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Sesame Honey Balls

honey-sesame-balls-chit-chaat-chaiRemember the sesame brittle candies wrapped in clear twisted plastic..often found at the check-out counter? These sesame honey balls from Divya Alter’s cookbook, What to Eat for How You Feel remind me of them. But without the sticky fingers and teeth.

Since the beginning of winter, I’ve been wanting to make sesame “candies” from scratch. They’re the perfect, nourishing winter treat. Rich in immunity-boosting nutrients, healthy fat, anti-oxidants, and minerals. With a warming energy to balance with the cold season. Sometimes, it’s hard to wrap my mind around how a yummy “candy” can also be nutritious.

Traditionally, sesame “candies” are made in the cold season. Often in the form of a laddu (ball) or as brittle (I love the diamond-shaped versions). Instead of honey or refined sugarcane, South Asian recipes most often call for jaggery, an unrefined sweetener that comes from sugarcane. It’s often given to kids melted on a chapati with ghee for their iron and mineral content.  A snack after my own heart. Jaggery is also used in nuts and seeds based spiced treats made specifically for women, post childbirth. To foster strengthen, nourish and re-build immunity or ojas—kapha qualities.

The process to make sesame brittle with jaggery requires some fast working hands and temperature regulation. What’s nice about Divya’s recipe is that neither is required. Aside from the texture, and gooey factor, these sesame honey balls taste very similar to the sesame candies/brittle, I love so much. Without comprising the nutrients. Yes and Yes.

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Instead of jaggery, Divya’s recipe calls for raw honey.  Like jaggery, honey is also warming and considered to be a cold season food. Along with it’s immune boosting nutrients, honey’s drying qualities can help prevent mucus and colds. A recommended sweetener for kapha dosha, Ayurveda also considers honey to be medicinal. Combined with ginger, turmeric, and other heating spices, it can further support kapha imbalances, like congestion. By counterbalancing the cold, wet, moist and sticky qualities of phlegm and mucus.

Finding new ways to get raw, unheated honey into my diet throughout the winter season is always rewarding. Although, I am not beneath eating a couple spoonfuls straight from the jar. It’s nice to have a variety of seasonal options. These sesame honey balls were this seasons find. A treat, snack or dessert, they do the body-mind good. Generating internal warmth, boosting immunity to prep for the seasonal shift, giving skin that summer glow, and helping to ground restless vata dosha. Not to mention the dose of healthy fat, antioxidants, minerals and immune-boosting nutrients.

Basically, a sweet, nourishing, balanced, and delicious food-based, sattva vitamin—made, especially for the winter season. When eaten in moderation…(reminder to self). Now on to make my next batch.

Happy eating. Happy digesting. Read More

Nourish the Body & Mind, Sesame Love

Chit-Chaat-Chai-Sesame-SeedsYou say sesame seeds, and I say my nana (maternal grandfather) and his blazer pocket.  The three are forever synonymous in my mind.  They go together like sesame seeds melded together with honey— remember the little rectangular “candies” wrapped in rice paper and twisted in clear plastic. They were always stashed in my Nana’s navy blazer. Each one slightly tacky and perfectly gooey from traveling on his day-long adventures.

Even into my adult years, out came the little one bite wonders from his navy blazer. The treat never grew old. Just gooier and gooier between my teeth. When I formally started studying Ayurveda, sesame seeds took on a whole new light. What was once associated with “Nana candy”, was now seen as nourishing and detoxifying food for the body and mind. In class, if we weren’t talking about how to cook with them we were talking about using their oil in treatments for the skin, mouth, throat, nose, and ears.

I quickly learned how revered these tiny seeds were in Ayurveda. Touted for their not only for their minerals but also their guna.  An energetic vibration or what today’s physics would consider as the phenomena of matter, according to Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom by Acharya ShunyaA food’s guna is one the integral nutrients an Ayurveda counselor, practitioner or doctor considers when making dietary recommendations. Similar to how a dietitian would assess the calorie and fat count of food.

Out of the three gunas: sattva, rajas, and tamas, sesame seeds are inherently sattva. Sattva represents balance, a stabilizing force that evokes contentment, bliss, lightness and does not overstimulate the body or mind. In the context of dietary choices, sattva foods are said to foster mental clarity, love, compassion, patience, and bring internal peace. They are considered to be rich in prana—life force, easily digestible, sharpen the intellect and have a calming, purifying effect on the mind.

“PURITY OF MIND DEPENDS ON THE PURITY OF FOOD.” – SWAMI SIVANANDA

Yoga philosophy and Ayurveda speak to the effect the diet, (what we take in through our sense of taste), has on the attitude, thoughts, emotions, and intellect. As Swami Sivananda says, “purity of the mind depends on the purity of food”. Based on the mind-body connection, sattva foods like sesame seeds are revered. In quantities appropriate for the season or individual dosha (imbalance/constitution). Diets primarily consisting of sattva foods are the preferred choice for yogis, rishis, and strict followers of Ayurveda. Who tend to refrain from foods that are overstimulating to the mind and body—tamasic and rajasic foods like meat, onions, and garlic, for example. Read More

5 Steps To Create New Year’s Resolutions That Last The Year

New-Years-Resolution-Chit-Chaat-ChaiI love the end of the year because it provides a benchmark for the progress we’ve made during the past 12 months and reignites our motivation to set new goals for the upcoming year. One of the things that have always frustrated me once I’ve created new intentions has been the lack of discussion around how resolutions are going once January passes. Nobody talks about how they are doing with their intended goals in April or what changes they needed to make, if any, in the middle of the summer. This idea of self-improvement and the spirit of personal growth that comes with the beginning of a new year stays stuck there, at the start of the year.

