Category Archives: Food

Hot and Cold Nature, a Nepali Perspective

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Only a few months ago, I read a post that Nepali Jiwan wrote regarding when to eat “hot” or “cold” foods that didn’t pertain to the taste. In that time, I had a vision of a person in a tree with the head in the branches and the navel a wheel of Dharma spinning into the legs dipped in water. This week I found that image I’d created on the cover of a book called Prakriti by Dr. Robert Svoboda. In two days I finished the book and found more to read on the subject.
The parts that have stuck with me most are the parts that define hot and cold people. Shiva and I have had many a difference of opinion on hot vs. cold and perhaps it may be due to our nature. I am a strong Pitta Vata constitution. In the Ayurvedic tradition this means that my nature is that of fire, air, and some water lacking greatly in the grounding nature of the earth. I am driven by movement, transformation and light. The fire nature of the overwhelming Pitta nature also sparks my intensity in the form of anger and frustration. I have great strength as a result of this, but also suffer from impatience.
The concepts regarding my newly discovered Pitta Vata nature is that of the Dosha or balance. It is the balance between the elements Earth, Fire, Water, and Air. Between these for corners is housed a triangle of Pitta (fire and water in nature), Vata (fire and air), and Kapha (air and earth). In my reading, I discovered that in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, these Doshas are critical for diet and daily life. For example, Shiva and I were discussing his need for the sun and in this model, his need for the sun is heavily influenced by his Vata nature. Vatas are cold by nature, always seeking warmth. So Shiva may feel cold and a need for the sun, while my Pitta-vata nature is hot, unreasonably feels a desire for more heat, and increases its own hot-headed nature.
The thing that made me think of Nepali Jiwan’s post, is that she mentions after birth that women are thought to be cold and need hot foods. She mentions that its a mix that tastes bitter and sweet, to warm them back up. She mentioned the presence of fenugreek, which western medicine regards as a good herb to breastmilk production being included in the mix. Vata is considered the cold nature. If a woman is considered “cold” she is considered heavy with Vata and must be fed pungent, bitter, and astringent foods. She might be fed lentils, greens, and cardamom, cumin, ginger. This is just an example and certainly doesn’t represent all the options for a “Vata” diet. What I think is amazing is that so many of the herbs, spices, and foods listed have a scientific purpose postpartum. For example, breastfeeding women and new infants need an extremely high source of folic acid, such as broccoli, collard greens, and asparagus…all foods in the Nepali Vata or “cold” diet.
I think the whole concept of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha is amazing and seems to be spot on for Shiva and I. I am going to be analyzing this diet more closely and seeing how making changes in our diets affects our moods.

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I was gonna throw it away anyway…

