Nov 6, 2015

Easy tips to stay fit this Diwali

There is a lot to be happy about during the festival season. Navaratri, Diwali, Christmas.. the list goes on. However, many of us fall way off our weight management goals during the festival season. Parties, sweets, and delicacies galore eat into our resolve, and before we know it, we have put on several extra kilos. Here are some easy tips gained from my experience as a consultant nutritionist, to help you manage your weight during Diwali and the festive season. Read on and let me know what worked for you.

  • Start your exercise schedule well ahead

The planning and shopping for Diwali typically begins several weeks ahead. So too, plan your exercise schedule ahead.  Add on to your existing routine at least 10 days before the festival. Add an extra 15 minutes of brisk walking daily or 4 extra sets of Surya Namaskar, if your choice of exercise is yoga. Even 10 minute sessions of deep breathing helps improve metabolism (read fat burning). If you have not yet begun any form of regular exercise, then it is vital to begin now. Just beginning with 30 minutes moderate walk daily will help to prevent extra weight gain from the rich food and sweets during the festive season.

  • Choose your meals wisely

Follow what I call the ‘24-hour check’. In a span of 24 hours, make sure you eat only one festive/heavy/party meal. If your lunch is a heavy one, have a light breakfast such as a fruit smoothie preceding that heavy lunch and follow up with a light dinner such as soup or fresh salad. But make sure to have a small protein snack just before setting out for your party meal, so that you do not overindulge out of hunger. So too, if your dinner has been heavy, precede it with a light salad lunch and a fruit rich breakfast the next day.

  • Plan your Diwali party menu

Be kind to yourself and to your guests by planning the party menu at your home wisely. Plan for one low fat/millet based/low sugar menu item in each course of the menu. Include cut vegetables (crudités) with a hung curd dip as part of starters, some millet based patties such as this one by Nandita. Dress your table with colourful salads such as these.  Add grilled vegetables on skewers or fruit skewers to liven up the party table colourfully without much effort or wasteful calories. Even desserts can include some smart options such as this fruit terrine.

  • Choose your party snacks smartly

While at a party, it may become tough to eat wisely. Pick a small plate to begin with. Keep an eagle eye on the portions you load on your plate. Do NOT go for second helpings. While selecting from the buffet table, choose baked over deep fried snacks, vinaigrette or lemon based dressings over mayonnaise for salads,  milk based sweets over deep fried sugar drenched sweets, tea cakes over cream-topped pastries. Mentally divide your plate into 5 parts. Fill 1 part with a carbohydrate such as roti/rice/pilaf/ pasta, 2 parts with protein such as tofu/paneer/fish/lean meat, and 3 parts with vegetables such as stir fried vegetables/salad. This will ensure you are eating sensibly even at a party.

  • Tank up on healthy fluids

Keep sipping water throughout the day. Other hydrating fluids include unsweetened fruit juices, lemon tea, green tea without added sweetener, dilute buttermilk. Aim for 4 glasses more than your usual fluid intake during the festive season. This will ensure that kidneys are not overloaded, yet, keep hunger pangs and binge-eating at bay. Good hydration also helps to eliminate toxins, aids digestion, keeps energy levels high at the festive times when you need it the most. Needless to say, drink alcohol (if you must) in moderation. No letting go of limits on this one. Dilute your drinks with plenty of unsweetened fruit juices, or water, and pace your drinks sensibly.

  • Form a support group

Diwali is a great time for social bonding. Use your friendships to help each other. Form a support group of like-minded friends who commit to exercising and eating sensibly during the festive season. Agree on a 4-5 point goal, and update the others at the end of the day. Motivate each other to not give up and keep at your goals together. It will be great fun and inspiring at the same time.

Lastly, festivities are not just about food or no-holds barred behaviours. Enjoy the colours, the sounds, soak in the ambience, the fun. Relax, let go of your tensions and come out of the Diwali week, lighter in both body and spirit!

Happy Diwali to all my readers. May there be light, love, peace and happiness in all your homes and lives.

Sep 30, 2015

Chocolate Marbled Energy Bars

Breakfast is the most neglected meal of the day. On busy weekday mornings, most people are in a great rush to reach workplaces, schools, just about anywhere. No wonder then, that, people do not spare time for breakfast. Yet, starting a day without breakfast just works against what we set out to achieve. We are more likely to be zapped of energy and enthusiasm early into the workday. To help us perform better at our tasks, a healthy breakfast is vital. If so, would it not be wonderful if we could have breakfast on the go? Enter granola bars, energy bars, muesli bars. Call them by any name. They are just as convenient, delicious and perfect snacks or meal on the go.

