Natural Flu Season Tonic

Flu Season Tonic

We are at the start of flu season and holiday binge eating. Bugs & calories are everywhere, and most of us will succumb to at least one of the two. I have to be honest – I’m not a big follower of natural remedies, but I’ve had this tea a few times in the last few days, and the sniffles I had  seem to have vanished. I also like the fact that it is refreshing, low calorie, and comes with a ton of health benefits.

Lemon juice is high in Vitamin C, which protects the immune system. Lemon juice is also known to help in fighting ulcer causing bacteria, and in aiding with elimination. WebMD also states that Vitamin C helps with cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.

Honey is a natural cough suppressant that soothes itchy throats. Plus, it tastes great!

Ginger is known as the powerhouse of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Used to treat gastro-intestinal problems, it is touted as a safe cure for stomach issues such as indigestion and nausea. Asian natural remedies consider ginger as a “heat” food, and this might alleviate cough, cold and flu symptoms.

Finally, Turmeric is famous for its anti-inflamatory, anti-septic qualities. I remember getting small cuts and scrapes as a kid, and running to the kitchen to pour some turmeric on the wound. Not sure if it helped, but it never hurt. (We kids loved that it stained everything yellow.)

The ‘tea’ recipe below is just a guide; you may add more or less of each ingredient, and steep as long as you like to suit your taste.

Natural Flu Season Tonic

(Makes 1 serving)

  • 1 tbsp grated ginger (or 1 inch ginger sliced into thin slices)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (preferably fresh squeezed)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 12 oz (1.5 cups) boiling water

1) Bring water to a boil in a non-reactive pan.

2) Add ginger and cover tightly to steep about 4-5 minutes.

3) Strain into a cup and add lemon juice, honey & turmeric. Mix well and sip, stirring as needed.

NOTE: I heard of and tried adding a pinch of cayenne powder to this tea to drink on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. It is supposed to provide all of the above benefits AND increase metabolism, enhance liver function, and assist elimination . It tastes pretty good, but I have stuck to my sweet, creamy chai for mornings. 

Flu Season Tonic

I’ve been reading  I Never Promised You  A Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg – a classic from the 1960s. It is the story of a 16-year old who voluntarily gets committed to a mental hospital to treat her schizophrenia. The child Deborah creates an imaginary kingdom whose characters she imagines dictate her every move, so that she can escape from the realities and harshness of her real life. It was difficult reading, but I was struck by the way the author was able to see perspectives of the patient(s), parents, sibling, and psychotherapist, given that it was a time that had so little insight into mental health, and the stigma was especially high for the mentally ill. Very insightful book, and I highly recommend reading it. I think I finally have some understanding – however little – of what it means when we hear on the news about people who heard voices telling them to do unspeakable things.

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Homemade “Instant” Pongal

“Mom, what’s for ………………?”

How many of you dread this question? (Fill in the blank with breakfast/ lunch/ snack/ dinner.)

It’s not so much the cooking that bothers me; rather, it’s the planning, pulling out everything needed, cooking, cleaning up, and putting the stuff away, only to do it all over again in a few hours. It’s nice to have a couple things handy to just pull out of the pantry or refrigerator, and do the final touches. No dealing with chopping boards, peeling onions, spice containers, or dirty dishes (well, atleast, not as many).

I make instant upma mix at home for breakfast several times a month. All it requires at meal time is a HOT cup of water. Just stir water and mix, allow it to sit covered for few minutes, and your hot meal is ready. I wanted to try some more recipes like this and played around with a few ideas. Pongal / kichidi was something that seemed possible. After two attempts, I finally arrived at the recipe below. While not as simple as the instant upma, this pongal mix is ready to be cooked. Just add water, mix and salt to a pressure cooker, and your meal is ready in a few minutes. Give it a try.

Quick, easy and satisfying. For a healthy meal, serve with a side of coconut chutney  and a vegetable.

NOTE: For a lower carb version, check out the recipe for Savory Quinoa Pongal.

