter. Or simply indulge yourself in the Korean pork ribs succulently marinated to perfection, a gastronomic treat indeed. One of the only standalone fine dining restaurants, to host a Teppanyaki counter, do try the theatrical experience in the ‘Seven Deadly sins’. 

 This is Supper Theatre Live with a special 7-course menu curated by Shefali Gandhi and seats 8 by reservation only. We were amazed to bear witness to old school traditions in the Gueridon trolley for their signature Mandarin flambee crepe dessert that signed off the evening with aplomb.

 

 Sheela’s: A Landmark in Goan cuisine

Opposite St Jacinto Island, Sancoale, 403710 Phone: 0832 2555675/ +91 9049158277 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.900/- + taxes

 This story dates back nearly three decades when Nicolua D’Souza, a tailor by profession, started this venture. It had begun as a simple styled ‘taverna’ where the lady of the house Luiza would cook for the locals who worked on the barges in the vicinity. 

Today that very ‘taverna’ is a landmark thronged by a line of cars parked on either sides of the rode opposite the picturesque St.Jacinto Island. Run by Sylvester D’Souza, the proprietor’s son and in its 28th year of operation, the buzz is still alive with customers waiting for a quick meal before they head off to catch their flight.

The restaurant has two sides for seating but one has to sit on the deck to view the scenic beauty of the river. During lunch, waiters scurry around with moderately priced thalis, the local lunch favorite. We asked for the signatures, which were highly recommended and we were not disappointed. 

For starters the Chonak Raechade Masala (local goan fish) and Sylvester’s famous Stuffed Crabs. These are alive and snapping when brought to the table for one’s selection. A seafood lovers haven with the daily produce being hauled off the trawler live and fresh, the Rawa fried prawns go well as finger food snacks and the portions are wholesome. The seasonal Fried Bombay duck (bombil) is a crowd favorite with portions selling out and ordered from the morning by local patrons. 

If however the old favorites tickle your palate, order the Xacutti with Goan bread. We tried something unique in a special chicken preparation made by Luize, ‘Chicken Luizmarie’ with a three-flavor masala. It goes famously well with drinks and is highly recommended. 

Dinners are popular, the view out there is so impressive, especially in the night when the church across on the island is lit and its reflection is mirrored in the water.

Baba’s Wood Café ‘Da Maria’ : Ciao Goa

Shruti Resort, Next to Little Italy, Gaurowaddo Holiday Street, Calangute, 403516 Phone: +91 7264946643 Meal for two: Approximately Rs.1500/- all-inclusive sans alcohol

 An oasis of calm on one of the most bustling streets of Goa, would be the best way to describe this restaurant. Off the main road of the ever-crowded Holiday Street in Calangute, Maria Grazia has brought a little piece of Italy to Goa with her ‘unique’ flavors of Italia cuisine. A quaint ‘trattoria’ styled establishment in an open courtyard fringed with palms with a small pool that catches the reflection of the canopy of stars overhead is calm and borderline unnerving as the silence deafens ones senses despite the fact that this is one area patronized by the boisterous holiday maker. 

An inner area showcases apparel on display, the warmth of the lighting and the slatted tables on the cobbled floor. Its warm, its cozy and it bears the ‘Da Maria’ stamp. The menu is true blue Italian with a wide variety of soups, starters, pizzas, pastas and salads to choose from. Start off with the all time Margarita, Salmon and sour cream thin crusted 13” wood fire pizza baked in the kiln in the courtyard. 

Follow through with the Parmigiana- aubergine with basil Parmesan and tomato sauce. For the carnivore in you look no further than the Beef Carpaccio- delicately shaved and thinly sliced with rocket salad and pomegranate spelling heaven on a plate. With a slight nip due to a cold dewy night, we requested for a bowl of hot soup. Maria in her Italian affable nature suggests the Mushroom soup with croutons, which became our flavor for the night. Mind you the portions are huge and filling and can easily be shared. 

The Spaghetti a la Carbonara will be served with a warning chide by Maria stating that it has to be consumed in under ten minutes flat to avoid it becoming like bubble gum. This is an old favorite and has her signature attached to it since inception. The desserts are urban legend and have patrons travel from afar to sample the Afogata al Café or whisky version for the proverbial nightcap. 

