Archive for the ‘.Basics’ Category

We usually turn to rice when confronted with wheat allergy, or the need to stay away from gluten.  Rice flour is the base of most cake, cookie, bread and all purpose gluten free flour mixes.  But rice does not provide great nutrition and cakes can be quite crumbly, especially when made egg free.  I have combined some amazingly nutritious gluten free flours—Amaranth, Sorghum, Quinoa, and Oats with a starch for binding, to produce fantastic cakes, cookies, pie crusts, Indian rotis and just about anything that wheat flour can make.  These flours are available in most specialty food stores and are becoming increasingly available in mainstream stores in the US. You can also find Amaranth, the Indian ‘Rajgira’, and Sorghum (‘Jowar” in India) in all Indian stores.

Grandma’s Gluten Free Flour Mix


  • 1 cup amaranth flour
  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 cup oat flour (just grind one minute quick cooking oatmeal in a dry grinder)
  • 1/2 cup corn-starch (also called corn flour in some parts of the world)
  • 1and 2/3 teaspoon xanthan gum/ guar gum.
  • 1 level teaspoon salt.
  • Note:  If oats do not suit,, use 1 cup of cornstarch / tapioca starch 


  • In a large bowl, mix all flours well, taking care that bowl and mixing spoons are dry.
  • Add salt and xanthan gum and mix well.
  • Make double the quantity, or more, and store in dry, airtight jars.
  • To retain freshness, store in fridge.

Baking time for gluten free flour is a little more than the time required for baking with wheat flour

In the absence of Egg Replacer, use—3 Tablespoons water, 3 Tablespoons oil and 2 level teaspoons baking powder, mixed together.  this mixture is equivalent to 2 eggs.


I stay away from soy, as it is an established allergenic food.  However, if soy is not an allergy issue, use 1/2 cup soy flour in place of quinoa flour, which may not be available in all places.  Quinoa is protein rich and soy is a good substitute But, if soy is a problem food, and there is no quinoa, make the flour mix without quinoa/soy.  Add 1 1/3  teaspoon xanthan/guar gum.  If the gums are not easy to obtain, you could omit them.   They add that extra bit of stickiness, and give a slightly better ‘stretch’ quality to the dough.  Increase the quantity of oat flour by 1/2 cup and and also add 1/2 cup more of corn starch (cornflour).  This will enhance the binding quality of dough, prevent crumbling of baked goods., and will help in rolling out chapatis etc. more efficiently

Fact Files on the Ingredients


This is an excellent source of protein, and is high in certain amino acids which are usually found only in animal foods.It is loaded with iron (a 100 g serving gives 50% of daily requirement based on a 2000 cal. diet). It is also a good source of calcium, vitamins, minerals and fiber.. Actually, amaranth is not a grain, but is the seed of a plant that is grown for its nutritious leaves as well. Toasted amaranth seeds can be eaten as breakfast cereal. The name ‘amaranth’ itself comes from the Latin root word, ‘amar’, as also the similar Sanskrit word, which means ‘immortal’.


This is among the oldest known grains and is also rich in protein, iron, calcium and potassium. Since it metabolizes slowly, it is possibly beneficial to diabetics as well. It is a good addition in any baking mix, as it does not have an intrusive flavor or color. It has been a staple food in Africa and India for centuries.


This is often described by nutritionists as the ‘super grain’. The National Academy of Science describes quinoa as ‘the most nearly perfect source of protein from the vegetable kingdom’. Ancient Incas called it the ‘mother grain.’ It has nine essential amino acids, has more calcium than milk, is high in iron, minerals, micronutrients, Vitamin E and some of the B group vitamins.


Oats are actually gluten free, but there is some chance of cross contamination as they are sometimes grown in proximity to, or in rotation with wheat. Cross contamination can occur during the milling and transportation process as well. If gluten free oats are available, go ahead as they have a good binding quality, are high in fiber , and contain some amount of iron and protein.


Xanthan gum and other gums such as guar gum and locust bean gum are gluten free and help to give gluten free flour a spongy, elastic texture that gluten containing flours usually provide.

Corn-starch is not only a thickener to be used in soups and sauces, but also has a great binding quality. other starches such as tapioca starch, potato starch or arrowroot flour may also be used in place of corn starch.

