Calcium – Choona lagao!

Mornings are probably the most chaotic time of the day in most households. Preparing breakfast, getting ready for work, packing tiffins for everyone, sending the kids to school, and most of all urging the kids to drink that one glass of milk! The same drama unfolds in our house as well. Getting my daughters, Rachita and Kriti, to drink milk in the mornings is really tough. Alyona and I figured that the easiest way to accomplish this would be to lead by example. Since then we both have made milk an integral part of our breakfast. And when we started practicing what we preached to our children, they have become more forthcoming.

But why do we give so much importance to milk? This is because milk is one of the rich and healthy sources of dietary calcium. 99% of calcium found in our body is present in our bones and teeth and the remaining 1% is found in body fluids. Thus it is important to provide our body with adequate amounts of calcium, from healthy sources, to keep them strong and healthy. Besides promotion and maintenance of the structure of bones and teeth, calcium is also essential for blood clotting, stabilizing blood pressure, muscle contraction, nerve transmissions, and more. And if the body gets insufficient calcium, then it will draw it from the bones, in turn weakening them.

Calcium requirements may vary throughout the life span depending upon the age and sex. The average requirement of calcium ranges within 500 to 1300 mg amongst growing kids and 1000 to 1200 mg for adults. Plus, it is extremely important for pregnant and lactating women and those going through menopause, to also consume the recommended amounts of calcium. One of the best ways to avoid the risk of osteoporosis, in the middle years, is to include high sources of calcium in your daily diet right from childhood. Adequate calcium in the diet helps in the formation of healthy bones and teeth, which is why it is very important for growing children to consume the recommended amount of calcium, which they can largely procure from drinking at least 2 glasses of milk per day. The rest of the calcium required can come from other sources of calcium.

Apart from milk and milk products such as curd, cheese, yoghurt, paneer, and butter, calcium can be found in high quantities in tofu, soya milk, cabbage, celery, spinach and other leafy vegetables, broccoli, almonds, sesame,flaxseeds, herbs and spices, oranges, a variety of beans, eggs and ragi. In fact, those who are lactose intolerant or have milk allergy can also fulfill their quota of calcium with these non-milk sources.

 These recipes are packed with ingredients that have high calcium content. Must try!
                   

However, for the body to process the calcium properly, it also requires phosphorus and Vitamin D. The easiest and best way to get adequate quantities of this vitamin is to simply go for a morning walk and soak in the morning sunshine! For those who are unable to move out of their homes, spending some time in the balcony or sitting near a window that brings in plenty of sunshine, is also good.

Sadly, for today’s young fashion and zero-size-figure-driven generation, it has become far more important to stay thin rather than healthy. As a result of this fad, they skip some meals or eat less than is required by the body, or go on crazy diets, thus losing out on essential nutrients including calcium.

A lot of people these days prefer popping calcium and vitamin supplements instead of getting them from natural sources. This dependence on pills is justified by the highly over used “busy schedule” excuse. Tell me, how much of your time is it going to take to drink a glass of milk or eat a fruit? I’m sure any doctor will recommend you to get your daily requirement of calcium from natural food sources before turning to pills and supplements. Avoid buying over-the-counter calcium pills, unless advised by your doctor. The increased marketing of calcium and vitamin D tablets have almost convinced people that taking these supplements is necessary for staying healthy. A recent study has indicated that too much calcium can cause a build up in the arteries, affect cardiovascular functioning and can result in a heart attack and other heart related problems. This again goes on to show how important it is to have a balanced diet!

If your calcium levels are really low, the best way to increase it is by chewing on paan. Yes! Like most of the problems in our life, ayurveda has a solution for combating this condition as well! Spread some choona (calcium carbonate) on a betel leaf and stuff it with spices and condiments like elaichi, saunf, ajwain, laung with a bit of natural gulkand, can also help somewhat in making up for any calcium deficiency. However, for the paan to be effective in a positive way, you must make sure that you avoid any supari, katha or tobacco. It is also important to chew the entire thing and swallow it. Spitting out paan not only kills the benefits of it but is also a dirty and unhygienic practice.

The sedentary lifestyle that most of us have become accustomed to is the cause for several of these deficiencies, illnesses and stress in our lives. With small changes in our lifestyle, like eating right, exercising, and sleeping on time, it is very easy to live a happy life. We just need to be aware. If you know about the positive and negative effects of the choices that you make, you will automatically make the right ones. It is very similar in food. Some understanding about healthy foods, a balanced diet and the right cooking methods can go a great way in ensuring a healthy life. After all, a healthy life is a happy one!

