Archive | March, 2012

Authentic Jain Cuisine – Gatta Pulav

18 Mar

Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Following the Jain diet has been my favorite thus far.  The restrictions don’t seem so bad compared to what I was denied earlier this year.  Replacing alliums (such as onions, garlic, etc.) in a delicious vegan recipe with an obscure spice?  No problems there!

I recently ordered a book entitled “Jain Food: Compassionate and Healthy Eating”.  Within its pages, there are great descriptions for how to follow a Jain diet in modern times as well as a number of traditional Jain recipes.  I hardly EVER purchase books as I can generally find whatever I need through the library.  Forget the stereotypes of libraries past.  Visit your local library and see all of the awesome FREE services/events now offered!  P.S. You might find DVDs, databases, and E-books if your library is as cool as the Minnesota one I work for.  There’s my library plug for the day.  That’s right…I’m proud to be a librarian!  It’s nice to work for an institution you believe in.  Anyway…

I’m glad I bought this book, because I will probably try every recipe in it at least once.  If you are an Indian food freak like I am, consider adding this gem to your cookbook collection.  I tried a fried rice/chickpea dumpling dish a few nights ago (Gatta Pulav).  It’s a two-part recipe with various spices, but don’t let the length of the ingredients list intimidate you!  It was crazy delicious and actually pretty simple to throw together.

Gatta Pulav (Makes 4 Jain servings – or 2 American servings – Derek and I ate all of it :))

*Note: This recipe calls for 2 cups of cooked rice.  The book suggests white, but I used brown basmati rice.  If you are using brown, it’s best to start the rice before anything else as it often takes ~30-40 minutes to cook through.  White rice usually only takes about 10-20 minutes.  To shorten cooking time, soak your rice up to 24 hours in advance, just like you would a pot of beans.*

To make the “Gatta”/Chickpea Flour Balls (Makes 1 1/2 cups)


1 cup chickpea flour (also called gram/besan flour)

1/8 tsp chili powder (or according to taste)

1 Tbsp + 1.5 tsp oil (I used ~  1 Tbsp coconut oil & 1.5 tsp olive oil)

A pinch of asafetida*

~1/4 cup of water to make the dough

3 cups of water

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

*Asafetida is also known as “hing”/”devil’s dung”, :-/ but don’t be fooled!  It tastes good!  This spice is used to impart a strong onion/garlic-like flavor and is found in many traditional Jain recipes.  It doubles as a digestive aid.  Onions & garlic can’t do that!  However, make sure that you keep this spice sealed in a container and isolated from other food items as much as possible.  The odor permeates like crazy!

Method: In a bowl, mix the chickpea flour and all other ingredients, except water.  Add a little water (of the 1/4 cup) at a time & knead into a stiff dough.  (Don’t get too excited like I did.  I had to summon Derek’s help to pour extra flour into the bowl when I ended up with a formidable mountain of goo on my fingers.  Why can’t I ever just follow instructions when I make new recipes?!)  Make 3 balls out of the dough, and roll them into 6″ long cylinders.  If it sticks, add 1-2 tsp of oil (this definitely helps!)  Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Place the rolled dough into the water and boil for about 15 minutes.  Stir gently to prevent them from sticking to one another.  Remove from water and let them cool.  (OR be overly impatient like I am and burn your fingers…your choice ;-))  Cut each cylinder into small pieces of approximately 1/4″.

**Tip: You can save the boiled water to use during the stir-frying step.  This allows you to use less oil if you want to reduce the fat/calorie content a bit.

To make the “Pulav”/Vegetable Rice


Chickpea flour balls from above (Should have made ~1 1/2 cups)

2 cups cooked rice

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/8 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp salt (or according to taste)

For seasoning:

3 Tbsp oil (I used coconut – feel free to use less and utilize that boiled water from earlier!)

1/2 tsp cumin seeds (I used ground cumin instead)

2 bay leaves

2 Tbsp chopped green chilies (optional; not optional in this household – we like spice! :))

A pinch of asafetida

-I added some chopped spinach, because I can’t resist the urge to sneak those green veggies in whenever I can! I also added ~1/2 – 3/4 tsp of ground coriander.  Feel free to add these or any other veggies/Indian spices you enjoy.

For garnish:

3 Tbsp chopped coriander leaves (I omitted these)

Method: Mix rice & the remaining ingredients in a bowl.  In a heavy frying pan, heat oil/water.  Add cumin, bay leaves & green chiles.  Fry for a few seconds.  Add the rice, and fry for a few minutes until everything is completely mixed together.  Garnish with coriander leaves if desired and serve warm.  There you have it: a compassionate, nummy meal!