Energy bars can be made ahead, store well, and can be packed as breakfast on the go, or anytime snacks, or on road trips, picnic munchies. They are great for a pre workout or a post workout snack too.

I came across these chocolate marbled energy bars first in ‘Chocolate’ by Delia Smith. The book is filled with decadent chocolate based recipes. However, these energy bars were the ones that caught my eyes first. I tweaked around the ingredients and proportions to suit my requirement. I have substituted the condensed milk with brown sugar/jaggery syrup. You could add both the condensed milk and jaggery syrup to increase the richness of the energy bar too. If using condensed milk, keep the total liquid at the same volume as mentioned in this recipes. I have added popped amaranth seeds to add a good protein to the bar. The only part I have left unchanged is the beautiful marbled chocolate topping! I had to work on the recipe a few times to get a proportion that works best. One that gave just the right hint of sweetness, and had just enough liquid to solid ratio to bake well. I also made sure that the baked energy bars could be cut into neat squares!

Healthy Chocolate marbled Energy Bars

I am sure you are eager to get to the recipe and make some for yourself too. So here goes…


  • Has gluten from oats. NOT SUITABLE for people with gluten intolerance. Substitute oats with total 5 cups rice flakes to make it gluten free. 
  • This recipe does NOT contain lactose. Suitable for people with lactose intolerance. However, adding condensed milk will bring lactose into the recipe.
  • Does NOT contain corn, soya, eggs.
  • Contains nuts. Omit nuts if you have nut allergy.

Preparation Time – 20 minutes, Cooking Time – 30 minutes, Makes 9 squares


COOKWARE – Convection oven, 8 inch square baking tray, baking paper to line tray, deep mixing bowl, rubber spatula, sauce pan, 2 glass bowls, steel fine mesh filter, sharp knife


  1. 4 cups quick cooking oats
  2. 1 cup popped amaranth seeds
  3. 1 cup thin rice flakes (poha, aval, attukulu, avalakki)
  4. 1 cup deseeded, chopped sweet dates
  5. 1/2 cup dried cranberries/strawberries/blueberries (optional)
  6. 1/4 cup chopped walnuts/almonds
  7. 1 cup powdered jaggery/brown sugar
  8. 1/2 cup drinking water
  9. 1/2 cup dark cooking chocolate
  10. 1/2 cup white cooking chocolate


  1. Bring the water to boil in a saucepan, add the jaggery, mix and let it rest for a few minutes for the jaggery to dissolve. When the jaggery has dissolved completely, strain through the mesh filter to remove impurities. Collect the jaggery solution in the deep mixing bowl.
  2. To the bowl add the oats, popped amaranth, rice flakes, dates, dried berries (if using), and nuts. Mix all the ingredients together until the liquid has coated all dry ingredients.
  3. Preheat oven to 180 C.
  4. Line the baking tray with paper leaving an overhang.
  5. Pat the mixture into the tray, pressing down firmly with a rubber spatula. Make sure there are no dry bits of ingredients on the surface. If needed, sprinkle a few drops of water on top to moisten, and pat down again.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 20-23 minutes.
  7. Remove and cool the tray on a cooling rack. Do not remove granola from tray. Cool for 20-30 minutes.
  8. Chop the dark and white cooking chocolate into different glass bowls. Microwave in bursts of 20-30 seconds until just beginning to melt. Do not overheat the chocolate, stop heating when there a few bits of chocolate left to melt. Keep stirring with a metal spoon, to get a smooth melted chocolate.
  9. Spoon both the dark and white melted chocolate alternately in a wave pattern over the baked granola. Drag wavy lines using a fork tip or toothpick to create marbled patterns while chocolate is still wet. Tap the tray sharply on the counter top a few times for chocolate to even out.
  10. Place the tray in the fridge to set quickly.
  11. After half an hour, remove from fridge and set on counter top. Wait for the chocolate layer to warm up to room temperature a bit. I left it on the countertop for 10 minutes. Room temperature at my home is around 23C-25C. Cut into 9 squares with a sharp knife. If the chocolate layer seems to crack rather than cut up, wait for some more time and then cut up. The marbled energy bars are ready.
  12. Store in air-tight box. Stays good for at least 1 week, maybe more. I never got a chance to find out! Pack in baking paper for road trips or any place out of home. These marbled energy bars are great for breakfast on the go, for school snack boxes, for pre or post workout snacks, as well as a healthy snack option.

