Jihva Workout Vratham

Doing something with devotion for a cause is called Vratham in Sanskrit. I remember growing up in Nandyala, elders in my family periodically doing vrathams. They would refrain from certain foods and desires for a set period of time and slowdown from life. As a child, I used to wonder why anyone wants to put the body voluntarily through the hard path. But as I get older, I am realizing that suffering could bring salvation or at least gives some knowledge of how sufficient our lives are.

For the first time, I did a workout vratham last year for 14 days. It was a shock to my system and a test to my will power. In the end, the 14 days of refraining led to rejoicing about the realization that I still had the control on my mind and I could motivate myself enough to do something good for my spirit. That Jihva (desire) is back again this year. My guru for the inspiration and motivation is Kay from Live.Love.Workout. And, this is the plan for this year’s workout vratham:

Jihva for Workout Vratham

Vratham duration: May 1st to May 31st.

Vratham Workout:
in addition to the regular homework.

  • 15 minutes of meditation, everyday.
  • 5 days of Cardio (walking/running/aerobics/swimming/etc) – minimum 30 minutes
  • 3 days of Calisthenics (strength training/crunches, sit ups, squats, lunges, etc) and Yoga/Pilates – 30 minutes minimum

Vratham Food - The food will be anti inflammatory – as it will help to cleanse the system and slow down the degenerative forces.

Do’s:

  • Grains : Whole grains. Brown rice, Amaranth, Quinoa, Buckwheat, Steel cut oats, Millet – ragi (finger millet)/bajra(pearl millet)/white millet/African/kodo/Teff/
  • Fresh fruits – all except bananas
  • Fresh veggies – twice everyday
  • Protein – Lentils and beans at least twice a day.
  • Fresh Greens and Herbs: At least one serving of raw greens a day – either in juice or kosambaris
  • Unsalted nuts and seeds in moderate amounts
  • Sweetener – just a tad of honey / agave /stevia /molasses/jaggery
  • Dairy – Just yogurt or kefir.
  • Drinks – water, herbal teas, fresh juices, lemon water, coconut water

Don’ts:
The following are good foods. But in western world, particularly in US, aggressive farming, extreme chemical commercialization and over processing changed the good to somewhat questionable character. So the refrain.

  • No wheat
  • No sugar and sugar substitutes, preservatives, additives, etc
  • No dairy (milk, cheese, sour cream, butter, cream etc)
  • No eggs
  • No corn and corn products
  • No canned products
  • No veggies list – tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, bell peppers
  • No bananas or dried fruits
  • No caffeine – Coffee/Black tea
  • No alcohol
  • No chocolate
  • No fried foods
  • No peanuts
  • No Meat

Calorie Counting:
Portion sizes are important and total calories for a day allowed are 1200-1600. Divide each meal into approximately 300-400 calories for a total of 4 mini meals per day.
(calorie tracking websites – TheDailyplate, fitday, sparkpeople, shape online journal.)

This plan that I am going to follow for the month of May also changes the direction of 4-year old Jihva Event. You, my readers and fellow bloggers, are welcome to participate in Jihva Workout Vratham. Workout duration and food doesn’t have to be like the above exactly. It could be for one week or two weeks or a day and the food could be just vegetables and fruits or meat and dairy free. Giveup something, whatever that is troubling you food wise and workout. Change the vratham parameters to suit your lifestyle and life needs. Maintain an online journal for the duration and share your healthy meal menus and recipes with us all. No blog, then write a comment note at the participant blog you follow. Food is vital to our health and fitness, and group activities strengthen the soul. Jihva workout vratham combines the two.

I look forward to your contributions to Jihva Workout Vratham. Thanks.

Spinach & Sprouts

Spinach and Moong Sprouts

A gentle flavor with sweet undertone makes spinach sprouts one of my favorite curries. Tender spinach moistens the moong sprouts as they cook in this recipe.

Spinach with Sprouts

Ingredients:
1 bunch of fresh spinach
1 cup moong sprouts
1 red onion or shallot
2 green chillies, Indian or Thai variety
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon, freshly grated coconut
For cumin tadka: 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, 1/4-teaspoon of cumin seeds

Method:
Trim away the spinach roots and finely chop the fresh leaves and tender stems.
Finely chop onion and green chillies.

In a deep-bottomed skillet set over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of peanut oil. Add cumin and saute to fragrance. Add onion and green chillies. Stir-fry to soft-brown. Add the sprouts and spinach. Partially cover the pan and cook, until the leaves have collapsed. Sprinkle turmeric, salt and coconut. Mix well and continue cooking for another two minutes. Serve hot.

