Monday, May 9, 2011

Summer Sunny Days

The hills of West Marin that were bright green just days ago are starting to turn brown. There is no clearer sign to me that we are transitioning from vassant ritu (spring) to grishma (summer). As the sun’s effects on us get stronger, the heat and dryness will be at their peak. In this area, this changing of season is quite clear and noticeable to those even remotely in tune with their bodies and with nature.

In my house, we are certainly in seasonal transition mode. Most of the things that were helping us through spring are now being cooked with less frequently or, in the case of mustard oil, not at all. Our activities are changing. There is even more outdoor, water play. For Lily it seems that every day is now no pants day and we are getting quality moments in the early sun that are good for the vitamin D.

Two weeks ago, I was blessed to be at the Vedika sangha and have the chance to get some quality tips on how to get through the summer without too much dryness. We must mindfully consume kapha. By kapha in this context, I refer to things such milk, squash, water and coconut. It is imperitive to have these things that are moist and cool in potency (i.e. cooling to the body) or we will feel depleted and exhausted from the heat and dryness of the sun. We do not want our bodies to dry up like the hills.

For adults this is the season for napping. When my daughter decides to take her mid-day nap, I will take advantage of nap time and take one myself as often as I can. The reason naps are beneficial this summer season is because they increase snigdha / moistness in the body. Resting is better than too much exercise which is contraindicated. There is nothing like sitting on a chair outside, relaxing in summer heat. While the heat may be drying, it is important to experience the heat and not hide out in the AC, as long as you follow the basic tenets of grishma ritu (summer). Being in AC all summer could cause your body to not go through normal seasonal change which is not good for your health.

The foods which we should begin to cut down on include the pungent, bitter and astringent tastes which were so dominant in the spring. It is now time to favor moist, sweet, cooling, liquid, flowing and slightly fatty and fragrant foods. This along with the massive vitamin d we get from being outside makes the next few months the happiest time of year for many including me. For the next week, slowly introduce more summer foods like summer squash, rice, pumpkin, beets, opo squash, carrot, okra. Stop using raw onions in dishes and cook them in ghee instead.

In regard to drinks, start adding raw sugar to the takra turning it into a lassi. Maybe even add mango. Drink less chai and add fennel or toasted coconut when you do make some. Get some coconut water. I like the one in the glass bottle. Juices (no sour) are ok. I say, the fresher, the better. Favor pomegranate and grape juice. If you can find it, sugar cane juice is also recommended. If you are in the Bay Area, I have been seeing sugar cane at the Marin Civic Center Farmers Market on Sundays. If you or your kids drink spiced cow milk, use less warming spices and now switch to cardamom and fennel. It is highly recommended to drink milk at night in the summer. Instead of reaching for wine (which is prohibited), I now do milk. A pretty far cry from what I used to do but I feel so much better.

We should be favoring oily foods cooked with ghee or coconut oil, but in less quantity since the heat squelches our appetite a bit.

To summarize (with thanks to Shunyaji for the list!), these are the specially recommended foods during the next couple of months:

Cereals: Wheat, Oats, Rice, Sweet Corn
Lentils: Mung Lentil (Green and Yellow)

Spices: Concentrate more on cumin, fennel and coriander seeds or powder. Only use rock salt (Saindha namak), Mint, Cardamom

Dairy: Ghee (Clarified Butter), Milk (Cow or Buffalo), Sweet Butter, Yogurt Lassi with added sugar,
Fruits: Mango, Pomegranate, Dates, Coconut (also drink coconut water to stay hydrated), Nectarine, Plums, Raisins, Honey Dew, Cantaloupe. Keep in mind that all fruits consumed in summer should be ripe and sweet. Discard if they are sour or unripe.