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There are many alternate grains which need to be explored and used.  They are gluten free, tasty, loaded with nutritional value, and far healthier than wheat.  Some of them aren’t grains at all, but are grasses, seeds or flowers.  They are actually super foods which we can process into wonderfully delicious flours.  Let’s have a look–

Amaranth— (the Indian Rajgira)is loaded with iron, calcium, manganese plus other minerals, and is a good source of Vitamins A, B6, K and C.  It is high in amino acids such as lysine and is an excellent source of protein. It can be milled, toasted, even popped like corn.  It should always be cooked before eating, because like most edible seeds it contains compounds which inhibit the proper absorption of some nutrients.  In fact all seeds must be cooked to destroy any toxicity which they may have, and to ensure good assimilation by the body.  The word ‘amaranth comes from the Latin—and Sanskrit—root word, ‘amar’ which means immortal.  It can’t make us immortal, but it can definitely give us great nutrition to promote good health and longevity.

Arrowroot—Ancient Mayans used it as an antidote to poison arrows, and for other medicinal purposes, especially to soothe the stomach and prevent diarrhea. It is obtained from certain plants which are rhizomes (same family as ginger and turmeric).  Arrowroot flour is basically an easily digestible and nutritious starch which is used in cooking as a thickener for soups, sauces and confections. You can use it in gluten free foods instead of cornstarch, but the consistency doesn’t hold for as long as it holds with other starches.  A sauce like preparation, slightly sweetened, is good invalid food and is often used to control diarrhea.  Arrowroot biscuits/ cookies are safe to eat for babies too, but read the labels carefully to make sure that no wheat has been added.

Buckwheat –-also called soba in Japanese, is basically a fruit related to rhubarb.  The seed contains a pale kernel known as groat, and groats have been in use for centuries.  The name confuses people, but it is not even remotely related to wheat and is gluten free.  It is high in lysine and other amino acids.  In fact it has eight essential amino acids which the body doesn’t make, but needs, to keep on functioning.  It is close to being a complete protein, is high in B Vitamins as well as many minerals.  It is also a  good source of linoleic acid which is an essential fatty acid.  It is widely used in making pancakes, biscuits and muffins, but again it is important to make sure that no wheat has been added. We have to be careful while using soba noodles also, and ensure that we buy the gluten free ones.

In India buckwheat is grown mainly in the hilly regions of the north and the Hindi name for it is ‘KUTTU”.  It is hardly used in other regions.

Corn—also called Maize, is a staple in many parts of the world. It was first domesticated by the people of southern Mexico.  Corn provides the necessary calories for daily metabolism and is a rich source of Vitamins A, B and E as well as certain minerals. It plays a role in the prevention of digestive ailments because of its high fiber content.  Corn is  also rich in antioxidants as well as phytochemicals.Corn meal is ground from dried maize but is not as fine as wheat flour. The Indian ‘makki ki roti” is made with corn meal. However,many corn meal preparations have wheat added for elasticity, so be careful when you buy corn tortillas or corn bread. You have to make sure that they are wheat and gluten free.Corn starch is the starch derived from corn grain,  Since it is finely processed it is depleted of nutrients but is a good thickener for soups and sauces.  Excellent to use for so many recipes that are otherwise thickened by wheat flour. It works very well for white sauce.

Millet—has been a staple food in Africa and India for thousands of years.  Commonly known as Bajra in India, pearl millet is one of the oldest food grains.  It is actually a grass with small round kernels, though it is loosely called a grain.  It is packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.  It is high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and is loaded with fiber, protein as well as B complex vitamins including niacin, thiamine and riboflavin.  Millet is more alkaline than many other grains and easy to digest.  It is a low glycemic index food and good for diabetics to include in their diets. Millet flour makes good tortilla / chapati like flat breads, and can be added to other gluten free flours to create healthy, nutritious flour mixes.


Quinoais a super food, often described as “the most nearly perfect source of protein from the vegetable kingdom.”  With nine essential amino acids, it is a complete protein.  It is also high in phosphorus, calcium, iron, Vitamin E, the B Vitamins as well as fiber.  Incas called it the “mother grain”, easy for babies to digest.  It is one more flour that you can add to a gluten free flour mix—I add it—to enhance and enrich it. Quinoa grains can be cooked and used in place of couscous or bulgur in salads and can be cooked like rice as a staple, comfort food, which can add significant nutrition to an allergy free diet.  Because uncooked quinoa grains are coated with ‘saponins’…sticky, bitter tasting stuff that acts like an insect repellant it needs to be washed thoroughly before cooking.  Quinoa flour can also be used by itself to make great tasting cookies and cakes.