Spinach&sprouts is a great workout vratham food and I usually have it as it is without rice or roti. But I know that spinach&sprouts make a nice side dish to dal and rice or roti and a tasty filler for samosas and kachoris.

Spinach with Sprouts
Spinach Sprouts ~ Getting Ready for Kay’s Workout Vratham

Avocado~Methi Paratha

When culinary comfort is needed, it has become a habit to go into the kitchen to make parathas. Parathas magically transform dull looking meal options into a centerpiece meal, perfect for weekday eating but also special enough for that potluck party. Simply combine wheat flour with a favorite ingredient, rollout and cook, you have created something rich and tasty. For today, it was luxurious avocado and ultra-soulful fresh methi, gently kneaded into durum wheat flour and made into soft and satisfying parathas.

Avocado

Avocado-Methi Parathas
(for 8 medium-sized parathas)

Ingredients:
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ripe avocado cut, seed removed and ripe flesh smoothly mashed
1 cup, finely chopped fresh methi leaves and tender stems

Method:
In a bowl, sieve wheat flour with salt. Add avocado and methi. Mix well and gently knead. Add couple of teaspoons of water if necessary to make firm dough. Keep covered for at least 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 6 to 8 equal sized pieces and shape them into smooth rounds. On a wooden board or on a clean countertop, take a paratha dough piece, dust with flour and roll into 6″ diameter circle with a rolling pin.

Place a tava or griddle on stove-top and heat. When the tava is hot, place the paratha and cook on medium-heat to golden brown on both sides.

Serve hot with some curry or yogurt or pickle.

Avocado Methi Paratha with Methi Chole
Avocado Methi Paratha with Methi Chole ~ For Meal Yesterday

Home as a Hobby ~ Cilantro Bouquet

Every kitchen garden needs a healthy combination of both herbs and vegetable plants, and nothing beautifies the homestead like flowers. Cilantro is a great annual herb with memorable fragrance, flavor, and flowers. This old-time herb sprouts from coriander seeds, grows compact, flowers prolifically, sets seed gladly and reseeds with ease, offering a perpetual, perennial-like performance in the kitchen garden. The whole cilantro plant, from fresh leaves, flowers, root to seeds have valuable roles in the kitchen and many culinary uses.

I noticed that cilantro loves warm and humid Houston weather. I let my cilantro bloom this spring and then fruit. When seeds are plump, I removed the plants and arranged them in a flower vase to air-dry. They made a beautiful arrangement and filled the home with wonderful coriander fragrance. It makes me happy to think that in about a week when they are dried, I could harvest home-grown coriander seeds.

Cilantro in Bloom
Cilantro in Bloom

Fresh Dania (Coriander Seeds)
Cilantro with Plump, Green Dhania (Green Coriander Seeds)

Cilantro with Seeds
Cilantro with Coriander Seeds

Cilantro Bouquet
Celebrating Mother Earth’s Generosity with Cilantro Bouquet

Methi Turai Dal (Menthi Beerakaaya Pappu)

Methi in my garden is now fully grown. Thanks to the frequent rains and pleasant weather we had for the past few weeks. I dug out few plants and plucked the fresh leaves and tender stems to prepare methi dal for today’s meal. I also added turai, because I thought mildly sweet turai would complement methi’s herbal flavor. Individually also they are best friends with toor dal. Together, methi and turai made an excellent team-toor dal day.

Methi is easy to grow in garden beds or in small containers, tastes good and known to balance blood sugar levels. If you have never tried growing methi, please do try this season. Go to an Indian grocery and purchase a packet of methi seeds. Soak some in water for a day. Wrap the soaked seeds in a wet muslin (cheese) cloth for a day or two. Seeds start to sprout. Plant the methi sprouts in soil where it gets sunlight. Water once a day. Within a month methi will be ready to harvest for dal, curry or roti.

Fresh Methi and Turai

Methi Turai Dal (Menthi Beerakaaya Pappu)
(for 2 or 4, for 4 to 2 meals)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup, toor dal (kandi pappu)
2 cups, fresh methi leaves and pinched tender stems
2 cups, turai pieces (peel the turai ridges and thinly slice)
1 small red onion or shallot. chopped
8 to 10, Indian or Thai green chillies, finely chopped
1 tablespoon, tamarind pulp
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Method:
In a pressure cooker, take toor dal. Wash and clean the dal. Add the methi leaves, turai, onion, green chilli, tamarind and turmeric. Add about 2 cups of water. Mix. Close the lid and pressure-cook the dal to soft consistency. Allow the pressure to come down and then remove the lid. Add salt, about half teaspoon or to taste, and mash the cooked ingredients gently with a wood masher or a sturdy whisk.

