5 Ways to lighten the load without losing out

Hey Friends! After the last post, I had a few conversations with people who were trying to eat better, but struggling to move away from “comfort” foods- especially in the winter when the body craves warm, gooey, luscious things. I get it. In the winter all I want are biscuits, mac and cheese, naan, steamy jeera rice, and mashed potatoes. But I’m no longer 20, so if I ate like that everyday it would be pretty problematic (mainly because I refuse to buy a new wardrobe to accommodate the generous increase that would ensue). However, there are ways to lighten the load, without losing out on flavour & satisfaction.

Here are 5 easy and delicious ways:

  1. Portobello Pizzas: Swap out the heavy (but delicious) dough for some chewy mushrooms, top as you like and voila! An easy weeknight meal that has hundreds of options.
  2. Spaghetti squash with your favourite sauce: We like to top this with vegan “meatballs” or a simple lentil Bolognese.
  3. PB&J on an apple: Looking for a way to get some fruit into your daily mix? Swap out the bread for an apple and enjoy the [natural] sugar rush.
  4. Zucchini (Courgette) Lasagna noodles: So easy to build your own favorite lasagna, but without the guilt-inducing noodles. I usually slice my zucchini ¼ inch, salt them, and bake them in an oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, before proceeding with any standard recipe. (This helps to remove some of the moisture in the zucchini, otherwise you end up with a lasagna pool.) Once you’ve done this, just use the zucchini noodles as you would lasagna noodles, piling on your favourite toppings and baking until bubbly. cauliflower rice salad for breakfast food blog
  5. Cauliflower rice: A must for anyone trying to incorporate more veggies into their diet. We always have bags of this in the freezer, ready to accompany our curry.

Vegetables for weight loss

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Have you ever tried to lose weight? I mean really tried? I’m in my 30s and this is the first time in my life that I’m truly making a conscious and physical effort to shed some pounds- and it’s hard as heck! In my previous post I talked about slowing down and taking care of myself. A large part of ‘keeping it light’ in 2016 is taking care of the physical body: eating more vegetables, being more active and reinvigorating my yoga practice. Ultimately with the intention to physically ‘keep it light.’

Luckily, time is on my side. Often I speak to people who are trying to lose weight in order to fit into an outfit, go on vacation, or be ready for summer. All of those external time constraints might be a motivating factor for some people, but for me they’re a hindrance. I prefer to wholeheartedly incorporate some changes into my lifestyle, slowly adding ones that feel good and subtracting ones that don’t work.

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Some of the bounty from my weekly vegetable delivery.

One effective way to lighten the load is to incorporate more vegetables into the daily mix. Now some of you might be saying “Hey Shilpa, you have a blog called ‘Salad for Breakfast.’ Don’t you eat enough vegetables as it is?” To which I would say “My friend, you can never eat enough vegetables…” Okay scratch that. I would actually probably just say “No!”

So, more vegetables it is! In particular, for weight loss, I use the following as a rule of thumb when choosing vegetables for my plate: either leafys (not really a word so don’t google it), greens, or water-filled. Here are examples of some of these varieties:

  • Leafys (the bunches or layers of leafy-like vegetables): Spinach, Chard, Kale, Cabbage (green or red), beetroot greens, bok choy (or other Asian greens), lettuce
  • Greens (this one is self explanatory): Broccoli, edamame, avocado, peas (blah okay I don’t really ever choose peas), pea snaps (I like these)
  • Water-filled (these are the ones that will keep you hydrated and/or shed lots of water when cooked): Peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, cucumbers, garlic, onions, celery, tomatoes (are they a fruit? Are they a vegetable?)

So basically, the things that haven’t made it on the list are the vegetables that are high in starch and/or sugar (carrots, beets, potatoes, squashes etc.) That doesn’t mean that I don’t eat these vegetables- I sure do! I’m just more mindful of the portions, don’t eat them daily and try not to eat them all in one meal. Again, this is my own rule of thumb for weight loss. I’m not a nutritionist so this might all sound like mumbo jumbo to you! And that’s okay 🙂

This system is particularly hard to follow in the winter, when most of the seasonal produce in Toronto is made up of starches and root vegetables. So it’s been a fun learning process and I’ve had to figure out ways to balance my need for locally grown food, with my need for leafys, greens and water-filled vegetables.

What about you? What rules do you follow for weight loss? I’d love to hear what works for you. In the next post I’ll share some tips on how I’ve been using the vegetables.

Until then, keep it light!