My best guess as to why this occurs has to do with people either setting unrealistic expectations of themselves or not properly mapping out how they will reach their goal(s), both which lead to messy approaches and disappointing outcomes.

After accomplishing my one New Year’s Resolution that I had set out for myself in 2015-to meditate every day, I can say that it’s a lot of hard work, which requires persistence, patience, faith, and motivation. But I have been able to maintain that one goal for 2.5 years now, so it’s absolutely possible!

Below are 5 steps I believe will help anyone stick to their New Year’s Resolutions. Read More

Shredded Carrot & Lentil Salad

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I think what I appreciate most about Indian/Pakistani salads is their similarity to a slaw.  They can be eaten as is,  a side, added to a wrap or the final topping on a bowl. Complimenting a meal or a bite, similar to a chutney or condiment. While retaining a hearty, crunchy freshness like a slaw.

Since they last a few days in the fridge without wilting or losing the crunch factor, they can easily be made ahead. A handy convenience when time is of the essence. Salad-slaws can be a quick way to add a missing taste, quality or vegetable to a meal when applying Ayurveda food guidelines to eating.  Need a sweet, sour, astringent or bitter taste? Or something a little dry (aka crunchy) or light? Depending on the type of slaw, several missing bases can be covered at once.

If I haven’t already said enough about why slaw-salads are awesome, here is one more thing. Slaw type salads aide and support digestion. A light fermentation process takes place from the salt and lemon or lime “dressing”.  Adding a tangy, and not sharp vinegar flavor, which can be too harsh and acidic for some. Just enough sour to moisten the mouth and increase the flow of saliva. Enhancing the secretion of digestive enzymes, and stimulating metabolism. In doing so, the sour taste also helps to expel excess vata that can sometimes create stagnation in the body. While energizing the mind and aiding concentration.

This recipe comes via Chitra Agarwal’s new cookbook, Vibrant India (read more about her book here).roften served on special occasions.  Happy Cooking! Happy Eating! Happy Digesting! Read More

Green Bean & Coconut Stir-Fry

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Quick and easy with a flavorful aromatic punch pretty much sums up this string bean coconut stir-fry recipe from Chitra Agrawal’s new cookbook Vibrant India (read more here).  Any dish with shredded coconut always makes my eyes shine.  The chewy goodness sweetly balances the spicy flavor profile of this Karnatakan dish.  Adding a layer of complexity to a fairly simple dish.  The use of coconut is one of the things I appreciate most about cuisine from the Southern part of India. When I came across this recipe in Vibrant India, I knew it was one of the first ones I wanted to try. Read More

Roasted Butternut Squash & Lentil Stew

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The days when I craved butternut squash soup were long ago. A time when the sweetness did not overwhelm my taste buds and the heavy soup felt light.  An era I did not think would return.  Until I came across this Roasted Butternut Squash & Lentil Stew recipe in Vibrant India. A cookbook filled with Chitra Agarwal’s family’s recipes from the southern Indian state of Karnataka (click here to read my review).

The combination of sweet and spicy ingredients immediately appealed to my current taste preference. Which is currently lingering between autumn and winter. When vata dosha is still center stage and kapha dosha begins to introduce itself.  A time when the grounding, earthy nourishment from the sweet taste is still integral to Ayurveda’s seasonal diet. While the pungent taste needs to take a step forward.  To counterbalance the start of the cold and wet season with its warming and drying qualities.

A take on a traditional family recipe, Chitra, author of Vibrant India, blends butternut squash with red lentils.  Then spices it up with with a traditional spice blend from Karnataka known as huli. Creating a creamy, soupy-stew style dal that is slightly sweet and spicy.  Huli is similar to sambar powder, a spice blend commonly used in South Indian dishes. Sambar is also the name of the lentil soup served with dosas and idli. Consisting of common spices used across South Asia with the addition of ground lentils. Read More

Cooking with Vibrant India

Vibrant-India-Rumin-Chit-Chaat-ChaiLiving in a country where South Asian food tends to be associated with Northern Indian cuisine, Chitra Agrawal’s cookbook, Vibrant India brings a refreshing change. State-specific South Asian cookbooks are a rare find. Coming across one with a personal narrative and captures the cuisine from the south-western Indian state of Karnataka, suggests we are entering into an exciting time for South Asian cookbooks.

Filled with every day to special occasion dishes, Vibrant India connects food with family memories, traditions, and comfort. Recipes passed down from generations, rooted in sattvic dietary customs and reflective of a second-generation American of Karnataka descent. It’s family’s cookbook of sorts.  One that is now publicly available to the DIY foodie, the traditional enthusiast and/or those seeking to diversify their South Asian recipe box beyond chicken tikka masala and palak paneer. Read More