Buckwheat Waffles (gluten-free)

 

Buckwheat waffles are our new current favourite and we love to add some i2cook coconut sugar for a healthy twist. Buckwheat flour is a healthy and nutritious flour which works great for baking too. It is a good source of fiber and can substitute all-purpose flour any day!

This tried and tested recipe (several times) calls for all unrefined ingredients. Top these waffles with some fresh cut fruits, peanut butter or drizzle some organic honey for some extra yumness!

Ingredients

Makes 8 medium sized waffles

120 gms organic buckwheat flour

1 tbs coconut sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp rock salt

4 tbs melted coconut oil or butter

1 large egg

1 1/4 cup of buttermilk

 

Procedure

Pre-heat your waffle maker. Meanwhile, measure and mix all the ingredients well. Pour the waffle batter on greased waffle maker. Allow it to cook until crisp or done depending on your liking. Serve warm with your favourite topping. Served ours with some organic honey, coconut sugar, homemade butter, walnuts and pomegranate.


Gado Gado with i2cook’s spicy peanut butter

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Gado gado is a wholesome and delicious Indonesian salad. This salad is filled with all the essential nutrients and what makes it so delicious is the peanut sauce, which is truly a winning combination. Gado gado is a combination of slightly boiled or steamed vegetables,  raw vegetables and hard boiled egg. Nearly any combination of raw and cooked vegetables, along with rice or thin noodles, if you like, can be used. Gado gado, is true to its name which means “potpourri”. Do not confuse the peanut sauce with satay sauce. This salad can be made vegan by negating the eggs.

For the peanut sauce, we are using i2cook’s spicy peanut butter which is a versatile product and goes extremely well with south-east Asian or South Indian dishes.

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Ingredients:

Inspired by Jamie Oliver

2 medium sliced boiled potatoes

10-12 beans boiled and cut into halves

2 hard-boiled eggs, cut into slices

carrot, raddish & cucumber sliced as per preference

8-10 tofu slices

fresh coriander leaves or micro-greens for garnish

Ingredients for the peanut sauce:

100gms i2cook spicy peanut butter

25gms i2cook coconut sugar or palm sugar

1 garlic clove

1/2 juice of lemon juice

1 tbs soy sauce

1/2 tbs tamarind paste

Note: spicy peanut butter will not require any addition of extra spice.

(all the ingredients used in this salad are all organic except the eggs which are free-range)

Procedure:

Start with prepping up with all the ingredients. Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes in salt water. Hard-boil eggs, cut the tofu into slices (with some salt) and pan fry them in a little peanut oil until golden brown. Boil the beans in salt water for about 5 minutes and immediately transfer into ice water to retain that gorgeous green colour. Use strips of carrot and slice some cucumber and radish for that extra crunch.

Put all the ingredients for peanut sauce in a blender with 1 tbs of water and blend it until smooth. Check for seasoning.

Layer the vegetables starting first with potato and other ingredients on a serving plate or bowl and drizzle with the most amazing peanut sauce.

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Coconut Sugar – the most sustainable sugar in the world!

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Coconut sugar production is a very simple one as compared to most other sugars. There is absolutely no additives and it is prepared in the most sustainable way. I’ve been talking about this wonder sugar for some time  and its benefits. I recently visited one of the farm which produces the best coconut sugar ever!

Coconut sugar is made from the  sap of the coconut tree. This sap is collected once or twice a day and comes from the stem that would normally feed a group of coconuts. Collection of the sap is done by snipping the stem and bending it into a collection vessel, an earthen pot lined with limestone powder or chunna to avoid fermentation. The collected liquid in the collection vessel is poured into the boiling vessel which is done first thing in the morning. This is usually done early mornings when the weather is relatively cooler  within a span of four hours. This neera or palm toddy is boiled to a desired runny and sticky consistency. This is poured into molds and dried before packing.

i2cook’s coconut sugar goes into further breaking down into powder form and is sun-dried. Coconut palm sugar and palm sugar are two different types of sugar. Please refer my blog post for further clarification on different types of sugar (with GI comparison). I use coconut sugar in my tea/coffee or in my banana bread amost every other day. I use this sugar to make some coconut sugar cookies too!

