I’m here to share my experience with organic food and how it changed my kitchen!
My kitchen still functions the same with any recipe from any cuisine that I like to cook. The only thing that has changed is that 99% of the ingredients that I use now are sans pesticide. Sounds unbelievable doesn’t it….
There is a lot of information on the internet telling you that organic food is good for you or that there is no proven fact that organic food is more healthier compared to the conventional food. My theory is very simple, if my food is grown artificially or ripened or polished with the stuff that I cannot even pronounce, I prefer to stay away. I like my bottle of peanut butter to taste like peanuts and nothing else. For me, it doesn’t matter if I have to consume my condiments within a certain period of time. I prefer it this way as it gives me more confidence that there has been nothing artificial added to it to make it last long.
I was first introduced to the term ‘organic’ when I was interning in an Architect’s office in Auroville. I used to have my lunch everyday at the solar kitchen where most of the ingredients were grown locally and were organic. As a young individual, I never realised the importance and forgot all about it. In the year 2011, I was reintroduced to organic produce through Farmer’s Market. This is when I took notice. The first thing that hit me was the taste. The produce were not only fresh but had a sweet, refreshing taste. I started cooking with organic produce and noticed that my cooking tasted of pure ingredients and that I didn’t have to do too much to enhance it. Thus my journey to learn about different organic ingredients started.
My approach has been slow but consistent. Organic food is 10-20% higher priced than conventional foods. My theory here is more simple, If I’m cutting down on my one or two bill(s) of eating out, I can buy better quality ingredients for my family. I first made a note of all the ingredients that we consume at home and narrowed it down to the most consumed first. For example, rice is the most consumed ingredient at home and I changed it to organic first. I gradually made a progress and have converted my kitchen into an organic one over a period of 12 months. Now we eat out less and still save more on groceries than before!!
I eat organic food and I’m not a vegetarian!
It is very difficult to source organic meat. I’m told that there are organic chicken available in some parts of India. I haven’t come across any and I don’t see it available in Mumbai or Bangalore (as a retail product). I do eat fee range chicken or eggs and studies have proven that they contain more nutrition than the injected ones. I have shared more information on free range in my old blog post. I prefer the locally available seasonal fish in comparison to the frozen ones.
Does organic food taste good?
I’ve been asked this question by several people. I hope the pictures convince you that organic food is not boring as it may sound
Do I eat out?
As a blogger, I get invited to a lot of restaurants for tasting. Organic food is a part of my daily diet and I tend to be strict about it at home. However, there are some exclusive restaurants in different parts of the country serving some locally produced and organic food like Tattva in Delhi, Carrots in Bangalore or The Pantry, Birdsong in Mumbai.
Where to buy organic food?
There are a lot of options now from where you can buy organic food. Our online store i2cook is a 100% organic store. There are also stores in different cities which stock fresh organic produce from nearby farms. Cities like Mumbai and Bangalore are holding Farmers market selling organic produce regularly. Esvasa has a good list of stores across India selling organic produce.
I’ve been baking for a year now….I have realized that baking is like learning how to drive a car. You practice, gauge and finally become an expert. I bake not only to eat healthy but also to rejuvenate. I know, most of you will agree that baking is therapeutic and can really get you all pumped up! I prefer to follow or create recipes which are easy and most of my recipes are made using unrefined ingredients. If you are addicted to refined ingredients, it may take you a while to get used to unrefined ones. However, these small changes do make a huge impact on your life and I can assure you that I’m experiencing it first hand.
I’ve been wanting to use amaranth flour in a lot of ways….I’ve used them in my choco chip cookies, combined with wheat flour. Amaranth or rajgiri flour has a very distinct taste. Amaranth comes in three forms – grain, flour and puffed. Puffed ones are commonly used in Maharashtra and are easily available. Amaranth flour can be used in baked goodies like cakes, cookies, cereals and if using it to make bread, it is advisable to mix it with another flour for bread to rise. Amaranth grain can be used as a substitute for rice or in cereals or baked goods and the puffed one can be used in making muesli, bars, laddoos or snacks. Flour and grain are not easily available and only a few keep them in stock. SOS is one such brand, which produces locally grown Himalayan amaranth.