Sorghum (Jowar)—A very important and one of the oldest grains has been a major source of nutrition in Africa and India for centuries.  Now also grown in the US it is gaining recognition as a gluten free insoluble fiber. It has a somewhat neutral flavour and light colour, which doesn’t significantly alter the taste of foods when used in place of wheat flour.  It is made into tasty flatbreads in India and can be similarly used anywhere to go along with any kind of meat and vegetable preparations. Sorghum flatbread could replace pita bread in a gluten free diet.

It is high in iron, calcium and potassium.  Because the starch and protein content in sorghum is more slowly digested than that of other cereals, it is said to be beneficial to diabetics.  The glycemic index of sorghum is lower than that of most grains.

Raagi—is a type of finger millet grown in southern India and parts of Africa.  It is one more super food, packed with calcium, Vitamin D and certain essential amino acids.  It is also rich in iron.  Raagi is often directly ground into flour, or else sprouted and then ground.  Sprouted raagi is easy to digest, and can be cooked with milk or water to form a custard like breakfast food. When raagi is allowed to sprout, its Vitamin C levels tend to increase thereby creating easier absorption of its iron content.  For the lactose intolerant, raagi cooked in water with a dollop of ghee is a delicious dessert as well.  Gluten free raagi flakes are good snacks or breakfast staples.

Teff—is yet another nutritional powerhouse.  It has been a staple of Ethiopia for over 5000 years and is now making an appearance in the US market.  It packs a protein content of nearly 12% and is five times richer in calcium, iron and potassium than any other grain.  It has a sweet, nutty flavour.  You can cook the whole grain as a breakfast cereal or add teff flour to any gluten free flour mix to enhance nutrition.

And Lastly—Most of these gluten free grains are Whole Grains, with the exception of the readily available forms of corn and arrowroot. Some types of cornmeal is ground from whole grains but yellow cornmeal which is common in the US, mostly has the husk and germ removed.

A grain has three parts:

Germ—This is the part that a new plant sprouts from.  It is high in nutrients such as niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, Vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. Also it contains some fat and protein.

Endosperm—or the jernel is the bulk of the seed.  Because the seed stores its energy in the endosperm, it contains most of the protein and carbohyrates, as well as some vitamins and minerals.

Bran—is the outer layer which also contains a lot of nutrients. It is again a rich source of niacin, thiamin and riboflavin plus magnesium, phosphorus and iron.  Bran contains most of the fiber.

Refined grains have been stripped of their bran and germ layers during processing, so only the endosperm is left.  Hence refined grain is not as rich in nutrients as whole grain.


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Pepper—has been in use for more than 30 centuries.  It is not merely an important flavoring agent, but is also a great preservative of food.  Romans thought that pepper was worth its weight in silver.  Turks blockaded the pepper routes used by Venetians and Genoese….which is why Isabella sent Columbus on his mission.

Pepper stimulates the flow of saliva and gastric juices and helps in the digestion of starch.  It has significant amounts of calcium and iron, plus micro nutrients like phosphorus, magnesium, copper and manganese.  It is a good source of Vitamin A.  Like most spices, it should be used moderately.

Turmeric—is a rhizome and belongs to the same family as ginger  The active principals identified in turmeric are curcumins, a group of substances which are powerful anti oxidants with cancer fighting properties. Turmeric is highly anti inflammatory– reduces swellings, is anti bacterial, and is also a good coagulent…like pepper it stops bleeding from cuts and wounds.

Turmeric is an important ingredient in all Indian food, as are most spices.  A quarter to half teaspoon is all you need for a dish serving four.  Not only is the color very concentrated (be careful of staining clothes and kitchen counters), so are the nutrients.  It is rich in iron and contains manganese which helps in the absorption of iron. Zinc and other trace minerals are also present in turmeric.

Cinnamon—is an immensely beneficial spice.  Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon paste, among other things, to preserve mummies, mainly because cinnmic acid is anti bacterial.  Cinnamon increases insulin sensitivity and facilitates the control of blood sugar levels.  Its active ingredients increase the ability of our body cells to metabolise sugar as much as 20 times.  USDA researchers found that people with Type 2 diabestes, who consumed about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon a daysignificantly reduced not only their blood sugar, but also reduced their triglyceride and LDL numbers. Some doctors recommend 1/2 a teaspoonful a day.