Guilt free healthy snacks

Notes -

  • Diabetics may/may not be able to eat these energy bars. Remember although the recipe uses jaggery, there is more sugar in the dates as well as chocolate. Omitting the chocolate could bring the sugar content of the energy bars lower.
  • The energy bars cut up neatly if baked through well. Also wait patiently for the top chocolate layer to set before cutting into squares.
  • Do not over heat the chocolate. Stop heating when three fourths of the chocolate is melted. Keep stirring in a circular motion, in the same direction for a smooth glossy chocolate.

Sep 10, 2015

The Indian Culinary Route

Marriott Whitefield, Bangalore is hosting a week long Indian Food Festival. Giving you one more fabulous reason to visit them and indulge in specialty gastronomic adventures. Chefs have been flown in from different Marriott properties from across the country for this week alone. Thus, it is India on a platter for guests all through the week. A few food bloggers were invited to kick-start the ‘Indian Culinary Route Extravaganza.’

Visiting Marriott Chefs with Judge

Kick-start we did and how! Bloggers were divided into teams under different chefs. Each team had to prepare a regional delicacy. The twist in the tale came in the form of handcuffs! All chefs were handcuffed, were only allowed to instruct and guide, but cannot twirl pans, or cook. The vegetarians amongst us grouped ourselves into one team. Excited that the dish to be prepared was ‘Gatte ki Subzi’, we set off in all earnest.

Food Bloggers with Chefs in Cuffs

Dough mixed, vegetables chopped, the huge ‘lagan’ was set on stove top. Under Chef Ranjit Singh’s expert and patient guidance, we kept  throwing in ingredients into the lagan amidst the din and chaos of several teams hollering across to each other! Much friendly fire and competitive spirit between the teams, kept up the temperature as if the heat from the live kitchen was not enough. Soon enough our Gatte ki Subzi began to take shape. We kept gazing at our dish with ‘motherly pride’ for we had coaxed and nurtured the sabzi to excellence!

Busy in the kitchen Always have time for selfies! Engrossed in Gatte-cutting!

Soon enough, the dishes were lined up for the judge to choose the best. Suresh Hinduja, prominent member on the Bangalore food scene, and a great cook himself, was the judge for the day. I did not envy him even for a moment, for each team had outdone itself in effort and passion. While I would have loved to end this tale with an ending that the Gatte ki Subzi stole the thunder from all other entries, had people swooning over it, and so on,…. sadly, the tale did not end thus! Kerala Roast Chicken was judged the best for its perfect cooking, great balance of spices and hence the best dish.

The Gatte ki subzi

The proud Team members with Chef Ranjit Singh

All were treated to a sumptuous lunch, pampered by the attentive staff of Marriott, Whitefield. Perfectly flaky Malabar Parathas, Red Matta rice cooked to soft grainy perfection, white rice and rotis were chosen to accompany the brilliant curries, dals, Salan and Raita. If this lunch is anything to go by, folks, do yourself a favour and make your reservations for this Indian Culinary Route week.

Sep 6, 2015

Aval Payasam

Wishing all readers a happy Janmashtami. Praying for more love, peace and happiness in all your homes.

“Pathram Pushpam Phalam Toyam Yo Me Bhaktya Prayachati Tad Aham Bhaktyupahritam Ashnami Prayatatmanaha.” “If one offers to me with Love and devotion, a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it.” Bhagwad Gita, 9.26.

The humble aval, poha, beaten rice has a legendary status in Lord Krishna’s life. His childhood friend, Sudama, redeemed himself by offering a handful of beaten rice when they met after several years. It is said that Lord Krishna relished this offering of Love and Surrender so much that Sudama’s poverty stricken home was turned into a palace of riches, after the Lord accepted this offering.

Here is a recipe for Aval Payasam for Janmashtami. Let us try to make it and offer it to the Lord with single-minded devotion and Love. For He is most fond of a devotee’s Love.

Payasam fit for the Gods 


  • Contains milk (lactose). Not suitable for lactose intolerant people.
  • Does not contain gluten, soya, corn.