Season the dal with garlic tadka. For garlic tadka, heat a tablespoon of peanut oil in a medium-sized pot. When oil is hot, add 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, 8 curry leaves, and a pinch each – cumin and mustard seeds. Saute the ingredients to fragrance. Add the methi-turai dal to this garlic tadka. Mix well and serve the methi-turai dal with rice or roti.

Methi Turai Dal with Rice
Methi-Turai Dal and Turai Curry with Rice ~ For Meal Today and
for Suma’s Delicious Dals From India Event

Celebrating Spring: Potato Sambar

You know, when something is good, it becomes a classic. This potato sambar, for example. I remember two generations before me, my mother and grandmother, enjoying this delicious and hearty dish. Idly and potato sambar – “more amma…” I would always ask for more when I was a child. Who knew digging into the earth for potatoes would unearth all these precious memory jewels as well! Fresh produce patriotism plus the nostalgia – that’s what this potato sambar is for me now.

I realize that potatoes are not for everyone in this calorie-conscious atmosphere. But baby and new crop potatoes are truly wonderful, and I do think they are worth that extra mile walk.

Toor Dal Mash, Pearl Onions, Tomato and Red Potatoes for Potato Sambar
Toor Dal Mash, Pearl Onions, Tomato and Red Potatoes for Potato Sambar

Potato Sambar
(for 2 or 4, for 4 to 2 meals)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup, Toor dal
2 medium sized, fresh potatoes. Cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds (no dice)
10 pearl onions, peel the skin and cut off the ends
1 ripe tomato, finely chopped
Half lime-sized tamarind
1 tablespoon, sambar powder
1/4 teaspoon each, red chilli powder and turmeric powder
1 teaspoon, salt or to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

For Curry Leaf Tadka:
2 teaspoons, peanut oil
One sprig of fresh curry leaves, 6 small dry red chilli pieces, 1/4 teaspoon each – mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and hing

Method:
Toor dal: In a heavy cooking pot or pressure cooker, take toor dal. Wash and clean the dal. Add two cups of water, quarter teaspoon of turmeric. Mix, cover and cook until the dal is soft and then mash it to smooth paste. Keep it aside.

Tamarind: Soak half lime-sized ball of tamarind in one cup of warm water for 15 minutes. Squeeze it out between your fingers to extract the juice and discard the pith and seeds.

Prepare the Sambar: In a big pot, heat to medium and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chillies, mustard seeds, fenugreek, hing and curry leaves and saute for 2 minutes. Add the onion and brown lightly. Add the potatoes and tomatoes. Cook, partially covered until potatoes are fork-tender.

Add the tamarind extract, mashed toor dal that was kept aside to the vegetables. Stir in sambar powder, red chilli powder and salt. Add a cup of water. Allow this to boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves and remove from heat.

Serve potato sambar warm with rice, idlies or vada. Or fill a cup with sambar and sip with a spoon. However you serve, potato sambar makes a nutritious and satisfying meal.

Potato Sambar and Rava Idly
Potato Sambar and Rava Idly ~ A Meal, Last Weekend

Potatoes with Rosemary and Cumin

Delicate skin, texture so precious, you just want to hold them like babies.

Their fragrance is legendary, and continents were discovered in search of their source.

Create a dish that would express your culinary affection. It has to be simple in preparation and sensational in taste.

Yes, my dear Mahanandi!

New Potatoes with Rosemary and Cumin
(for two, for one meal)

Freshly Harvested Red Potatoes
Pick 12 freshly harvested (new crop or baby) potatoes. Gently rub and wash to reveal that pale ruby red skin.

Freshly Harvested Potatoes
Place the potatoes in a steamer. Add water to the pot and place the steamer in pot. Cover and steam-cook the potatoes to fork-tender.

Freshly Harvested Potatoes
In a cast iron skillet, heat two tablespoons of ghee. Add and toast quarter teaspoon cumin seeds and a tablespoon fresh rosemary to fragrance. Add the steam-cooked potatoes (cut into smaller pieces, as needed). Gently toss and saute for five minutes. Sprinkle salt and black pepper to taste. Serve Warm.