 

Thanksgiving with vegetarians & vegans 101

Thanksgiving- a frenzied, family ‘n friend filled, foodie-fest… and one of the few American rituals I partake in (sans Turkey).

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Tempeh meatballs using minimalist baker’s recipe

 

I know that thanksgiving can be quite a stressful time of the year for some people- especially if one of your guests doesn’t eat turkey (God forbid!) Well fret not. If you’re hosting vegetarians or vegans for thanksgiving (or just want to make a nice meal for someone special in your life) then the blog world has gotcherback.

Seriously. I’ve been obsessively reading food blogs for over a decade now, and it’s astounding the number of quality vegetarian and vegan blogs that are in the mix. These folks know how to satisfy the hungriest customer and make meals that are consistently good. If you’re still on the hunt for a last minute dish, here are the top 3 sites I would recommend:

  1. http://www.theppk.com/ : If I haven’t said it yet, Isa Chandra of the post punk kitchen is my food guru and idol. I worship her wisdom, relish in her humour, and have become fatter as a result of her recipes. Try.Them.All. (Especially: Porcini crusted tofu, pecan pie, roasted butternut squash alfredo, chocolate pudding pie)
  2. http://minimalistbaker.com/ : Dana has made a splash in the past year or so with her easy to follow, low fuss and consistently delicious recipes. (Try fall pot pie, tempeh meatballs)
  3. http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/ : Susan’s blog is the first one I tested when first moving from a vegetarian to a vegan diet in ’06. (Try: Pumpkin spice bread, sweet dumpling squash stuffed with rice)

That’s all you need. For real. I just gave you an entire meal plan- get to work ya’ll!

Truth be told, perhaps the best part about thanksgiving (yes, better than the food), is the opportunity to reflect and be grateful.

Today in particular my gratitude goes to these two beautiful ladies below.

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Happy birthday to my Mother-in-Law and my Mom. Amazing women celebrate birthdays on November 24th. Clearly.

Diwali Dal!

Happy Diwali and New Year to those who are celebrating!
diwali tealights

This year, I had planned two days worth of yummy Indian meals for the habibi and I. This is a big deal for me because, although I absolutely love Indian food, I don’t make it often enough. The truth is, no matter how long I spend, or what I do, it just never tastes like my Dad or Mom’s food. Yup! Dad cooks too. And he’s a total badass in the kitchen so it’s pretty hard to create a satisfying Indian meal without feeling like it just doesn’t taste like home. How many of you out there share the same issue?

When it comes to Thai, Mexican, Italian, Chinese and North American food, I feel pretty confident (perhaps too confident). Probably because I never grew up in a Thai, Mexican, Italian Chinese or traditional North American household. But Indian food (and I completely recognize that “Indian” food is sort of like saying “European” food- it’s a bit nonsensical because it’s so wide-ranging) is still tough for me.

chana dal spinach

Anyway, I digress. The two days of Indian fare didn’t actually happen because of some unexpected health issues. But I was still determined to make something to mark the holiday, so I scrambled to think of an abridged and simple menu. In the end we had gorgeous spicy jeera aloo, tofu makhani and spinach chana dal.

chana dal

Chana dal is hands down my favourite type of dal, typically served in Punjabi cuisine. It’s hearty and doesn’t fall apart easily when cooked, unlike its cousins masoor dal or yellow mung dal. Chana dal is made from splitting small brown chick peas, but takes on its own unique set of flavours. You don’t necessarily find this dal on a restaurant menu, so it’s quite special when you’re able to find it, or better yet, prepare it at home!

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Chana dal with spinach

What I’m listening to:

Raag Des, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma

Ingredients:

1 cup chana dal rinsed & soaked overnight
4 cups water
2 tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 green chilies split in the middle
1 T oil, ghee or butter of choice
1 t cumin seeds
1 red onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 T grated finely ginger
2 handfuls baby spinach
1 T coriander powder
1 t garam masala
Salt to taste
¼ cup fresh coriander

What I do:

The two main stages to making this dal, and most North Indian dals are (1) cooking the dal and (2) “tempering” the seasoning on the side and adding it once the dal is cooked.

So first, drain your dal after it’s been soaking and add it to a pressure cooker along with the water, tomatoes, turmeric, salt and green chilies. All pressure cookers are not created equal, but with mine I close the pressure cooker lid and turn the heat to high. Once the cooker whistles 3 times, I turn it off and leave it to the side to cool down.

In a fry pan, heat oil on medium heat. When it becomes hot add cumin and allow it to fry for one minute. Add onions next, and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally so that they don’t burn. Add ginger and garlic and baby spinach and stir for 1 minute. At this point, if your pan looks a bit dry you can add another tsp of oil. Then, add coriander powder and stir for 20 seconds.