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor

Ever ready for guests – paneer comes in handy

Guests are of two types, expected and unexpected! If sufficient notice has been given, a lot of ideas can be worked upon and the goodies can be prepared in advance. If someone unexpected drops in then the main task of the host would be to supply eats that are filling and also keep in mind the hospitality factor. We have found that paneer is one ingredient that can make a simple meal look grand!

One quick recipe of the ever popular Matar Paneer follows: Boil 4 cups milk twice on high heat and add juice of one lemon. The whey will separate from paneer. Drain the whey, tie up paneer in a muslin cloth and hang it up to allow excess water to drain away. Place the muslin with the paneer under a heavy weight to ensure that all the moisture is squeezed out. This will flatten the paneer into a flat round cake when removed from the muslin. Cut the paneer into strips or cubes. Heat sufficient ghee in a kadai and deep-fry till light brown. Drain onto an absorbent paper. Chop 2 large onions and 1 inch ginger finely. Heat 2 tablespoons ghee in a pan and add chopped onions and ginger. Sauté till lightly browned. Add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon red chilli powder, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, salt and 400 grams peas and cook, adding a little water, till the peas are tender and a little gravy remains. Add the fried paneer, 1 teaspoon garam masala powder and boil for 5 minutes. Serve hot with chappatis.

You can use readymade paneer and have a stock of frozen peas that always comes in handy. Here are some other suggestions that can help you feel in control when guests drop in!

Munchies in a jiffy

· Mix finely chopped potatoes, onions and green chillies. Add gram flour and mix with water to get a batter of dropping consistency. Deep fry as small bhajiyas and serve with ketchup.

· To a cup of finely chopped onions and tomatoes, add two to three finely chopped green chillies. Add a tablespoon or two of cream (malai) and salt to taste. Place between slices of bread and toast in sandwich toaster. Serve hot with ketchup or chutney.

· Deep fry small squares of bread. Top with baked beans, chopped onions and capsicums. One version is Baked Beans on Toast.

· Something like puri and Sukhe Aloo can be prepared within thirty to forty minutes. For an instant dessert, whip cream into some shrikhand and add some chopped fruits. You can even serve Small Rasgulla with Fresh Fruit Rabdi.

· One favourite is chocolate samosa. Samosa patties wrapped up around a piece of chocolate and deep fried to a crisp. Serve decked up on a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s quite different than serving ice cream with hot gulab jamuns that most of us do.

When guests are expected it’s a different story. You have the time to plan the menu or shop for food as you wish or according to the guests’ preferences. But a cook’s creativity and prowess comes to the fore, when a time of testing comes.

Diwali snacks and sweets: New ideas that pop and crackle

Diwali comes and goes but what remains is a pile of mithai boxes that you really do not want to finish, or then you would have some snack tins filled with variety of different chaklis and karanjis that have been lovingly presented to you by your near ones and dear friends. Do you want this Diwali to be the same? Let us look at different ways that snacks and sweets can be offered to your well wishers…you would certainly enjoy making them, and they will certainly love to demolish them.
I have indulged in some exotic vegetarian kabab recipes this season. Look out for novel ways to fill up your guests because traditional fare is welcomed…like a damp squib! So what if you take some mozzarella cheese and convert it into Chhupa Rustom Kababs? You would require an outer covering of potatoes with blanched peas and spinach and in the center keep a small cube of mozzarella. Roll in cornflour and let it go into the kadai. Drain well. As you bite into it, soft melted cheese oozes out much to the surprise of all. Mozzarella that way is a lot of fun to work with. Try Fried Herbed Mozzarella which can easily be made by coating slices of the cheese with breadcrumbs flavoured with basil and parsley.
We need to add more colour to the platter. Take a prune. Stuff it with a cherry tomato. Now cover this with a mixture of potatoes and blanched pureed spinach. I would flavour it well with garam masala and chaat masala. Shape into tikkis and shallow fry. A surprise package with a marvellous textured filling. Or if you want to go back to the shahi presentations try the Rajma Galouti. Boiled mashed rajma with sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, khoya, saffron soaked in kewra water, cashewnut paste…formed into tikkis/kababs and shallow fried in pure ghee. Replete!
Let me take it one step further: exotic Asparagus and Green Peas Kabab with Avocado Chutney. Yes, the name might be a mouthful but the procedure is simple. And yes, you would not only need fresh asparagus and peas, avocados and paneer but also a couple of star fruits for stuffing. The purees of asparagus and peas are first cooked till quite thick and mixed with roasted gram flour and fresh paneer. Put chaat masala and seasonings and shape into tikkis stuffing them with chopped star fruits. Shallow-fry. The avocado chutney takes smoothness and tartness from blanched tomatoes so the colour is quite attractive too. More Diwali snack recipes.