Cinnamon reduces the glycemic index of sugar, so what can be better than the traditional combination of cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on gluten free toasts and pancakes?

Cloves—are great digestive aids, and are excellent for reducing flatulence.  Clove oil has pain relieving properties and is used, in some traditions to soothe a toothache.  Cloves contain phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc.  A pinch of powdered cloves added to a bowl of soup or to a meat/poultry entrée gives that exotic touch.  And for that special flavor, try a  sprinkling of clove powder on pumpkin and apple desserts.

Cardamom seeds—are valued for their flavor and for a range of medicinal properties.  Along with cloves, cardamom is a natural remedy for nausea and helps digestion. It is a great source of the amino acid choline and of vital micronutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium and manganese.  Try a quarter teaspoon mixed into puddings and desserts for a special aroma.  One can also add a lesser quantity of sugar because of the inherent sweetness of cardamom.

Coriander seeds—are very rich in calcium, phosphorus and beta carotene.  They also contain folic acid, magnesium and zinc.  Coriander seeds give us an important amino acid which, according to some researchers, improves brain function. For a little off beat flavor, try a pinch of ground coriander seed with white sauces and gravies, and a little more in tomato bases sauces.  Ground coriander also blends well with vegetable, meat and poultry dishes.

Cumin seeds—are very aromatic and greatly embellish taste.  They are rich in anti oxidants and possibly anti carcinogenic.  They also contain calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc, as well as Vitamin A. Cumin is an excellent remedy for flatulence and stimulates the appetite.  It also has some diuretic and carminative effect.

Lightly roasted cumin seeds have an enhanced aroma.  Roasting of all spices should be on low heat till they are hot to the touch, and crispy enough to powder.  This method helps to prevent the loss of volatile compounds.

Cumin, actually a native of Egypt, is now grown throughout Western Asia, parts of South Asia and Southern Europe.

It is an important spice in Indian, African and Mexican cuisines.  Beans /legumes of all kinds are more easily digestible with the addition of 1/2 to one teaspoonful of ground cumin seed.


Nutmeg—is an excellent flavoring for both sweet and savory dishes.  It contains calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.  An excess of nutmeg can lead to drowsiness and constipation—a small quantity suffices and works wonders with enhancing taste.

Our grandmas had so much good sense in adding nutmeg to spinach dishes, not merely to add that exotic flavor, but also to balance the laxative quality of spinach with the opposite quality in nutmeg! 

Cayenne Pepper—When jalapenos are ripened and dried, they are ground to produce a red powder, popularly called red chili powder.  Its pungent flavor comes from its main ingredient, capsicin.

Cayenne pepper is rich in Vitamins C and K, and has significantly higher levels of calcium and phosphorus than green jalapenos.  It also contains micro nutrients such as copper, manganese, zinc and iron.

Nature has made this spice pungent, adding to the “hot” fiery flavor in food, so it must be used in small quantities, as an excess of capsicin can lead to acidity, stomach ulcers and related problems.

Paprika—is made from dried and ground fruits of certain varieties of pepper, mainly the larger and sweeter variety of red bell pepper.  It is rich in Vitamin A and antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin and betacarotene, all of which promote eye health. It also contains significant amounts of Vitamin B6, which also keeps eyes healthy and prevents cellular damage.It is also anti inflammatory.

Paprika adds a rich red color to food, without adding too much of a pungent, fiery flavor. Instead of using any artificial red color which is commonly added to Indian tandoor dishes, it is much healthier and safer to use paprika.

Hungarian paprika is considered most flavorful and of the finest quality.

Basil—The Greeks called basil the ‘kingly herb’, while the French considered it ‘royale’. The Indian basil is regarded as the sacred herb, because of its phenomenal medicinal, nutritive and anti bacterial properties.

Studies show that basil can inhibit growth of certain bacteria that have become resistant to commonly used anti biotic drugs.  It contains antioxidants and is a natural food preservative.  It makes great sense to include basil and thyme in foods, especially uncooked foods like salads, so not only is food more flavorful, but fresh produce remains safe to eat for longer periods of time.

Basil is a wonderful source of beta carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells and blood vessels.  Studies show that the beta carotene in basil helps to lessen the progression of asthma.

It is a good source of magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, Vitamins C and K.