Amaranth is one of the oldest grain. It is a nutritional grain and contains only 4 grams of fat. Amaranth is also very high on proteins. Amaranth contains four times the calcium found in wheat and two times the iron and magnesium. Amaranth is very similar to quinoa when compared to it’s evolution and nutritional contents. However, amaranth contains slightly more protein compared to quinoa. Buckwheat is another gluten-free flour that I love baking with and it goes perfectly well with chocolate. Chocolate and amaranth are a good combination too! The earthiness of amaranth flour and the hint of dark chocolate can make this brownie your snack, breakfast or dessert. The addition of amaranth grain gives this brownie a good crunch and a texture. Feel free to add nuts or cocoa nibs. This brownies tastes better each day. I had refrigerated it for a week and found that it matures with age. This is my guilt-free version of brownie and ofcourse, don’t tell anyone that you have added amaranth flour…Let your family and friends keep guessing
100 grams dark chocolate (65-70%)
75 grams amaranth flour
100 grams raw sugar (you can add 25 grams more for sweetness)
2 free range eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp baking powder
50 grams butter
50 grams olive oil
25 grams raw amaranth grain or add nuts or chocolate chips
- Measure butter, olive oil & chocolate in a bowl and melt it on a double broiler. Keep this aside and allow it to come back to room temperature.
- Mix all the dry ingredients.
- Once the wet mixture is cooled, add two eggs and beat it lightly until fluffy.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, including the amaranth grain and mix well.
- Pour this mixture in a pan, lined with parchment paper. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degree centigrade.
- Allow the brownie to cool completely before cutting into squares. I got 15 pieces. Store these in an air tight container. This can be refrigerated up to a week.
We are all fond of sugar and it has become an integral part of our everyday diet. Sugar is everywhere! Your morning cup of tea/coffee, fruits, cereals, bread all contain sugar. If sugar is such an important part of our diet; don’t you think you should know what your options are, before choosing the right type of sugar that your body requires? Some may also tell you that your body doesn’t require any sugar and you may go on a “no sugar diet”. Sometime later, you find yourself losing control over a candy; to kill your sugar craving. There are times when you are stressed or going through your PMS and all you want is a piece of that scrumptious dessert. Why is sugar bad for you? Is it because all good things have to be the devil incarnate?! Perhaps a little knowledge on what sugar really is might help.
Sugar is a source of energy for all our body cells. It comes from food, mainly carbohydrates and excess sugar gets stored in our muscles and liver. Which means that, most naturally available food already contains sugar as a natural sweetener. Hence sweeteners are a necessary food of life! One of the easy or the fastest way to detect sweeteners in food is by it’s GI (glycemic index). Glycemic index is a measurement of how quickly sugars from food enter your blood as glucose. High GI results in high levels of blood glucose and low GI results in slower absorption of glucose with fewer changes in blood glucose levels.
Sucrose (combo of glucose + fructose) comes from sugar cane or beet and is often referred to as ‘table’ or ‘added’ sugar. It also occurs naturally in some fruits and vegetables. Chemically speaking table sugars refined from cane and beet sugar are quite similar. However, many of the labels do not specify if the sugar is extracted from beet. Cane sugar may caramelize better than beet, but the difference may not be noticeable to most. Though, sugar beet is common in other parts of the world, there has been some interest in growing sugar beet in India too.
There are so many sweeteners available in the market and the promotional doctored articles make it really hard for us to choose what is really good for us. I’m sharing with you a list of natural sweeteners which are not only healthy but also a good alternative to switch from refined and processed sugar crystals. I’ve cooked, baked and have made them a part of my diet. I think you need to be comfortable with each sweetener and that’s when you know what works best for you.
Raw Sugar or Khandsari - This sugar is a part of my everyday diet and I use it in almost anything. Raw sugar is also known as cane sugar or unrefined sugar and it is minimally processed. Raw sugar is processed in india for hundreds of years. Sugar is made by extracting juice from the sugar cane. The extracted juice is then boiled and cooled, allowing it to crystallize. The sugar may crystallize into a very fine or granular sugar. This pale golden crystals are raw sugar.