Homemade “Instant” Pongal

(Entire recipe serves atleast 10-12 people)

  • 2 cups rice
  • 1 cup split yellow mung dal
  • 4 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken into large pieces)
  • 4 cloves
  • 3 red chillies (snap in half)
  • 1/2 cup cashew pieces
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (stripped, washed, and dried)
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper corn
  • 3 Tbsp cumin/jeera seeds
  • 3/4 cup grated coconut, optional

1) Roast dal on a medium-high flame for a few minutes, stirring often. Make sure it does not brown. Cool.

2) In a large pan, heat ghee on medium flame, making sure it does not smoke.

3) Add the cinnamon and cloves and fry for a few seconds.

4) Add the red chillies and curry leaves; partially cover lid so it does not splatter out of the pan.

5) Add cashews and roast till light golden.

6) Add the pepper and jeera and fry for a few seconds.

7) Add the rice & dal and mix well. Turn off heat and cool completely. Store in an airtight container or in the fridge for a few weeks.

TO COOK PONGAL:

1) Add 1 cup of the pongal mix, 3 cups water & 1 tsp salt to a pressure cooker pan, and stir well.

2) Cook on a medium flame for 2-3 whistles and turn off stove.

3) Allow the pressure to release and remove pongal; stir again and serve hot with ghee and coconut chutney.

4) Serves 3-4

NOTE: Many variations of pongal exist, and the ingredients in this recipe can be adapted to suit your taste. You may also reduce the amount of water in the final round of cooking to 2 1/2 cups. Just remember that the pongal will absorb water as it cools, making it thicker.

To make a vegan version, skip the ghee and use a few spoons of oil.

“Instant” Plain Pongal (Milder version)

This version is good for kids or for those who like milder food.

  • 2 cup rice
  • 1 cup yellow split moong dal
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp ghee or oil (ghee preferred)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp peppercorn
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 sprig curry leaves

1) On medium flame, dry roast the moong dal for a few minutes, stirring constantly, about 2-3 minutes. Do not brown. Turn off stove, stir in rice and set aside.

2)In a saute pan, heat the ghee / oil.

3) Add pepper & cumin seeds and allow to pop.

4) Add the curry leaves and cover partially with a lid. The moisture in the leaves will make them crackle and pop, and it might splatter out.

5) Add cashews and roast till light golden in color.

6) Turn off stove and add the rice & dal mixture. Stir well and allow to cool. Store in the refrigerator.

To Prepare Pongal:

1 cup rice & dal mix
2 1/2 – 3 cups water
1 tsp salt
Add all ingredients to a pressure cooker and cook on medium for 2-3 whistles. Allow to cool few minutes and remove. Serve with coconut chutney.

Baked Oatmeal Bars

Baked Oatmeal Bars

Here’s another easy recipe for breakfast on the run or for a snack attack. These taste better than store bought granola bars, and are definitely healthier as they contain real foods rather than dozens of additives and chemicals. I am working on making these bars without the dry milk powder, but till I find a better alternative, my family will eat these instead of pop-tarts. Another fall back I’ve been using regularly is for No-Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bar – recipe to follow soon as I take some pics. Baked bars adapted from this recipe.

Baked Oatmeal Bars

  • 2 cups rolled oats (NOT instant)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped dry fruit (dates, raisins, craisins, figs, etc) – whatever strikes your fancy
  • 1 cup roughly chopped nuts – whatever you like
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ (or sunflower seeds)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup dry milk powder ( I’ve been sneaking in my husband’s protein shake powder, and its delicious)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 4 Tbsp butter – melted

1) Preheat oven to 350*

2) Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl.

3) Press into a lightly greased 8 or 9 inch square pan.

4) Bake 25 minutes until lightly golden brown and crispy on top.

5) Cool well and cut into bars.

6) Refrigerate for a month or freeze for up to 3 months.

NOTE: To double recipe, use a 9X13 pan and follow same method.