Thyme—is a medicinal herb and an excellent natural preservative.  In ancient times it was often used in embalming. It has a distinctive flavor which enriches soups, stews and meats, and like basil, retains flavor on drying.  It releases flavor slowly and can be added early in the cooking process.  It is antiseptic…good in mouthwashes, anti bacterial and anti inflammatory.


Oregano—The name is derived from the Greek words ‘oro’ for mountain, and ‘ganos’ for splendour.  The plant is lovely and the mountains where it grew were considered all the more beautiful for its presence.

Researchers claim that the oil in oregano leaves is one of the finest natural medicines.  Studies show that it is a natural pain killer, has anti inflammatory qualities reduces indigestion, flatulence, coughs and bronchial problems.


Bayleaf—or laurel was famed in ancient Greece and Rome.  Emperors and heroes wore wreaths of laurel leaves as symbols of their honor and achievements.  The Greeks believed that bayleaf was a cure for everything from indigestion to nightmares.  It has antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties and is also considered anti bacterial and anti fungal.  Studies show that it helps the body to process insulin more efficiently.  It adds a rich flavor to Indian curries, soups, sauces, stews, meat and poultry.  Basmati rice tastes awesome with just a single bayleaf tossed into it.

Dried bayleaf should be kept whole and olive green.  Brown ones have probably lost their flavor.  When kept away from light in airtight containers, bayleaf will retain its flavor for a couple of years.


Mint—has been in use for several centuries.  Its fragrance was synonymous with hospitality and wisdom.  Ancient Greeks and Romans rubbed their tables with mint before their guests arrived.

For cooking, the variety called ‘spearmint’ is the most preferred and popular.  Mint combines well with a number of foods, especially with meats like lamb, and can be used creatively as a garnish for all kinds of cooked foods as well as salads.

Mint is rich in antioxidants, Vitamins A and C.  It is carminative, anti spasmodic, helps digestion and reduces flatulence , throat and sinus infections.  When added to a summer drink, mint enhances the cooling quality.  Try it with lemon/lime juice, buttermilk, iced tea, water melon juice and in many more creative combinations. 

Mustard—is one of the oldest spices and is very widely used.  Most ancient cultures used it for seasoning food and also as a condiment or pickling spice, because of its preservative properties. Mustard oil is rich in alpha linoleic acid which is a source of Omega 3.  It has the lowest saturated fat content among edible oils and is healthy to use.

Mustard has great antioxidant and anti bacterial properties and is rich in micro nutrients In some traditions it is used for its healing properties—as a pain reliever for muscular pains, in liniments and poultices for insect bites.

The name mustard is derived from the Latin word ‘mustum’ which means ‘must’…this spice is definitely a ‘must’.  It adds piquancy to food flavors and is good in marinades, barbecue sauces and other condiments.  Powdered mustard acts as an emulsifier in salad dressings

American mustard is usually made from white mustard seeds blended with sugar, vinegar and colored with turmeric.

English mustard is also made with white mustard seeds but has a greater pungency.  It is sometimes mixed with wheat flour for bulk and has turmeric for color. Do watch out for wheat ingredients before using this mustard.

Dijon mustard is made from husked black mustard seeds blended with salt, and spices. It is important to check the manufacturer’s website whether wheat or gluten has been used in the wine fermentation process.

Ginger—has great digestive and anti inflammatory properties.  Adding ginger to beans and other legumes while cooking makes them easily digestible and less flatulent.  Ginger helps to clear coughs, colds, soothes nausea and crampis.  It is a mild natural alternative to histamines.

Ginger has strong anti oxidant properties, inhibiting oild from growing rancid in the body.  It also contains small quantities of iron and calcium along with micro nutrients like magnesium, manganese and phosphorus.

Garlic—is the most protective of all root vegetables.  It is a powerful immune system booster, helps lower cholesterol and inhibits growth of tumours.  It has strong antioxidant properties as it has the rare mineral, selenium.  A recent USDA report calls garlic a “functional food” with special nutritional benefits.

Garlic contains nutrients such as Vitamins A and C, and significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc.  But its most important ingredient is allicin, a sulphur bearing compound which is an effective anti coagulant.

Food cooked with garlic is protected from pathogens for a good period of time and does not spoil as quickly as food cooked without.  It is important to also add other spices to food to preserve it naturally.

Cornell researchers tell us that people began using garlic and similar herbs centuries ago to kill bacteria and other food borne pathogens.

Reducing ‘Spicy’ food from our diet is not a good option. We can add less cayenne pepper/ jalapenos/ red and green chilies to our food, but adding spices is extremely important for health and general well being.