Because raw sugar is not heavily refined, it has higher molasses content than table sugar. It has higher moisture content than regular sugar and keeping raw sugar in an airtight container is highly advised. Raw sugar can be used in your daily cup of beverage, in making jams, juices, Indian sweets, desserts or baking.
Liquid Jaggery or kakvi - Liquid jaggery is obtained by boiling raw sugar cane juice in a cast iron. As the liquid begins to boil the molasses is separated out. The removed molasses is usually fed to the cattle feed in India. Upon further boiling the juice condenses into a thick viscous liquid, which is called liquid jaggery (if further boiled, it leads to form jaggery). The boiling process is stopped and allowed to cool for bottling. Liquid jaggery has low GI. It helps relieve cold, cough, asthma and congestion in chest. Treats Indigestion and constipation. Also acts as a body coolant and antioxidant. Ideal for people with low haemoglobin. The uses are same as block or powdered jaggery. The disadvantage of this sweetener is that it tends to ferment. The best way to use the fermented jaggery is to boil it again with a little bit of water and use it again and you won’t notice any change ;). Here is an awesome liquid jaggery cake recipe from my blog!
Jaggery or gur – Jaggery is one of the most popular sweeteners in india. It is an unrefined sugar, made by boiling raw sugar cane or palm juice (known as palm jaggery) in iron pans. It is then formed into trays to dry and either made into balls or powder form. Jaggery is healthier than refined sugars as it retains natural vitamins and minerals.
The mineral content of jaggery includes calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron and traces of zinc and copper. The vitamin content includes folic acid and B-complex vitamins. Thus, other than that it is a good source of energy, it also prevents rheumatic afflictions; prevents disorders of bile; helps in relieving fatigue, relaxation of muscles, nerves and blood vessels; maintains blood pressure and reduces water retention; increases hemoglobin level and prevents anaemia.
Jaggery is a versatile sweetener. It goes so well with our Indian cooking that is has become a must have sweetener in every household. Jaggery perfectly enhances and gives a final touch to any Indian dish. Jaggery is used in coffee/tea or in South Indian cooking to make dishes like sambar. Jaggery can be used in baking cookies, cakes or even breads.
Palm sugar or palm jaggery - Palm sugar is a natural sweetener made from the sap of palm trees. Coconut palm sugar and palm sugar may sound same but are completely two different sweeteners. The liquid collected from the sap is called toddy or neera. This fresh toddy is boiled to obtain palm sugar or palm syrup. This process is done quickly to avoid toddy from fermenting. To make the sugar solid, the boiled juice is then poured into bamboo sections to form cylindrical shapes or into coconut shells or into small baskets woven of palm leaves. You also get palm sugar in powder form, which looks very close to coconut sugar. This sugar, even when soft, can be extremely dense and very sticky. Palm Sugar has a low GI and helps prevent diabetes and anemia during pregnancy. It is also known to be effective against cold and lung related ailments. You can use palm sugar in the same way as you would use jaggery.
Coconut sugar or coconut palm sugar - This is a wonder sugar! Most people are amazed and wonder if it tastes all coco-nuty. Coconut sugar is created from the sap of the coconut palm tree, rather than from the actual coconut itself. Coconut sugar is 100% pure, single-ingredient product with no additives, fillers, or added sweeteners. It is the single most sustainable sweetener in the world! Coconut sugar is a healthy sugar; low in glycemic index and full of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. It is definitely a better substitute compared to all sweeteners including agave syrup.
Coconut sugar has to be stored in an air tight container. It looses its texture to moisture and may also turn hard. Coconut palm sugar is a versatile substitute for conventional cane sugar for most baking purposes. It is slightly less sweet than cane sugar but more flavorful, and in many cases the quantity of sugar can be reduced by up to 25 percent without altering the end result.You will find coconut sugar not as sweet as refined white sugars (so if using them for cakes or other desserts, you may need to add more to achieve the same level of sweetness). However, I find they have a nice caramel like taste which is similar to molasses, but lighter. You’ll definitely enjoy the taste! I have been using this wonder sugar in baking cookies, muffins, ladoos and I also made some yum vegan salted caramel.