Preparation time – 10 minutes, Cooking time – 30 minutes,  Serves - 4


COOKWARE – Heavy bottomed sauce pan, ladle


  1. 1/4 cup red aval/poha/beaten rice*
  2. 1 litre whole milk
  3. 1 cup sugar
  4. 1/4 teaspoon ghee


  1. *Aval can be thick or medium aval. Do not use thin flat aval. If using thick aval, rinse under running water and soak for 10 minutes. If using medium aval, rinse under running water and add directly to boiling milk.
  2. Bring the whole milk to boil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Once the milk is on a rolling boil, drain water from the soaking aval, and add the soaked/rinsed aval to the milk. Keep stirring over low to medium flame to avoid charring at the bottom of the pan. Keep mashing the aval as you stir. This lends a creamy texture to the payasam.
  3. When the milk is reduced to half its volume, switch off flame and add sugar. Stir in the sugar gently until fully dissolved.
  4. Return milk to flame, keep stirring over medium to high flame for 4-5 minutes more.
  5. Switch off flame and cover with a tight lid.
  6. Add 1/4 teaspoon of ghee before offering this to God.
  7. Creamy aval payasam tastes good hot or at room temperature.

Red Aval Payasam

Aug 28, 2015

Pineapple Pulissery

Happy Onam to all readers who celebrate. May there be good health, peace, joy, and plenty in all your homes. Enjoy the day with your loved ones and with an extensive Onam Sadya!

Here is an unusual recipe in time for the Onam Sadya. Pulissery or Moru Kuzhambu is a staple dish in a Malayalee menu. Usually made with vegetables boiled and then simmered in a spicy coconut and curd paste, this Pulissery uses pineapple as the ‘vegetable’. The fruit gives the dish a unique flavour and a welcome tartness. Whether you celebrate Onam or not, this Pulissery will lift your meal to a gourmet level. So go ahead, and cook it up at your homes too.

Pineapple Pulissery


  • Does NOT contain gluten, soya, eggs.
  • Contains coconut. People with nut allergy usually tolerate coconut.
  • Contains yogurt/curd. Usually tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.


COOKWARE – Small fry pan/tadka pan, mixer grinder, Pressure cooker.


  1. 1 cup chopped pineapple
  2. 1 cup sour thick curd or 2 cups buttermilk
  3. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
  4. 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
  5. 4 red chillies
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. 2 tablespoon powdered jaggery
  8. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

For Tempering -

  1. 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  2. 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  3. 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  4. 1 red chilli
  5. 7-8 curry leaves, torn up


  1. Place chopped pineapple, salt, turmeric powder, and jaggery in pressure cooker, add half cup water and pressure cook for 3 whistles.
  2. Fry 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds and 4 red chillies in 1/4 teaspoon coconut oil. Fry on medium flame until just fragrant. Grind this with fresh grated coconut to smooth paste using water/buttermilk/curd.
  3. Mix the ground paste, cooked pineapple, curd/buttermilk and stir over medium heat. Remove from flame as soon as the mixture begins to boil. Do not leave it unattended or over high flame.
  4. Add coconut oil to fry pan, add tempering ingredients to it, and pour sizzling hot over the moru kuzhambu/pulissery. Cover with a tight fitting lid and let the flavours develop.
  5. Serve with steamed rice and a thoran. Crispy papads are welcome too!

Pineapple moru kuzhambu Happy Onam!

Aug 27, 2015

Above Ground Levell Lounge –Departure Lounge

The Above Ground Levell Lounge at Domestic and International Departure Terminals of Bangalore International Airport have been conceived to provide travellers a complete relaxed experience while at the airport. Currently operational in Bangalore airport, this is the first foray of the Bird Group into airport lounges.

I was invited to review the Lounge at the Domestic Departure Terminal. Here is what I saw and experienced.

Key features of the Above Ground Levell Lounge are -

At the mezzanine floor, look out for it’s entry at the fag end of the departure hall.

Logo at Entrance of the Lounge Coffee shop zone

Offers a refreshing experience. Accessible to both special card holders as well as having a Pay and use option. Guests can purchase plans as per need. For eg., choose between simple refreshments or a full meal option. Guests can then avail of the lounge’s facilities which include food and a fully equipped business centre, charging stations as well. I noticed the Flight Information Display Systems at vantage points in the lounge.