Vegetables: Limes (versus lemons in Lemonade), Cucumbers, Beets, Carrots, Summer Squash, Opo Squash, Green beans, White Onions (versus red), Mint, Coriander leaves, Okra, Snake gourd, Yam, Wax Gourd, Cauliflower
Non Vegetarian: Keep at a minimum. Some fish such as Grass Carp (Rohu) is okay. Or enjoy very lightly or minimally spiced soup of chicken or goat meat (relatively clear / light soup).
Special products: Gulkand (Rose petal jam – 1 tsp )

Foods to Avoid as much as possible during summer:
Papaya – very heating
Pineapple – very heating
Garlic – minimize or at least cook in ghee. Do not eat raw in summer.
Red onions
Red Meat
Mustard oil and mustard leaves in cooking – very heating

Lastly, don’t forget to spend some time out in the moon light!! Or as my daughter calls it, moop :)


Grishma smoothie

Dates squashed with honey, raisins and rock candy

Mix with water

Put in a clay pot

Place pot iin the moon light

Blend like a smoothie

Drink !

Coriander Water

Mix ¼ TBS coriander seeds with 16 parts water

Keep overnight in the moonlight


Drink to quench thirst

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Matzah Ball Soup

Pesach is just around the corner, so I figured it was about time I dropped my amazing matzah ball soup recipe on y’all. Ever since I was a kid matzah ball soup has been a staple, and the food which always makes me think of my family holiday meals. It is the ultimate comfort food!

For 17 years, I considered myself a vegetarian except for matzah ball soup. I had no tolerance for seeing chunks of chicken in the soup, but I just felt so good after eating it that I didn’t give it up. Last year I officially ended my vegetarianism and now make bone broth weekly. After Lily was born, I literally was craving meat soup. It took me a few months to really give in and go buy some bones at the farmers market but now I have no problem with it. In fact, I really get into it and I am sure to thank the chicken / goat for sacrificing itself for the benefit of our health.

A few of the benefits of bone broth are maintaining joint health, strengthening the gut walls and supporting immunity.

Science validates what our grandmothers knew. .. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.

- From “Broth is Beautiful” by Sally Fallon Morell

From the Ayurvedic perspective, goat meat is more tridoshic / balanced than chicken. Chicken is more heating to the body, which is why traditionally it is used to help cure colds in the form of a light, nourishing soup.

Recipe of the day:

Slow- cooked Chicken / Goat stock

Ingredients -

  • 5 lbs chicken / goat bones (feet, necks, wings, head)
  • 1 onion
  • parsley
  • dill
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 inches burdock root
  • 2 inches turmeric root
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 piece of celery
  • celery root
  • 2 TBS sherry wine vinegar
  1. Add bones and water to crockpot up to 1 ½ from top
  2. Add the vinegar
  3. Let sit for ~1 hour covered
  4. Add the rest of ingredients
  5. Turn on low
  6. Cover and cook for 20 hours
  7. Strain

You can use this as a base for making a soup. Just add salt, herbs, vegatbles and/or matzah balls. You can also use it to cook rice in. My daughter loves her rice with chicken stock and greens.

Matzah Balls

  • 1 cup matzah meal
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped/grated)
  • 4 eggs (lightle beaten)
  • 3 TBS melted chicken fat, ghee or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1) Stir together all ingredients until well blended

2) Cover and chill at least 1 hour

3) Bring an 8-quart pot of salted water to a simmer.

4) With wet hands, roll matzah mixture into 8 balls

5) Simmer, covered, until cooked through, about 35 minutes (matzah balls will expand).

6) Don’t look!

7) Remove with slotted spoon

8) Transfer to simmering soup and let matzah balls simmer for 5-10 minutes

9) Serve

Note: These balls are guru / heavy to digest so if you have a weak digestion then just stick with the soup !

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Sleep Issue

Im not going to claim that Im an expert on sleep or that I have the secret key to easy night time parenting. Far from it, in fact! My kid doesn’t sleep through the night on a consistant basis at all. She goes in and out of good sleep phases just like most of the young kids I know. What I can talk about is the things I do that I think helps her to relax, keep vata dosha mitigated and, if all other things align, to maybe even sleep better. Sometimes this means 7-5am and no peep. Other times, its hard to tell what is going on but she may wake up 2 or 3 times. I think there is some correlation between her teething and waking but I don’t know for sure.