Molasses or blackstrap molasses - This sweetener is used by many as a medicine more than cooking. Cane Molasses is made in a three-step process that begins with the juice from mature or green sugar cane plant. The juice is boiled to concentrate and crystallize the sugar. The result is called the “first” molasses. The crystallized sugar is removed and the residue is boiled again. The mixture darkens as the remaining sugar is burnt or caramelized. What results is called, “second” molasses. After more sugar crystals are removed, the process is repeated once again. The final or “third” boil produces the dark, concentrated syrup known as blackstrap molasses.
Molasses is rich in iron and contains benefits for menstruating women, who are more at risk for iron deficiency, pregnant or lactating and growing children or adolescents.Molasses is rich in copper, manganese, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Honey – This naturally rich sweetener produced by the honey bees, making it not suitable for vegans. It is an alternative substitute for white sugar. Research also indicates that honey’s unique composition makes it useful as an antimicrobial agent and antioxidant.
The process of making honey begins when the bees feast on flowers, collecting the flower nectar in their mouths. This nectar then mixes with special enzymes in the bees’ saliva, a process that turns it into honey. The bees carry the honey back to the hive, where they deposit it into the cells of the hive’s walls. The fluttering of their wings provides the necessary ventilation to reduce the honey’s moisture content, making it ready for consumption. Raw honey is the best option than the most filtered honey available in the market. Honey is best stored in glass bottles and they can be used in to enhance your juices and smoothies or for cooking and baking.
Pure Maple Syrup - The process of creating maple syrup begins with tapping (piercing) the tree, which allows the sap to run out freely. The sap is clear and almost tasteless and very low in sugar content when it is first tapped. It is then boiled to evaporate the water producing syrup with the characteristic flavor and color of maple syrup and sugar content of 60%. Maple syrup is an excellent source of manganese and zinc. Pure maple syrup does not contain any flavouring and will be displayed on the labels. Maple syrup is commonly enjoyed with pancakes. You can also enjoy it on peanut butter toasts or in a bowl of cereal.
Stevia or sweet leaf or sugar leaf - Stevia is a plant and origins from South America. The compound in the leaves is responsible for the sweetness. This compound is sometimes sold isolated from the leaves in a highly refined form. In other cases, the sweetener is made by crushing or distilling the leaves of the plant to form a powder or a syrup with an intensely sweet flavor.
It has been shown that stevia is much sweeter than other sugars, meaning that only a small amount needs to be used. The body also processes stevia very slowly, which greatly reduces the risk of a sugar high. In addition, it is essentially calorie free, which is why it is popular with dieters. However, there has no proven facts and some scientists claim that it can cause cancer. Though stevia may seem like a natural sweetener, there has been no proven studies. Stevia leaves can be used in your dialy cup of tea/coffee, juices and smoothies. I’ve never baked with stevia and would like to know if you have used it.
Agave Syrup or agave nectar - Agave syrup is made from the juice of the agave plant, particularly found in the deserts of Mexico. Agave syrup looks like honey, but it is usually lighter and has a cleaner taste. It is nearly twice as sweet as white table sugar or raw sugar. Though agave syrup has low GI it is high on fructose and is compared to the commercially available sweeteners (because of the way it is being processed). Agave syrup can be used to sweeten your juices, smoothies or can be used in baking.
Going the natural way is the best way of not in taking highly processed sweeteners. All sugars contain glucose and fructose but what you need to check and compare is the GI’s for easy understanding. You can go deeper with the breakdowns and open a chemistry lab. All the mentioned sweeteners are available on our online store i2cook.com.
Glycemic Index (GI) (%)
|Pure Maple Syrup||
|Jaggery & Palm Sugar||
*Studies have shown that insulin is secreted by the pancreas soon after the sweet taste is experienced on the tongue, whether the substance contains calories or not. The body is fooled by the zero calorie sweetener. It expects glucose to hit the bloodstream and it gets none. This may result in increased appetite soon after.