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Farmer ready with his gear

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Collection of the sap is done by snipping the stem and bending it into a collection vessel

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An earthen pot lined with limestone powder or chunna to avoid fermentation

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Boiling to obtain coconut sugar

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The final prep of pouring the coconut sugar into molds

A lot of  you may be concerned about the sap being  used only in sugar production and wondering about growing coconuts… To clear your doubt – only 10-15 trees depending on the production capacity of that particular farm is kept separate for coconut sugar production only. One of the farm would only produce 10kg per day during the first half of the day and would keep the rest of the day for other work like agriculture, cattle feed etc. The trees marked for coconut sugar production are kept closer to home for a simple reason being, closer to home means closer to production/boiling facility and also  no tension of coconut falling on anyone’ head 😉

Using coconut sugar in your diet is relatively a new concept in India and I can proudly say that “i2cook” is one of the first company to launch coconut sugar as a retail product. Coconut sugar production helps farmers to gain an extra income apart from their other agricultural practices. Coconut sugar is not only good for you but also good for the environment!


Artisan Dark Chocolate – Earth Loaf

Fresh loaf

Artisan dark chocolate produced locally

 

An invite to an organic  chocolate tasting and a 1 hour drive led me to a quaint cafe at Indiranagar where the tasting was held. A nice breezy evening and conversation over some tea and chocolate made me forget all about the horrid Bangalore traffic. We were all seated in a room and watched David and Angelika educate us about their passion – Earth Loaf.

Earth loaf makes  artisan raw chocolate and  tea infusions. I was surprised to sip on a glass of pure raw cacao beans infused in hot water that tasted good to my liking. David explained that it is a good energizer and a perfect post lunch drink. Earth loaf also has a blend with Assam tea leaf and cacao beans. David and Angelika come from the background of cocktail mixing. Their true calling for raw organic food lead them to experiment with chocolates. Earth loaf is based out of Mysore and currently David is busy training two women who come to work with him from a nearby Village. It took about two years to source and make their own machinery to produce the finest quality of handmade chocolate, right from scratch. David believes that chocolate is addictive due to its sugar content and he wants his customers to experience the opposite in his product. He believes that by adding minimum amount of coconut sugar, he is giving a pure taste of cacao rather than a sugar overload. David believes that it is more sustainable to go local (Indian) rather than sourcing it from abroad even though he may be tempted to. The raw materials are all procured from South and the ingredients used are minimum.

After all this talk about raw chocolate and cacao beans, many of you must be wondering that what is cacao beans….

Cacao beans are a source of all things chocolate. Cacao beans contain phenylethylamine (PEA), an antidepressant that stimulates the body’s adrenaline and dopamine levels for a dose of happy feelings. So now you know the reason why chocolate makes us happy 😉

Cacao beans may look like an almond and comes with a thin skin covering. This skin can be removed by hand or soaked in warm water to discard the skin.  Large processing house use  machine to remove the skin covering, David built his own machinery to remove the skin.  These beans are then crushed and are called cacao nibs, which is used as a garnish  or are processed into making chocolates. Cacao beans is particularly found to be very healthy for its flavonoid content. The darker the chocolate the better flavonoid content is has, which helps to prevent diseases Cancer and Alzheimer.

How is earth loaf chocolate different from the conventional dark chocolate?

Earth loaf chocolate is made with minimum ingredients and doesn’t contain any milk solids. This chocolate is  made from pure raw cacao  and is also vegan. Most of the conventional chocolates are so highly processed that they tend to lose their nutrients and antioxidants. More on raw chocolate and coconut sugar.

Earth loaf

Raw chocolate with cacao nibs and coconut sugar sprinkle.

 

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Pure and handmade chocolate

 

David says that he is trying to set a trend as it is one of its kind in India. I liked the idea of tasting raw cacao and coconut sugar in my chocolate. Right now, I’m enjoying my  chocolate with a glass of wine 🙂

 

Earth Loaf products will be soon available on i2cook.com. You can also shop at their online store.


On a sugar rush!