Spring Harvest : New Potatoes for Potato Upma

Red potatoes I planted last winter are taking up quite a bit of precious space with their healthy blooms this spring. I read that flowering means potatoes can be harvested. I like the potatoes when they are in baby, immature stage, when the skin is still very delicate and they have not had as much time to convert their sugar into starch. I didn’t want the potatoes to fully develop into big mature ones with thick skin. So, to recover some planting space and to harvest some tender potatoes, yesterday I removed the potato plants and dug up the new potatoes. It was like an easy treasure hunt to unearth these baby ruby beauties. I got about 16 potatoes, from two plants. Not bad, considering that I didn’t do anything extra, like adding fertilizer, except watering the plants occasionally.

16 potatoes and 3 recipes – one recipe each for three days. That is the menu this week. First recipe on the list, a classic from childhood and my husband Vijay’s favorite, Potato Upma. Potatoes are cut, sautéed with other vegetables and then steamed with roasted rava in potato upma. For Vijay, upma is not upma unless it has some potatoes and tomatoes in it.

Freshly Harvested Red Potatoes
Spring Harvest: New (Immature), Red Potatoes

Potato Upma
(for two or four, for two to one meal)

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon, peanut oil
From Masala dabba: 1/4 teaspoon each, urad dal, cumin and mustard seeds
1 sprig, fresh curry leaves,
1 onion, finely chopped, about a cup
4 green chillies (Indian or Thai variety), finely chopped
1 tomato, finely chopped, about half cup
2 potatoes, finely cubed, about a cup
Roasted cashews or peanuts, about quarter cup
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 and 1/2 cups, Roasted Upma Rava (available at Indian grocery)
3 cups water

Method:
In a large skillet, heat peanut oil over medium heat. Add urad dal, cumin, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Toast the ingredients to fragrance. Add the onion and chillies, stir-fry until the onion softens, about five minutes. Add tomatoes and potatoes. Cook, stirring often for another five minutes. Add water to the skillet. Stir in salt. Raise the heat to medium-high and cover the skillet. When water starts to boil and lifts up the lid, remove the cover and reduce the heat to low. Add roasted rava, stirring constantly with a sturdy ladle so that the rava mixes well with water without any lumps. Sprinkle cashews or peanuts and steamcook, stirring frequently until there is no liquid left on the surface and the rava looks like creamy pudding.

Serve Potato Upma warm with chutney, pickle, podi or sambar.

Potato Upma
Potato Upma with Pappula Podi and Carrots ~ for Meal Today

Red Bell Pepper and Sundried Tomato Chutney

It is a spread on dosas and parathas. A dip for mini idlies. Pongal, rice and upma love to mix and mingle. Sun-dried Tomato chutney. What’s the attraction? Some said, it’s the concentrated goodness of the sun-dried tomatoes, for some it’s the red bell pepper smoky sweetness. While others say it’s a matter of cooking it quickly on very high heat. I think all three contributed to the red hot success of this chutney and popularity in my home.

Sundried Tomatoes

Red Bell Pepper and Sundried Tomato Chutney
(for a week, for two or four)

Ingredients:
12 sun-dried tomatoes
2 red bell peppers
1 tablespoon, thick tamarind pulp
1/2 teaspoon, salt or to taste
1 tablespoon, peanut oil

Method:
Chop red bell peppers coarsely to chunky pieces. Include the seeds.

Heat peanut oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red bell pepper pieces. Stirring constantly, sauté to soft, about 15 minutes. Add sundried tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to sauté, stirring often for another two minutes. Turn off the heat. Wait for the ingredients to reach room temperature.

Take the roasted red bell pepper and sun-dried tomato pieces in a blender or food processor. Add tamarind pulp and salt. Blend until smooth. Remove to a clean, glass jar or cup. Serve and enjoy the chutney with your favorite savory items.

(Chutney stays fresh up to a week when refrigerated.)

Red Bell Pepper and Sundried Tomato Chutney
Red Bell Pepper and Sundried Tomato Chutney

Garden log: April, 2010

French Lace Rose Angel Face Rose
First Roses to Bloom ~ French Lace and Angel Face

I can’t believe that I am already into my second year of gardening. Last year was my first attempt at raised bed gardening. In retrospect, I have to say it went very well. It was a joy to see small seedlings budding into healthy plants and producing so generously many flowers, vegetables and fruits. We had great spring and summer season last year which contributed to the garden success, and it was more enjoyable because we had my mother and father in-law from Nandyala visiting us. They were enthusiastic, encouraging and very helpful towards my gardening hobby, and did a lot for the well being of plants. Thanks again Attayya and mamayya, if you are reading. I miss your kind presence and I wish you are here this year too.