**Tip: cooking in cast iron, particularly when using acidic ingredients such as chiles, can be a great way for vegans (or anyone) to boost iron intake.

I Triple-Dog-Dare You to Watch “Earthlings”

12 Mar

What better time to gauge the horrors of the homo sapien than while in the midst of an ahimsa diet?  I recently had a conversation with someone (Sydney’s health store employee perhaps?) about the documentary “Earthlings”.  Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, this movie is nicknamed “the vegan maker” based on its coverage of animal cruelty in all of its existing facets: domestication, food, clothing, sports/entertainment, & research.  The person I spoke with mentioned that “Food Inc” was a Disney movie compared to the unveiling in this film.

I had to see it for myself.

‘Twas horrific indeed! [Think “Saw”…only you want the characters to survive ;-)]

In the past, I would have written off the premise as “vegan propaganda”.  However, the more I delve into my own philosophy towards the human exploitation of animals, the further convinced I become that the brainwashing has already taken place.  The concept of people having any perceived right to determine a creature’s worth is downright outrageous.  In the end, it’s all up to mother nature.  Last I checked, we haven’t received a letter from ma granting us jurisdiction over the remainder of her inhabitants.  She may get sick of our shenanigans sooner rather than later if we don’t shape up and start respecting nature.

If racism and sexism are so wrong, what makes speciesism forgivable?  If the idea of dog fighting or dolphin meat makes your stomach turn, why doesn’t the forced separation of a mother from her calf?  If intelligence is so gosh darn important, is it okay to treat mentally handicapped individuals as lesser than?  I hate to sound like the broken record of a 16 year old “non-conformist” punk, but please do “think for yourself” and “question authority”.  Embrace the idea that if something feels inherently wrong, cultural traditions aside, it probably is.

I am not asking you to become a vegan.  I am simply challenging you to at least explore the notion that ignorant bliss is not the key to an evolving society.  If my discussion of the Jain diet has inspired any fasting virgins to take the plunge, might I suggest you watch “Earthlings” the same day?  I promise you won’t want to munch on popcorn while it’s on.


[No animals (such as triple dogs?) were harmed in the formulation of this provocation. 😉 I had to make at least a couple of jokes (otherwise this post would be too damn depressing!)…

Did you check out my rhymes? “Key” -> “society”; “formulation” -> “provocation” – I should be a rapper: ‘Lil Hungry Guinea Pig (H.G.P) up in the hizzouse!  I had to add “hizzouse” to my computer dictionary?  Go figure! Get with the times technology! 🙂  Okay I lied.  Multiple jokes were necessary to lighten the mood.]

Nonion Salser

10 Mar

Salsa without garlic or onions?  It can’t be done!  Well sometimes it feels good to be wrong 😀  This recipe mimics standard pico while allowing you to forgo the onion breath (& bad karma).  The original recipe (referenced below) calls for 4-6 tomatoes (I only had 1 1/2 to work with), an optional habanero pepper, & a cap full of tequilla (omitted from my batch for obvious reasons).

Nononion Salser/Pico

*10 tomatillos
*2 tomatoes
*2 jalapenos
*lots of fresh cilantro
*freshly ground black pepper to taste
*kosher salt to taste
*juice of 1 medium lime

Broil/grill the veggies for 1-2 minutes/until just beginning to char.  Toss into blender with remaining ingredients.  Puree as fine/chunky as you prefer.  Eat!  (Note: Letting the mixture sit a few hours will allow the ingredients to meld and improve the flavor.)

The Hunger Games: Upvas!

3 Mar

[Spoiler Alert: This blog has nothing to do with the book and/or movie “The Hunger Games”.  It’s just a catchy title for the theme of this post.  Did I trick you? 😉  I do, however, find it ironic that this movie will be released during the month of my first ever organized attempt at self-starvation.]

I am truly a hungry guinea pig today!  For today is the day that I fast.  I will not eat or drink anything other than water.  Fasting is so prevalent among Jains that Wikipedia has an entire article dedicated specifically to “Fasting in Jainism”.  To give up only food for one day is termed upvas

Jains fast during religious holidays, festivals, after committing a perceived error, or as a means to purify mind & body.  Some fasts involve giving up favorite foods for a period of time (similar to what someone might do during lent) or eliminating a specific flavor profile (all sweet food, all spicy food, etc.).  Others involve eating less than what is required to feel full or eating every other day.  Some of the fasts even exclude water.  Sorry, but I’m just not that hardcore!  The most extreme type of fasting (“complete fasting”) is santhara.  For someone who is satisfied that all of his/her duties are finished and wishes to leave this world in peace, all food and water is given up voluntarily.  Essentially, suicide by starvation/dehydration.