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.

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Liquid Jaggery

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 gurJaggery 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.

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Palm sugar or jaggery

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.

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Coconut Sugar

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.

Molasses should be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator or a cool, dry place. Unopened containers can be kept for about one year, while opened containers should be kept for not more than six months. I usually refrigerate mine and they last me for a year. Christmas is fast approaching and I have a really good ginger cookie recipe on my blog. In this recipe, I’m using a combination of raw sugar and molasses.
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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.

 Sweetener

Type

 Glycemic Index (GI) (%)

Raw Sugar

Sugar   extract

40-60

Molasses

Sugar   extract

55

Pure Maple Syrup

Natural sugar

54

Honey

Natural   sugar

50

Jaggery & Palm Sugar

Sugar extract

41-45

Coconut Sugar

Natual sugar

35

Agave Syrup

Modified   sugar

15-30

Stevia*

Natural  sweetener

0

*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.

References

http://www.livestrong.com/article/334100-types-of-healthy-sugars/

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-jaggery.htm

http://www.ecovillage.org.in/ecopedia/organic-farming/how-to-make-organic-jaggery-part-2

http://www.sugar-and-sweetener-guide.com/glycemic-index-for-sweeteners.html

http://www.nordicsugar.com/know-your-sugar/natural-sweetness/


Coconut sugar ladoo (coconut sugar balls) and it’s different!

Coconut sugar ladoo

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!

Ingredients

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

Procedure

  1. Lightly toast the flat rice until light brown.
  2. Allow it to cool and grind in the mixer until fine like powder
  3. Heat ghee and coconut sugar in the pan until the ingredients melt.
  4. Add this warm mixture to the flat rice powder with some cardamon powder.
  5. Mix well until combined.
  6. Take a tablespoon of mixture in your palm and round them into a ball.
  7. 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.
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Coconut sugar ladoo offering to Lord Ganesha

Ganesha lunch

My home cooked meal for the festival

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I also made some coconut sugar kheer!

I hope I have convinced you enough about this versatile sweetener.  You can buy coconut sugar here


Salted Coconut Caramel Sauce

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Caramel is generally made by adding butter and cream to caramelized sugar.  I’m sharing a vegan recipe of caramel sauce here. You heard it right! It tastes equally good or I can say even better. The secret ingredients in  this caramel sauce are coconut sugar and coconut milk. Coconut sugar is better than refined sugar and the coconut milk gives right  amount of fat for a great texture.

The low glycemic index (GI) of coconut sugar is 35 (around half of white sugar) and has led some to claim that it’s a good sugar substitute for people with diabetes. It has a high mineral content compared to other sugars and is a rich source of potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. You can use coconut sugar 1:1 in any way you would use regular sugar, including coffee, baking or cooking. More benefits and details in my previous post about this wonder sugar.

How does coconut sugar taste?  It does not look, smell, or taste the way one would expect it to (like coconut). It actually looks, smells, and tastes like brown sugar with the slightest hint of caramel.

Although this recipe is fairly simple, it does require some understanding of the caramelization process. When sugar is heated to the point of melting (with or without water), it begins to color and caramelize. If left as is, it will solidify into a hard mass. If water is added, it becomes a thin sauce. If water and fat are added, the caramel develops body and  texture. Adding water will make the caramel bubble up-  Caramel is extremely hot and can do serious damage, so be careful.

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Ingredients:

1cup coconut sugar dissolved in 1/3 cup of water

1 cup coconut milk (I used homemade)

1/4 tsp vanilla powder or extract

1/4 tsp sea salt

Procedure:

Mix all the ingredients in a pan. Place it  on a stove top, on low flame. Allow it to simmer for 30 minutes, until thick or till desired consistency. Stir occasionally and keep a keen watch on the sauce. Once done, allow it to cool before transferring into a bottle. Remember, that the sauce will thicken after cooling. You can refrigerate up to 3 weeks.

Serving suggestions: This sauce is so good and tasty to use it as a dip for fresh fruits, crepes, waffles, ice-creams, trifles, cakes, cookies, chocolates or best had straight from the bottle 🙂