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This past week, Shiva and I were discussing the orange juice he brought with him when he moved in and the bottom line. It was just taking up room in our refrigerator because the brand I buy is WAY tastier than the brand he brought with him. After purchasing three cartons of my OJ brand since his arrival, I proposed getting rid of the extra large jug of the OJ we had yet to open. He agreed with me as he had on our very first “date” that the food we would be ousting couldn’t possibly find its way into a trash can.
Let me back up. Before we were a couple we went on this trip to an art festival. I guess it might technically not have been a date as our roommate came along (at the urging of Shiva, not that I minded his presence, the roommate was apparently aware of our affections long before we were and maybe was a core ingredient to bringing us together.) Anyway, we were walking around and finally the scent of carnival food go to us and the three of us were meandering through the vendor aisle attempting to figure out what to eat. We came across an Indian food vendor harboring such sweetness as pakoras, grape leaves, curried chicken, mmm and other South Asian goodness. Our roommate, a vegetarian declined my invitation to share the deluxe meal, but Shiva took me up and we found ourselves stuffed with over half our plate left. Neither of us could justify throwing the food in the trash when the location of our art festival also happened to be our towns center of homelessness. And after arguing over who would be the one to hand over our leftovers to the homeless people on the steps of the courthouse. We didn’t want to seem condescending, but also thought the food would be wasted if thrown in the trash. Thankfully our roommate came up and loudly said, “don’t throw it away!” in such a way that one elderly homeless woman shouted, “whatever you do, don’t throw it away!” and so that is how we became dedicated to not throwing food away when we could give it away.
We decided easily that we’d be giving the OJ to someone on the streets, I actually had a pair in mind that I see every day after dropping my daughter at school. I thought about it and  decided that we could definitely part with more than our unwanted OJ. I cleaned out our cupboards and filled up a large paper bag of foods we, had to face it, weren’t going to eat.
I had hoped that I wouldn’t offend the homeless men I see on the street every day but I didn’t expect what I did see. The man, only one of the two I always see together, cried. He kept saying, “are you sure you can spare this?” I wasn’t giving him a great meal, I was giving him a bunch of food that I wouldn’t eat. Because Shiva and I have the luxury of deciding that we don’t like our organic rice cakes, or that we prefer Florida OJ over Brazilian from concentrate OJ. We get to say, I don’t feel like eating that beef jerky we bought on the road a couple weeks ago, or we have more stale hamburger buns that we will use and if we want some buns, we’ll just buy fresh ones. But all these items we’d just as easily throw in the trash, were making a grown man cry and asking if we could truly spare this “waste” to him. I still don’t know how to feel about this. I’m amazed at his humility and my selfishness. There is not much that is more humbling than realizing that you are truly lucky to have enough resources to literally discard food over not wanting it.
What do you do with the food you won’t eat? What do you do when your bread has gone stale or you just don’t feel like eating that snack you thought you’d test? What about your leftovers that are maybe just a few days past, mmm, “I’ll eat that.”?

Natural Wellness Tea

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I am sick with a cold that is taunted by seasonal allergies. That is what motivates this post on my favorite remedy for these conditions: home made “wellness tea”.

Boil some water. Use a tea ball for loose tea leaves.  Fill the tea ball with mostly dried eucalyptus, about half as much lemongrass, and a pinch of spearmint. Let the tea ball steep for at least 5 minutes. While the tea ball is steeping, grind a teaspoon of local bee pollen with a mortar and pestle. Dump the mixture into the tea and remove the ball. Stir. Then squeeze some fresh lemon juice and a mix in a spoonful of local raw honey. If you also suffer from a cough, add some rosehips to the mixture.

Do not drink more than 3-4 times a day for no more than 7-10 days. If you suffer from severe allergic reactions that result in anaphylactic shock, do not take this remedy unless you ask a Dr. first. Raw honey and especially bee pollen can cause problems in severe cases. If you do not suffer from anaphylaxis, but are still concerned about taking this remedy, you may let one granule of bee pollen dissolve under your tongue and wait 24 hours to see if you suffer an negative side effects such as throat swelling, sweating, or rash. I am not a Dr. or trained medically, this is just a home remedy I use and have shared with many friends. I’ve never known it to do anything but help people with colds and allergies.

To good health!

Chicken Soup for the Cold

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I grew up in a house that believed in chicken soup for a cold. Although, my family’s version was an extra watered down Campbell’s chicken noodle, the idea of chicken soup as comfort food as stuck with me. It rarely made me feel better. Although, I do remember my great grandmother making a kind of chicken soup that was really yellow, had a lot of mushy stuff in it and really did make me feel better.  About four years ago, I stumbled across a Cuban restaurant while I was very very sick with the flu. I couldn’t bring myself to cook and my ex-husband sure wasn’t going to try and make me feel better, so I pretty much just ate out.

On this occasion the Cuban restaurant was serving homemade chicken soup. I ordered a bowl and couldn’t believe how much it reminded me of my Irish great grandmother’s soup. I ended up bringing two orders home with me and started feeling a lot better. After recovering from the flu, I went on a search to discover the ingredients in this soup. I knew, it had something like potatoes, but they weren’t. I went back to the restaurant and the waitress didn’t really know what was in the soup. She did know that the potato like mush was yucca and sweet potatoes. She also confirmed that there were also yellow potatoes in the soup. She said the key was the bone.