A little bit of sleep history. At 3 months we had the best sleeper. She consistently slept 9-10 hours straight a night. This lasted only 3 months and then it got bad for about 6 months. After she grew out of the co-sleeper and her sleep had regressed to constant waking, we decided that the only way I’d get sleep is by taking her into the bed with us. So at about 7 months, she joined Jon and I in bed. I really liked the cuddling but I couldn’t get comfortable at all with her next to me so we needed to end that. But it wasn’t easy. She still was nursing to sleep and would wake if you moved her.

We sought the help of the No-Cry Sleep Solution to help us have a plan. Our goal was for her to sleep in her crib in her room. First step was to move the futon mattress to our floor and put her to sleep on that. She would sleep part of the night on the floor by herself and part of the night with either Jon or I on the floor with her. We did that for months and then made the move to her crib at about 1 yr with that futon on the floor for us to lay on as needed. Somewhere in this, we decided to night wean. That wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t had the most amazing husband to do all of the night wakings and be by Lily’s side. I have no other tools besides boob. And she does wakes less since she doesn’t expect milk all night.

We always had a routine going and for most of the time, going to sleep hasn’t been the problem for us. The routine and the time preceding the routine are very relaxed. That’s the main one. No over stimulation. Too much stimulation increases vata dosha and that is not what you want to do before bed.

One of the foods that I specifically use for helping with sleep is urad dal. Some of the longest sleeps she has had were weeks where I made it a few times for dinner. Urad dal is vata reducing but it is a little heavy to digest so its only good for those with healthy agni/digestive fire. Luckily for us, all of our household falls in this category. Urad dal gives strenghth , increases breast milk, improves quality of semen and promotes sleep, to name just a few benefits. Our current favorite is these yummy urad dal pancakes/chila (recipe below). In school we learned how to make them with mung beans which were a favorite first finger food for Lily. A little while ago, I came across a recipe for the urad dal chila. My recipe meets both of those together to form one that works for my families’ needs.

Another that we now incorporate is milk w/ nutmeg. We are now trying to wean from the breast and give cow milk.

We start the routine with a bath filled with essential oils. I always use lavender and sometimes patchouli or sandalwood. I like to burn incense as well. Dim lights. A really nice mood. Then we move to her room where she gets her head and feet massaged by brahmi-sesame oil. This helps to reduce vata and is good for nerves, intelligence memory among other things.

After that we put on our pajamas, read some books, have milk and go to sleep. The night could go any which way from there but I do think all of these things don’t make it worse. Sounds lovely, right? Who wouldn’t be relaxed from that routine?

Recipe of the day:

Urad dal pancake

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup split w/ out skin urad dal (soaked over night)
  • 1 tsp amchur / mango powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbs shredded ginger
  • ½ tsp himalayan rock salt
  • 1 cup spinach (chopped)
  • 1/3 cup ghee
  1. Heat pan
  2. Grind urad dal to paste using some of the reserved water from soaking
  3. Add spices and spinach to batter
  4. Spread ghee in pan
  5. Ladle batter into pan / spread thin like a crepe
  6. Cook approx 30 seconds on each side / until brown
  7. Serrve with chutney or eat as is

Saturday, January 15, 2011

It's Potty, It's Potty Time

When my daughter was 11 months old, I went online and bought a potty just to see what would happen if I put her on it. I figured that at least she could sit there [with diaper] while I use the bathroom since she was getting too big and squirmy for me to hold while I go. The first time I put her bare bottom on it she smiled and peed. Thankfully, I got a picture to share:

About a week later came her first poop on the potty. Up until that point, she had been anything but regular, which was driving me crazy being as into Ayurveda as I am. Within the first week of pooping on her potty she was going like clockwork first thing in the morning. Sometimes she would go again later in the day and sometimes she wouldn’t, but always first thing. Finally, there was relief from the worry for me and for her belly.

I have never been so glad I followed my instinct to buy that potty, as it has been a huge factor in her digestive well being. I really just followed her lead. She has always communicated that she was going to poop before she went so it made sense for us to do this as opposed to waiting until 2 or 3 like many parents do. There is research to show that there is a window of time around when a child is learning to walk where you can introduce the potty and make it part of your normal routine. Our experience was that we avoided the typical potty training/power struggle that happens with most of the older toddlers. We got on the potty train at the right stop and it has really worked for us.