The lounge has a very roomy feel, since it is spread over 13,000 square feet with 250 seats at the domestic terminal. This vast space is intelligently divided into zones that also merge into each other seamlessly - the coffee shop, the bar and the dining area. The interiors are done up tastefully incorporating traditional motifs from Hampi. I especially liked the idea of Rangoli designs on the plush carpeting. Tree pods add to the ‘Green Bangalore’ feel apart from offering privacy to different sections of the vast lounge. Along with the pleasing music being played, and the soothing ambient lighting all around the space, the space looked inviting and relaxing. Plush seating, intelligent use of decor to offer privacy, I would surely choose this lounge over other options currently available at the departure terminal.

Seating at coffee shop Plush chairs and soothing lighting  

Well-stocked barHampi inspired murals on walls

Offering massage chairs and showers in addition to the premium facilities they have currently, could take passenger comfort to the next level here.

Buffet spread, live counters, are all in place to offer guests a wide choice of food and beverages. Buffet for the major meals of the day as well as live stations doling out eggs made to order, chaat stations, dosa counters are all geared to pampering travellers’ taste buds. Head chef Shadab proudly informed us that the menu keeps changing every fortnight. This way, frequent travellers can look forward to new culinary offerings each time. The Chef is also particular about seasonal produce, healthy cooking and serving home style food to his guests.

Food cooked fresh, special diet requirements taken care of, customisable dishes, comfortable seating - the Above Ground Levell lounge is fully equipped to handle every need of the weary and tired traveller.

A picture tour of the food sampled that day -

Home-style fresh, soft phulkas Sweet and savoury cookies baked fresh in-house Spicy crackers with dip Salad station at the dinner buffet  Honest, fresh dinner from the buffetThe elegant buffet area

Jun 16, 2015

Nizam-e-Awadh Food Festival

Holy Ramzan month is around the corner.  What better time to celebrate the cuisines of the Nizams and the Awadh. So it is that Sheraton Bangalore has curated another gastronomic extravagance revolving around Hyderabadi and Lucknowi food.

You will see fragrant, redolent, rich, and such adjectives being used repeatedly below. That should give you a good idea of what to expect at the Food Festival! Also unique here, is the presence of the Chefs, heroes who often are never in the limelight. It was a great initiative to bring them out of the kitchens and gave us a peek into the intricacies of the dishes.

Rose milk to set the note for fragrant courses to follow.

Rose milk

Warqi parathas – flaky, aromatic from the cardamom, great foil to the smooth-as-silk galouti kababs. Special baingan bharta, an exotic cousin of the Punjabi bharta we are more familiar with. Chef Jebin Robert deftly made the galouti kababs. His passion for his job was so evident!

Jebin Robert at work

Tafta – A unique sweet yeasted bun. Aromatic, pillowy soft. Served with Nalli Nihari. A specialty by Chef Ansari Ali.

The Chef also demonstrated the making of Roomali roti much to our delight. Flair and panache was evident in full measure. With practised ease, he made it look like child’s play. But one attempt by a blogger told us how difficult it is.

Chef Ansari Ali making the Roomali Roti

With Ramzan, can Haleem be far behind? The huge Lagaans for making the perfect haleem were brought in from Lucknow exclusively for the event. Chef Maksood is a soft-spoken, smiling person. Do not be fooled though! He can make a mean haleem, is a master of the Kachi Gosht Biryani and together with Chef Fahim Qureshi, had also made a perfect Subz Hariyali Biryani.  It’s vivid hue was inviting. The flavours lived up to my expectations. Gentle aromas of green herbs, perfectly cooked rice, accompanied by an enticing whiff of the Chef’s specially created spice blends.


Subz Hariyali Biryani

Zarda Pulao, a fitting dessert. Sweetened with date puree and sugar, richly imbued with the hue and aroma of saffron, topped with chironjee, and dry fruits fried in ghee. Also on the dessert menu were matka kulfi and phirni. That the milk was patiently reduced by boiling and that the best quality of pistachios were used in the kulfi was amply evident in it’s flavour and perfectly grainy texture.

Chef Maksood and the Zarda Pulao Chef Fahim Qureshi and the Kachi Gosht Biryani

The Food Festival does tend more to the non-vegetarian selections. Go for an indulgent treat, for a feast to your senses! Beware of the calories. Nothing here for the dieter. Unabashedly rich and aristocratic offerings.

Open for lunch and dinner till the 21st of June 2015. At Feast, Sheraton at Brigade Gateway, Bangalore.