It is only 11:00 in the morning, <sigh> so I don’t have much to report yet other than pining for breakfast.  It’s my favorite meal of the day!  On lazy weekend mornings, I often experiment with new recipes.  It would be masochistic to cook on a day in which I can’t even taste my final creation, so there will be none of that this morning.  According to the Jain philosophy, a fast is only successful if the person not only stops eating but also stops wanting to eat.  I can’t promise anything in that regard.  However, I can promise you that I WILL be eating breakfast tomorrow morning, come what may! 😉

Since I have all this extra free time this morning, I thought it would be a good time to play catch up with my diet updates.  I have been quite lazy this past week and have fallen behind in keeping you folks up to snuff.  Let’s fix that right now:

First things first – It’s time to wrap up the sugar = bad list.  Unfortunately, because I skipped around while reporting on this list, I don’t know which items I have not yet shared.  Therefore, I will simply provide the link one more time: and prompt you to skim for any additional information we might have missed.  Most of the main points were covered, and I’m pretty sure you’ve grasped by now that sugar can be devastating to your health, so let’s move on…

Second order of business: the last day of the yeast-free/mold-free/candida diet report:

I unintentionally lost weight this past month as I was required to limit my carbohydrate intake.  It was nothing dangerous or crazy substantial, just 3 or 4 pounds.

In January, during the low histamine diet, I was up against a lack of flavor choices that had me adding molasses and maple syrup to everything!  During February, I replaced sweetened peanut butter toast binges with spoonfuls of almond butter straight from the jar.  I was hungry!  I suspect it’s a bit tougher to feel satisfied on the candida diet when you are aiming towards a vegan diet.  Generally, the candida diet consists of a lot of meat and green vegetables, but I wasn’t all that interested in eating in such a fashion.  During the course of the month, I had 2 cans of fish during times of ravaging hunger and limited kitchen staples.  Other than that, I stuck with the vegan trend.  I didn’t miss peanut butter and bread like I thought I would.  I simply replaced peanut butter with almond butter (also very addicting and tasty!) and tortillas and brown rice cakes for yeast breads.  I found a yeast-free sprouted rye bread that is delicious.  Unfortunately, it’s also expensive, so I only enjoyed the luxury of one loaf.  I didn’t miss sugar all that much, BUT I missed fruit quite a bit.  I’m proud of myself for sticking to the low- sugar fruits only rule.  I suspect my taste buds changed somewhat, because I actually enjoyed drinking unsweetened soy milk.  This is an amazing feat, considering my previous inability to stomach the milk of beans stored in cardboard taste.

Cravings experienced: CHOCOLATE (it was pretty ugly at times, but miraculously, I’m still alive) ;-).  I found myself living through all of my other senses in an attempt to inject the chocolate into my body through my conscious.  Derek’s aunt gave us some engagement/Valentine’s Day treats.  The canister consisted of 4 mini cupcakes, each with a hard white chocolate or milk chocolate outer shell and 2 regular-sized chocolate cupcakes with sparkly pink frosting (the woman is amazing!)  I made Derek eat one of the mini cupcakes in front of me (actually I tried to get him to eat the larger cupcake, as that is the one I would have chosen, but he refused :-/)  I watched intently as he bit into the morsel of everything I was denied (sugar, chocolate…).  Imagine a dog watching his owner eat steak. 😦  Poor thing.  I listened to the crunch and imagined the sensations in my mouth during each chew.  The next day, I brought my half of the “loot” to work so there would be less delicious torture lurking inside my refrigerator.  I opened the container for a whiff of chocolate perfume and enjoyed transporting the remaining treats to a smaller container.  Notice how I engaged all other senses?  The sight of cupcakes + touching the cupcakes + smelling the cupcakes + listening to the consumption of the cupcakes =  half-assed failed attempt at replacing the experience of eating the cupcakes!

It took Derek over a week to finish off his half of the treats (and only after endless prompting on my part).  Sheesh what a jerk!