Using the potty throughout the day has not only aided her in gaining control of her bowels, it has been another means of bonding with communication and building confidence. I truly think she was holding her poop in during a short period where she just didn’t want to poop in a diaper. All signs point to that as she has only gone #2 a handful of times in her diaper since that first time in the potty. Now at 16 months, she both says “poo poo” and takes our hand to the bathroom when she wants to go.

There are a few books out there on elimination communication but for us it really happened organically. By the time I got a book to flip through, we were already going to the potty consistently and there wasn’t much more to learn. If you have a child you want to try this with, start by taking them to the potty right after meals, after they wake up or any other times you know your child typically goes in his/her diaper. Add more times once you get those down. You can do it at intervals like once every two hours. Remember, they need to use the bathroom a ton at this age so do what works best for you. There is no need to be completely out of diapers unless that is what everyone wants. It’s not about that. It’s more about helping the child be aware of their bodily functions and making the potty a normal thing. If they aren’t pressured or coerced, it’ll just progress from there. No need to bribe them or trick them. Perhaps read one of the potty books out there to them while they sit. We are big fans of Prudence and Hannah. It’s all about creating comfort on there so bring books, toys or your singing voice with you and create a good atmosphere. Making the potty a place that she wanted to be encouraged her to relieve herself regularly which is crucial to digestive health.

Recipes of the day:

Chickpea and Kale:

Ingredients -

  • ½ cup chickpeas (soaked over night)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tsp ghee
  • 1 tsp ajwain
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • Salt
  • 1 cup kale (chopped)
  • Coconut butter (optional)

  1. Heat ghee in pan
  2. Add ajwain
  3. Add coriander
  4. Add chickpeas
  5. Add water
  6. Add salt
  7. Add kale
  8. Cook until chickpeas are soft and water is gone
  9. Top with dallop of coconut butter (optional)
  10. Serve with rice or chapati (indian flatbread)

Super Nourishing Mung - Nettle Soup:

Ingredients -

  • ½ cup mung dal (soaked for 4 hours)
  • 3 cup boiled water
  • 2 tsp ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • pinch of asafoetida/Hing
  • 1 inch fresh ginger (grated)
  • salt
  • 2 carrots (chopped)
  • colander of nettles (chopped in food processor/dont get stung)

  1. Heat ghee in pot
  2. Add asatoetida / hing
  3. Add cumin and fenugreek
  4. Add turmeric
  5. Add ginger
  6. Add carrots Рsaut̩ for ~3 minutes
  7. Add mung dal
  8. Add water
  9. Add nettles
  10. Add salt
  11. Bring to boil
  12. Simmer for ~15 minutes adding any water you may need to get desired consistency
  13. Stir stir stir to break down the cooked mung dal / or puree if desired

This soup is great for nursing mothers. Fenugreek, cumin and nettles are all galactagogues. The nettle is a good source for calcium and iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sulfur, zinc, copper, chlorophyll, fatty acids, folate, plus vitamins K, B1, B2, B3, B5, C, and E. Its minerals help build blood, and it is useful in the treatment of iron deficiency hence it is great for restoring blood that was lost during childbirth.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

You Are What You Digest II

By the time my daughter was eating solids, I was way into Ayurvedic cooking. It had become just a normal part of life up here at Casa de M.E.M.P.H.I.S. Because I knew she was getting milk of the highest quality, I didn’t rush into giving her solid food. I figured she would eat when she was ready at some point after the 6 month mark. I offered here and there but she would stick it on her tongue and spit everything out. It wasn’t until she was about 9 months that she swallowed her first piece of avocado. Then the real work began. If you think it seems overly complicated to keep your own system in balance, you’ve never tried to do it for someone who can’t speak. For the next 2 months, we struggled with her maintaining perfect regularity. I tried many different types of foods and eating schedules.