Running two startups is not easy! I’m tired and stressed. But I also enjoy the new learning. It’s a mixed bag of feelings, I tell you. On a positive note I’ve learnt to multi-task. Managing i2cook.com deliveries and dealing with day-to-day production. On the other hand I’m procuring and on the other I’m selling. For instance, right now, I’m roasting peanuts and writing this post. Ain’t I cool!
There are days when I’m down or just worked up! I don’t like monotonous work and I do take some productive (ahem) breaks. My logic is very simple, when the pressure at work is too much for me to handle, I just bake. Simple. Bake. Bake bread, cookies or just simple cake. I baked this chocolate cake like three times in less than two months! (God save me from the calories). Once I have like a big unit producing tons of peanut butter, I shall dedicate a room for me. I will have an oven and only bake whenever I feel like taking a productive break ;).
This chocolate cake is simple and gluten-free. I was inspired to make this cake by Smitten Kitchen but I’ve made some changes by trial and error. All the ingredients are meant to be with each other, buckwheat, almonds and dark chocolate is a marriage made in heaven. This cake asks you to bake. Trust me. That is why I ended up making it three times before posting the recipe.
Just bake this cake and you will find reasons like me to keep baking
100 gms dark couverture chocolate (70%)
100 gms butter
100 gms organic raw sugar
2 free range eggs
30 gms organic buckwheat flour
35 gms almond meal (blend in silvered almonds in the grinder until you get a fine powder)
1 tsp baking powder
- Mix the chocolate and butter in bowl and place it on a double boiler. Allow it to melt completly and keep aside.
- Measure raw sugar in a bowl and break two eggs. Beat it for atleast 10 minutes or till you get a thick and pale yellow mixture. This is the most important part of the cake and a little muscle work (or a fancy gadget) can give you that super crumbly texture.
- Gently fold in the melted chocolate mixture.
- Sprinkle the buckwheat and almond meal over the batter and fold gently to combine.
- Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center of the cake and it should come out dry.
- Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan and invert onto the rack. Serve warm or at room temperature dusted with powdered sugar or dolloped with lightly whipped cream or your favourite ice-cream.
I used organic raw sugar & cocoa beans for plating from i2cook.com.
“i2″ series is a new intiative to network and encourage young entrepreneurs.The theme for this month is “i2write” with two awesome hosts! Please join us if you’re in Mumbai. I was invited by Rodinhoods to present my startup – “There but not there!” Read my post here to view the presentation and what i2cook has been upto
Festivals are all about eating…Aren’t they?! Today, is the last day of Ganapati visarjan and I thought why not share a simple recipe of one of my favourite and versatile ingredient “coconut sugar“. I’ve made cookies, caramel sauce, kheer and decided to make something new again. Coconut sugar has a very dominating flavor of coffee like caramel. I made use of the ingredients that I had at home and decided to make some coconut sugar ladoos for the festive season. I have used poha or beaten flat rice to make these gluten free ladoos. Just with four ingredients, these ladoos are not only easy to make but can be made in just 15 minutes flat!
2 cups beaten flat rice or brown poha
1/2 tsp cardamon powder
2 tbs of chopped cashew
1 tbs of raisins
1/2 cup ghee
1 cup coconut sugar or more according to your taste
- Lightly toast the flat rice until light brown.
- Allow it to cool and grind in the mixer until fine like powder
- Heat ghee and coconut sugar in the pan until the ingredients melt.
- Add this warm mixture to the flat rice powder with some cardamon powder.
- Mix well until combined.
- Take a tablespoon of mixture in your palm and round them into a ball.
- These balls tend to be soft in nature. Be careful to place them on a plate and allow it to sit for half an hour before transferring into a container. They become firm after a while. I made 20 ladoos. Store in an air tight container upto 15 days. I’ve noticed that they taste better after two days.