Luckily, most of the treats I am surrounded with on a daily basis are not made from scratch.  I am a strong proponent of real food (I’d be shocked if you didn’t know this by now).  Generally, I’m not that impressed by how good man-made chemicals can make something taste (raised doughnuts with chocolate frosting and sprinkles might be an exception…)  Not to mention that if something comes from a box, it is easily reproducible.  I can have that item whenever I want (when I can have it that is – you know what I mean…) When someone brings cupcakes to work, I immediately assume they are made from scratch, because that is how I make everything.  I forget that most folks just want the sugar fix and they don’t care how.  Cakes from a box may be cheaper and quicker, so they provide a nice option for the sweets fiend.  Once I’ve made the realization that the frosting is from a Betty Crocker vessel rather than a mixer paddle, I lose all feelings of deprivation instantly.  Neat trick, eh?  I’ve acquired the gift of being able to differentiate “food” from actual food and to appreciate the latter in all its glory.

Sins to confess:

#1. I tried to stick to a 2 cups of grains + 1 1/2 cups of legumes/beans per day limit as closely as possible.  Since a cup of rice is more easily measured than the amount of beans in a batch of bean pasta, there were probably some errors made.  At times, I may have eaten more than my predetermined share.  Overall though, I think I did a pretty decent job following these restrictions.  🙂

#2.  I discovered on my last day of the candida diet that my “non-chewable” (deemed chewable by moi) vitamin B12 pills contain a miniscule amount of sugar in the form of maltodextrin.  This is hardly worth noting, but I’m a details freak, so there you have it.

Here’s what I ate my last day on the yeast/mold allergy + candida diet:

Breakfast: Kamut (wheat) flakes with soy milk, blueberries (1/2 cup), applesauce (1/2 cup), ground flax seed, and spirulina (algae – kinda tastes the way fish food smells, proving yet again that my taste buds can handle anything at this point ;-))
Lunch: Brown rice pasta with pumpkin, spirulina, chopped arugula, mung & adzuki beans, coconut oil, and garam masala (Justine’s famous kitchen-clearing house special of the day! :-))
Supper: Curried bean “pancakes” with fresh ginger, onion, and arugula + spicy seasoned turnip fries (had to eat up those root vegetables before the 1st!)

Lessons learned:  Measuring everything before you eat it is ANNOYING (my condolences to all of you calorie counters out there)!  Trying to follow a candida diet as a vegan is a definite challenge!  Also, when you replace sugar + fat binges with pure fat binges, you lose weight.  Whether or not candida is directly involved, eating a low-sugar diet for a short period of time is a worthwhile endeavor.  We have learned how sugar contributes to a multitude of health problems and encourages dulled taste buds and overeating.  I dare you to give up all added sugars and refined grains for one solid month.  What do you have to lose, other than a few pounds and a couple of potential cavities?

Finally, a quick review of what I ate my first day as a Jain (Thursday March 1st):

Breakfast: Rolled oats soaked overnight in soy milk with blueberries, applesauce, orange juice, spirulina, & ground flax seed; B12 supplement
Black bean “hummus” with cumin (instead of garlic), lemon juice, tahini, & coconut oil (instead of olive oil) mixed with quinoa &chopped arugula; 1 date for dessert
2 brown rice cakes w/ remainder of black bean dip, baby spinach & arugula; peeled cucumber slices; 2 orange slices; 1 date for dessert

Since my root vegetable intake will be practically nil, I have sought out a nice beta-carotene (vitamin A precursor) replacement.  Spirulina, as mentioned above, is an algae that just happens to be an excellent source of beta carotene.  It’s strong stuff, but mixed into my morning cereal with fruit, it’s not so bad.  Beta-carotene is also prevalent in green leafy vegetables and other colorful veggies.  Like most Americans, my intake of these is less than what it should be, so the spirulina provides a bit of extra insurance.  Avoiding refined sugar is easy with dates.  They are nature’s candy!  If you’ve never tried one, you are missing out.

Jain diet fun-fact: While attempting to understand why I could have turmeric (a root) on the Jain diet but no carrots, I discovered an interesting explanation.  Apparently in Jain Dharma there are two categories of plant species.  Under the ordinary plant kingdom, multiple souls are said to reside (potatoes, onions, etc.).  Turmeric and ginger are categorized under the single plant kingdom.  Therefore, only one soul is disturbed in their upheaval rather than multiple souls.

I assume there is a sort of biological distinction between the different groups to have reached such conclusions (as least I’m hoping so).  Too many religious guidelines appear to stem from thin air.  “Confess your sins to a priest!”  Why?  Does the bible tell me to?  Jainism prides itself on rationalism, so until I discover otherwise, I’m going to keep my hopes high!

Phew!  That killed some hours.  It’s past my normal lunchtime already!  I’m still hungry and would like to eat some food.  Hmmm…well, if Les Stroud can survive a week in the Kalahari Desert with a finite amount of water and a jar of peanut butter, I can handle this (personal pep talk :-)) Time for another glass of agua…