She is now eating three or more meals a day so I have recently attempted to cut down nursing in order to let her food digest. One of the [many] Ayurvedic food rules is that you don’t mix milk with other food so we try our best to not nurse within two hours of food. It’s not always a smooth process but we do our best and it shows in her regularity. I notice that she gets that big bloated belly on the days where there is no space between meals or snacks. Since the day is not always perfectly on a schedule, there are a few exceptions that work for us such as a pre-nap snack of oatmeal (recipe below). Knowing that I will be nursing her before nap, I give a small oatmeal snack, which according to Ayurveda is one of the foods that you can mix with milk. The foods that mix well with milk are sweet in taste just like milk. Some examples of these food items with sweet taste are rice, cream of wheat, mango, almonds, dates, raisins. You should not mix milk with sour, salty, astringent tastes and you shouldn’t mix it with fruits other than mango, dates and raisins so we avoid having anything but these things when I know for certain that she will be nursing.

Typically, eating meals, snacks or milk too close together creates aam [undigested food particles]. It doesn’t matter how healthy those things are separate, together they may sour in the stomach causing gas and other digestive ailments. It will only lead to trouble. If not in the immediate digestive problems, a bad habit of mixing milk with sour, salty or astringent tastes will surely show itself in years to come. For instance, eating kitchadi (ayurvedic super meal) with a big cup of spiced milk will make you feel heavy and bloated while each of those separate leave you feeling light. If you or your kid are grazers, snackers or frequent nursers and experience the symptoms of aam being formed, cut it out! If you are still nursing frequently enough where its tough to make space for meals, try giving your child more things that are compatible with milk.

An idea which greatly benefited my daughter was to create set snack/meal times so she would fill up on solid food and not want to nurse all the time. Like almost everything else with young children, it’s all about the routine and habits. Start offering them the sweet meal and see if they cut back nursing to build that space in between feeds. Change is usually hardest for the parents. From my experience and that of people I talk to, this jump to more time between eating usually happens pretty quickly if given a chance. A busy, varied play schedule certainly helps too. A lot of babies and toddlers just nurse frequently out of boredom and to be close to their mom. My daughter anticipates meal time just the way she knows its time to take a bath in the evening. Kids love sweet taste so it shouldn’t be too hard to introduce into the diet. After they start leaving time for the food to digest, they will be hungry enough to eat whatever it is you make for them. It may be hard to adjust to a new eating schedule in the short run but it will greatly benefit your kid’s health in the end.

What currently works for us is serving a light breakfast of stewed apples (recipe below) two-three hours after she wakes up and nurses and then offering oatmeal 2 ½ hours after that for her to eat before she nurses and naps. She does quite well with that. The afternoon consists of a post-nap savory lunch and dinner. Depending on if she nurses when she wakes up from nap, the times may shift a little and include a snack like raisins and nuts. All the while throughout the day, she sips on warm water just like I do. Keeping to this as a rough sketch of daily meals is really keeping her digestion working well. That could all change any day but I am pretty vigilant and can adjust according. That’s really all it takes for anyone. It doesn’t take some deep studying of Ayurveda, just pay attention to the cause and effect. Perhaps I am a tad crazy but I like to have a good understanding of all that goes into and out of my daughter’s body. Hopefully this craziness pays off with good eating habits and very little sickness for a lifetime.

Recipes of the day:

Stewed Apples:

Ingredients -

  • 1 organic apple
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp organic raisins or chopped dates
  • 1 clove or pinch of ground clove
  • ½ in cinnamon stick or 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  1. Dice apple into small pieces.
  2. Add ingredients to pot
  3. Bring to a boil
  4. Cook apples until soft ~ 15 minutes

Benefits - Enhances vitality, builds immunity, stimulates regular bowel movements and adds to overall well-being

Spiced Oatmeal:
Ingredients -

  • 1/2 cup steel cut or rolled oats (soaked overnight)
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • 1 cup organic whole milk (optional)
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 pinch of ground clove
  • 5-6 raisins
  • 3-4 almonds (soaked overnight, peeled and chopped)
  • maple syrup
  1. Put all ingredients except for maple syrup in pot
  2. Bring to boil
  3. Lower heat to simmer
  4. Stir frequently
  5. Cook until very soft
  6. Top with maple syrup