I hope I have convinced you enough about this versatile sweetener. You can buy coconut sugar here…
i2cook believes in the growing entrepreneurial spirit that motivates several of us housewives, youngsters, jobless sabbaticals and start-ups to do what we do tirelessly. In relation to the struggle we faced while setting i2cook into a retail startup, we intend to make the path less thorny for others. Having said that, we will be calling on 2 hosts every month in an “i2″ series, to help us in areas where they are adroit and can help us collaborate to improve our individual skills or just ideate better. Will you join us? You do not need any qualifications, just an intent to collaborate, learn, ideate and share.
Learning new technology and protocols is imperative though not always desirable; however, since we wished to learn from those who have traveled the road, we decided to learn the tricks of success from 2 hosts (every month) who have already comprehended the best practices and will help us in aiming with confidence for our desires!
We wish to extend our learning to others who are facing similar difficulties; hence we have decided to use our office space to help others learn and network with our two hosts along with us. If we see your interest we may further extend such sessions into the future with your help and help more entrepreneurs.
i2write – The skill to write is spelling actions into words. (sounds easier than it is?)
In this new age of writing, we are holding an event for aspiring writers who would like to learn about writing a book or just write for their business or just plain write. They are witty and intelligent women who have written award winning works and they have a wit and humour to match their intelligence!
Introducing host #1 Shakti Salgaokar, Shakti Salgaokar is born in a family of writers. So it is hardly surprising what the Mass Media graduate wanted to do but one thing: write. This novel started as a term paper at university of Sussex, where she studied creative writing. It was seven years ago before reality shows became big. Shakti has worked as a radio presenter, gossip columnist and was a journalist with DNA, writing features, food and restaurant reviews. She is also enjoying the joys of writing her second novel while exploring a new species called ‘husbands’. While cooking up stories is her favourite activity, she also spends time baking and cooking for friends. Imperfect Mr. Right is her debut novel.. Imperfect Mr Right earned her first award Acharya Atre Foundation’s annual award for fiction writing. She is a Marathi Mulgi, bawibahu, mommy to a dog and two cats. Follow her blog and tweets @shaaqT.
About the book, Imperfect Mr. Right
Can an ordinary perfume salesman ever be a girls match? Avinash Menon head honcho of Cee TV, certainly thinks so. He sets out to make Rahul Rajgopal the man every woman desires to marry- rich, handsome and suave and launches him in a reality show. Enter Tanya Kher a pretty and talanted media planner, who participates in the show for lark. She isn’t really looking for Mr. Right or is she? Will Rahul loose his real identity as he slips effortlessly into the role of multi-millionaire Rajsingh Jaiswal? Will he find the girl of his dreams? And will Tanya rediscover the welter of emotions that she hides behind the mask of cold, ruthless efficiency?
Introducing host #2 Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal, Rushina is a food blogger, gastronomy writer, food stylist, author and consultant. She started her food career as one of India’s pioneering food bloggers, with her popular blog A Perfect Bite. She then went on to explore the world of food through a delicious career in food journalism. Rushina currently heads the firm A Perfect Bite® Consulting, and runs the extremely successful APB Cook Studio, India’s first state-of-the-art home-kitchen studio, in Mumbai. Follow her blog and tweets @RushinaMG.
About the book, A Pinch of This, A Handful of That
Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal has recently launched a line of signature’Foodles’ ‘(Food+Doodles) and is all set to launch her first book this December. The book is a celebration her coming of age in the kitchen and the many culinary influences that have molded her into the cook she is now. Beginning with a memoir of her growing years and the early influences on her palate, it goes on to explore recipes she encountered from the various people she’s met in a food diary with lots of fabulous recipes and the stories behind them. It includes popular, lesser known dishes and her own creations that cross barriers of community and region to become part of the colourful whole that is Rushina’s kitchen.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND: food aficionados, start-ups, entrepreneurs, writers, bloggers and journalists.
DATE: 28th September
TIME: 4pm onwards
WHERE: no.105, Building no. 5, Jogani Industrial Estate, Chunnabhatti, Sion east, Mumbai – 22. Call for directions 022- 24055308
ENTRY FEE: Free
RSVP: We appreciate if you could email us at email@example.com . Tea time snacks will be provided by us.
See you soon!