2009 garden efforts produced a decent vegetable harvest. The plants that did exceptionally well were tomatoes, peppers, okra, brinjal, Indian broad beans, Indian karela, Turai and Red alasanda (asparagus beans). Gongura, Spinach, Chard, methi, mint and coriander also grew well. When it comes to fruit plants, they are still in establishing stage and the harvest was 3 pomegranates, 10 sweet figs and few strawberries and blackberries. We had some winter causalities due to unseasonably cold weather. Mango, guava, seethapalam (custard apple), curry leaf, jasmine varieties, nandivardanam, henna and banana plant did not survive the snowfall to my heartbreak. I can now understand the despair the farmers feel when the hard-earned money, effort and hopes of green future give up on them. I have gently laid plant losses to rest in the compost pile. My only comforting thought was to believe that those plants would live on through the feeding of the next generation by becoming the best compost possible.

I am glad spring is here, giving a new chance for life. Days are getting warm. Seeds are sprouting. It is so beautiful here, I am spending most of the time outdoors tending plant beds. Here are some plants I’ve planted for this year’s growing season.

Some good and old:
Alliums: Red onion and garlic
Beans: Green beans, Peas, Chikkudu(Indian Broadbeans), Okra
Fruits: Blackberries, Cantaloupe, Fig, Grapes, Jamaican Cherry, Mandarin Orange, Papaya, Pomegranate and strawberries (most of the fruit plants are planted last year)
Greens: Chard, Gongura, Fenugreek (methi), Kale, Lettuce, and Spinach
Herbs: Mint (spearmint), Marjoram and Rosemary
Squash: Turai, Lauki(Bottle Gourd), Silk squash, Cucumbers, Karela, Zucchini (yellow and Mexican squash)
Vegetables, Fruit: Corn, Eggplant (purple, long and round variety), Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers.
Vegetables, Root: Potatoes (red), radish (red), Ginger

Some new:
I am planning to grow tamarind, turmeric, mango-ginger and vaamu(ajwan) because ever inquisitive mind wants to know how they fare in Houston weather.

Here are some photos from the backyard:

Tomato Plants Brinjal Seedlings
Tomato Plants …………. Brinjal Plants


Red Radish and Cantaloupe … Mint, Rosemary, Marjoram and Strawberry Plants


Beans, Cucumber, Grape …. Curbside Mint Around the Front yard Plant, Free for Walkers

Kittaya with Lettuce
My Garden Buddy, Dear Kittaya Enjoying the Greens and the Garden Breeze

What are you planning to plant this spring? Any new gardening tips and ideas? I would love to hear from you.

Weekend Houston ~ Joseph’s Nursery, Pearland, TX

Joseph’s Nursery in Pearland, TX is one of the decent nurseries I have ever been to so far in Houston. It is a gigantic nursery, filled with a huge range of basically everything that can be grown in soil. They have a wide variety of flower, fruit and decorative plants, and a good selection of both Asian and native vegetable plants. Nursery looks well-maintained, the people who work there are helpful and plants’ prices are also comparable to major chain garden centers. Plus, it is almost next to Sri Meenakshi Temple which makes it convenient to do bhagavan and vana darshan one after the other on the same day.

We went there last weekend for spring plant shopping. Brought home a desert rose, papaya and few vegetable plants. Here are some photos we have taken during our trip.

Joseph's Nursery, Houston
Joseph’s Nursery, Pearland, TX

Joseph's Nursery, Houston
Geraniums in Different Colors

Joseph's Nursery, Houston
Flower Selection

Joseph's Nursery, Houston
Desert Roses in Bloom

Joseph's Nursery, Houston
Helpful Staff, Hard at Work

Joseph's Nursery, Houston
Vegetable Seedlings for Sale

Joseph's Nursery, Houston
My Precious Plant Khajana for Summer 10

For those of you interested to go, here is the address:
Joseph’s Nursery‎
3723 FM 1128 Rd, Pearland, TX 77584-7517
(281) 489-9786‎

Weekend Kittaya

Adorable Kittaya
Adorable kittaya watching us with those charming emerald eyes

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