A must have with the home made gelato on offer. A multitude of varieties to choose from she recommends the hazelnut. The Eat and drink desert ‘Copa Mangiabevi’ a fruit salad-brandy-ice-cream concoction or the seasonal Strawberry tiramisu are some specialties on offer that would wish you hadn’t had such a heavy meal an hour earlier. ‘Da Maria’ is sure to appeal ones senses.

 

 

 

 

Bullet for my Valentine 


This has nothing to do with the popular rock band or for that matter me taking a bullet for my Valentine in a metaphorical manner of speaking. Valentine’s Day is quite the bat signal in Gotham for the likes of a bachelor. A precarious time for singles out there. The perilous questions one has to dodge of getting ‘too serious’ or for that matter ‘having the talk’ of where relationships go in general.
 My advice to avoid this entire drama- fly far away, meet a lovely lady in Andhra Pradesh-visiting 6th century undiscovered caves and ask her if she’s busy for the evening. No she wasn’t Lady Lara Croft though that fantasy still remains in at the top of my travel list. Ladies love adventure. So when a wanderer on a ‘bullet’ (read Royal Enfield), comes along with a camera and a penchant to cook a meal, it’s a surety that one is not meant to be alone this day.

 The menu for dinner was working up the local flavors of the region to give her a taste of the state. Going ‘glocal’ for the global traveller. A gracious friend and foodie willingly allowed me to use his kitchen for this feat. Keeping in sync with the theme, I started out with a salad signifying the color ‘red’. Beetroot Thoran also known as ‘poriyal’ in the south of Andhra is an Ayurveda recipe with a 180 calorie count serving that requires 2 cups of grated beetroot, 4 tsp of grated coconut, 1 sprig curry leaves, 2 chopped green chilies, ¼ tsp mustard, ½ tsp cumin, 1 tsp urad dal, 1 tsp fresh grated ginger, 1 garlic clove crushed, 1/8 tsp turmeric and salt and oil as needed for additional taste. Heat a little oil in the pan, I normally use coconut for its health properties and add mustard and cumin and allow them to crackle. Add ginger,green chillies and curry leaves post and fry till the ginger gives you that flavorsome taste. Add the dals, red chillies and garlic cloves. Fry until the dal is golden brown. Add the grated beets and turmeric and sauté till lightly cooked. To speed up the process cover the pan. Add the grated coconut and fry for about 2-3 minutes and serve. It makes for a great salad option and can be had plain though locals prefer it with rice or chapatti.

 As a starter option, Miss Croft wanted to help and participate. Cooking together does add spice to any equation. All you men reading this, try it at home with your ‘better half’. It makes you a rather dishy offering to your respective partner. Obviously groceries were an issue with my friend not having had the time to shop. A cabbage at the far corner of the kitchen had me work up a Cabbage vada.

 Vada or vadai is a deep fried snack made from ground lentils that make for the perfect snack. Here’s what you need. ¾ cup chana dal, 2 /1/2 cups finely chopped cabbage, 1 tsp ginger paste, 1tsp garam masala, ¼ tsp red chili power, a handful of mint and coriander leaves, 2 green chilies chopped, 2 tsp rice flour (you can use more depending on the quantity you wish to make. This serves 10-12 vadas) and salt as needed.

Wash and soak the chana dal for 1.5 hours and drain completely. Cut the cabbage in quarters and dip them in hot water and leave for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse well and shred the cabbge into very small size bits. Mix with coriander leaves, salt, green chilies, the dal, curry leaves and pulse the remaining chana dal to a coarse mixture without adding any water. Add this to the cabbage mixture along with garam masala and red chili powder. Mix well and set aside for 10 minutes. Add 2 tsp of rice flour to the mix. Take a small portion of this mixture and check if it can be formed into a ball. It has to bind well or else add another tsp of flour and mix. Post which fry until golden brown and drain with kitchen tissues before serving for excess oil. In all honesty, the vadas did burn a little but even if I served her haggis at that time, she would have scored a 10 for effort.

I cheated on a fruit dessert with Figs. Also known as the forbidden fruit, it’s filled with antioxidants, flavonoids, fiber and potassium. Cleopatra couldn’t have enough of it, and the Greeks consider it sacred associated with love and fertility.

So men, the moral of the story lies in your ladle. Start cooking now.