Add half of the tempering mixture to the dal along with garam masala, and heat over medium heat. Add the remaining tempering ingredients as well as coriander right before you serve.

Enjoy!

Microphone check 1, 2…

-Ahem-

Is anyone out there? Do I still have the privilege of invading your inbox and head space? After years of dreaming about starting a blog, I finally did it- almost one year ago! The push came from a course I was doing, but along the way I realized how natural it felt to write again. And a blog about f-o-o-d?! Heck yeah! I was all in…

And then came the daunting task of creating, documenting, photographing (thanks Manu!), writing, editing, proof reading…eek! The reality of this blog began to settle in. And I just sort of shut down my laptop and never opened it up again. My husband has been bugging me for weeks months to get back to blogging; suggesting that my readers would think that eating salad for breakfast might have killed me (!)

But I’m here ya’ll! Alive and well, and still cooking up a storm. And I do have some fabulous things to share with you… if you’re still there?!

The most scrumptious cauliflower
The most scrumptious cauliflower
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Heavenly vegetarian food on a recent trip to Malaysia.

The above photos are just a taste of what’s to come. Stay tuned for updates and more details. After all, October is the most wonderful and bountiful time of the year, so in the hallowed words of The Fugees, Ready or Not Here I come.

Ending Global Food Waste in our lifetime

Has anyone ever told you that world hunger is an inevitability? That at the rate of population growth we are experiencing “it’s just not possible to feed all the people in the world.”

I remember sitting in a class during undergrad and being told that there are places in the world where people actually burn fresh produce because they cannot sell it- BURN! I remember thinking that this was an absurdity and clearly false.

But slowly my mind began to race… When the goal of farming is to earn a living (and if possible, yield profit), as opposed to say, providing nourishment, compensation dictates what happens to the food. So, if farmers aren’t adequately compensated for their product, what would motivate them to just give it away so that mouths can be fed?

I could explore and ask questions all day long, but today is more about action.

Friends, today I’m appealing to your inner-Marley and asking you to get up stand up.

Sign this petition, calling on world leaders to create plans to eliminate food waste.

If you believe that:

  • all people deserve access to fresh, affordable produce
  • it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure food justice
  • as a race, humans are capable of creating solutions to world hunger
  • there is something fundamentally wrong with getting rid of/burning tons of fresh produce

then, please sign the Avaaz.org petition.


Are you interested in trawling some literature on the topic of food waste? Check out some of these and see where they take you:

EU Supermarkets blamed for Kenya food waste, Al Jazeera

5 Strategies to eliminate food waste, Time

France to force supermarkets to give unsold food to charity, The Guardian

One third of the food that is grown every year is wasted- yet we have tens of millions of people going to bed hungry every night. We can help put an end to this.

Don’t hide your Pride!

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Toronto pride parade 2013

Friends, today I’m doing something new.

The unique position I find myself in these days is that I’ve created a blog about one of my true loves: food, and primarily vegetables. Yet often times my mind is racing with ideas about “unrelated” themes such as social justice, education, universality, rainbows, and my desire to be Mindy Kaling’s best friend.

And so for the last few weeks I’ve found myself debating whether I should (a) create a new blog for these thoughts (and more) or (b) shut up and write about food already!

Since (a) is too much work, I decided to mentally align myself with option (b)….

….

And this is why I’ve been silent for weeks! I’ve realized that I cannot motivate myself to write about food unless I allow myself to write about these other themes that are swimming around in my mind.

So I came up with lucky option (c) which is, from time to time, post non-food ramblings on this blog. For those of you who are thinking “hey now…I only signed up for luscious food blog posts”, feel free to skip the posts under my “non-food ramblings” category. For all the rest of you, enjoy, comment, and engage!

pride 2

Today I don’t want to write a novel, but I just want to express my utter joy at the Supreme Court decision in favour of marriage equality. As someone who was born in the USA, today I feel proud of the country. Yes, a great many social issues in the past year have made me cringe, and in some cases affected me to the core, but I think that today’s decision is much needed beacon of hope.

I remember a wonderful professor who once said to me “If you’re against the oppression of one group, you cannot be for the oppression of another.” It’s just plain contradictory. This is a quote I’ve used as one of my guiding principles for the past 14 years, and sums up exactly why I believe today’s decision is a stellar one.

I feel as though I could write a dissertation about this topic, but today is not about that. It’s about acknowledging wins and expressing appreciation.

Thanks!