I didn’t have any bones in my soup. She said that you have to pull the meat off with your fingers. So I went to the store, bought a chicken, and went to making soup. It wasn’t quite what I wanted, but it wasn’t bad. It took me almost a year of trial and error to come up with the recipe that has cured many a cold and flu.

I don’t know how much of the cure is in my mind, heart, or reality. I do believe that it has to be cooked with love and healing intentions. As I cook, I literally envision pouring healing energy into the soup.  With each shake of salt, each dash of rosemary, each pinch of pepper I feel more and more love and health soaking into the broth.

So here it is: the recipe for heal it all chicken soup. It makes a LOT so be prepared.

1 whole chicken
1 bell pepper
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
1/2 yellow onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 medium yucca
2 golden yukon potatoes
1 sweet potato
2 red potatoes
rosemary
thyme
salt
annatto (whole)
fresh cilantro
2 bay leaves

Boil a large pot of water, add the salt and spices (except fresh cilantro). Crush the garlic into the soup. Crush the whole annatto in a mortor and pestle and add this as well.
With the water boiling, slowly add the chicken and make sure that water covers most of it.
Chop the potatoes and yucca. Add all potatoes except the sweet one.
Cut the carrots into small pieces, first into discs, and then quarter the discs. Add these.
Slice the celery and add them to soup.
Dice the onion and add to the soup. Dice the bell pepper and add.

Once the potatoes are soft, slice into a thick part of the chicken and make sure it is cooked. Once the meat is cooked, add the chopped sweet potatoes.
Once the sweet potatoes are soft, take out the chicken and pull the meat from the bone and return it to the soup.

Sorry that I don’t know many measurements for the spices, its pretty much an add as I go policy.
What brings on this post? Shiva has a cold now, so guess who is going to be having chicken soup tomorrow.

Bhanchha garnu bhayo?

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Have you had rice today? A staple meal in Nepal is Daal Bhat. This directly translates to rice and daal, but it really is such a poor way to describe such a versatile food. After all, there are so many ways to make this that to label it all Daal Bhat is misleading. Here is one of my favorite recipes for this traditional dish. This serves 4-6 depending on how large your portions are. I put the Nepali words for these things that I do know next to the ingredients list. If you know the others in Nepali, please comment.

1 cup massor daal (pink/red lentils)

2 large cloves garlic (lasun) (I like to press it, but its traditionally finely chopped)

1 1/2 tsp minced ginger (adhuwa) (I usually use ginger paste)

1/2 tsp salt (nun)

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds

1/8 tsp jimbu (I’ve never found this in the US, I use chives)

1/4 tsp coriander

3 tbs ghee

2 green chilies, finely chopped

a small pinch of asafetida (its worth the trip to an Indian market, I promise)

1 tbs fresh lemon juice (kagati ras)

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

3 scallions finely chopped (all but the root)

1 small tomato chopped (golbherra)

Wash and rinse the daal. I like to soak it til the water turns cloudy then rinse. A lot of recipes call for this to be soaked before cooking. It definitely makes the cooking process take less time to do this, but I think that it makes the daal rougher. I like to just cook much longer and keep adding water as needed instead of pre-soaking. This is just a matter of preference.

Combine daal, garlic, ginger, salt, turmeric, cumin powder, coriander, 1 tsp of ghee, and 4 cups of water (you can use 3 1/2 cups of water if you chose to pre-soak) either way you’ll probably end up adding water).  Use a deep saucepan or large pot. Bring to a boil and stir frequently to prevent the daal from burning to the bottom. Do not take away the foam, it will look like soap bubbles. Reduce heat to low until daal is cooked. This can take as little as 25 minutes for well pre-soaked lentils. I usually cook mine near an hour and a half and keep adding water, but again I don’t like to pre-soak.

In a separate pan melt ghee on medium heat. Add the green chilies, cumin seeds, chives (or jimbu if you are lucky enough to find some) and fry for about 5-10 seconds or until they brown. Add the asafetida, mix in the pan, then add to the daal. Mix in lemon juice and serve. Add fresh cliantro, scallions, and tomato as you see fit.

Serve with rice. I usually eat a veggie and some yogurt on the side. Eat with your fingers, it tastes better that way 😉