Spices add Variety, which is the ‘spice’ of life, so go ahead, Spice It Up!


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Ghee is a super food!  Good fats are integral to our health—almost 30% of total calories in our diet must come from fat. Ghee contains vital, essential fatty acids, the Omega 3s.  In a zero- size aspiring culture, fat has become synonymous with”bad for us”.  Ghee, when it is a by product of organic milk (milk from grass fed cows, raised without hormones or antibiotics), is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.

Traditionally made ghee lubricates joints and tissues, cleanses intestines and arteries.  It improves hormonal function and digestion.  It boosts the immunity and the Omega 3 fatty acids in it have a calming influence on an over active immune system.  Ghee also contributes to creating a better ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol, and helps control triglycerides.

Ghee which is made traditionally (recipe follows), with organic butter, is often included in the diet of dairy allergic people.  As always, introduce with caution. For an absolutely ‘yum’ taste, use a small dollop of ghee to enhance flavors when making dairy free dishes which have to be cooked in water/rice milk/soy milk.  Try it with rice and tapioca puddings, Indian sweets such as carrot and other halvas, and even use it as a much healthier alternative to margarine in baked goods.  It is healthier than butter and tastes great in Western / American style cooking.

Ghee,like other fats helps to lower the glycemic index of sugar  In other words, it helps to metabolize sugar slowly and prevents a ‘sugar high’ in the system.  (An oatmeal cookie actually has a lower glycemic index than a bowlful of breakfast oatmeal)  Add a level teaspoon of ghee to oatmeal when cooking it with water, sprinkle a little cinnamon powder and serve—just delicious!

Ghee made the traditional way, at home, is most beneficial to health.  Grandma added yogurt culture to milk fat, churned it into butter, then boiled the butter to make ghee.  She also added a big helping of loving care along the way.  The only shortcut to home made butter is store available organic, unsalted white butter.  There is a big difference between homemade ghee, and the so called ‘pure ghee’ available on store shelves.  Most of the time, commercially made ghee consists of hydrogenated vegetable oil and heated milk fat without the use of active cultures.

Making ghee is actually quite easy.  Here is a simple recipe–



Home made ghee served in traditional silver tableware


Melt 2 cups home made or store bought unsalted, white organic butter in a saucepan.  Once melted, allow butter to simmer gently.  After 5 minutes or so, foam will rise to the surface.  Do not remove or stir the foam.  Let butter cook till foam thickens and settles at the base of the pan.  There will be a continuous crackling sound as the butter boils. Once the foam caramelizes and turns into a brown sediment, butter has turned into ghee.

You will find that the liquid is a golden color and is now boiling silently, with  just a trace of air bubbles on the surface.  Remove from heat.  When a little cool, pour the liquid, using a strainer, into a clean, dry container.  The strainer ensures that no trace of sediment enters the final product.

Although ghee lovers like to add sugar or jaggery to the caramelized sediment and eat it like a rich snack, it is not meant for the dairy allergic.

Once you taste home made ghee, you will never be able to settle for any thing else! 

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Books, websites, articles from reputed magazines and newspapers are great sources of information.  Here are some that have given me useful and invaluable information about allergy and nutrition.

Andrew Weil         “Eating Well For Optimum Health”

                          “Natural Health, Natural Medicine”

Marion Nestle       “What to Eat”

Jonathan Brostoff, Linda Gamlin    “ The Complete Guide to Food

                                                   Allergy and Intolerance”

Paul Saltman, Joel Gurin, Ira Mothner    “The University of California

                                                         San Diego, Nutrition Book

Danna Korn         “ Living Gluten Free For Dummies”

William E. Walsh  “ Food Allergies,  Complete Guide”

Michael F. Roizen, Mehmet C. Oz      “You on a Diet”


Complete Idiot’s Guide   Total Nutrition

American Dietetics Association   Complete Food and Nutrition Guide


Articles by well known nutritionists from different parts of the world also help to increase knowledge and understanding.

Websites are too many to enumerate.  There are several Allergy related websites, and guidelines put out by USDA, NIH, and ADA which have good and reliable information.

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Imagine meals with meats and no potatoes—no mashed or baked potatoes on the side, and no French fries at all! What on earth did people do before the potato was discovered?

According to some sources, the potato was introduced to England in the latter half of the 1500s, even though the known history of potato cultivation probably began nearly 2000 years ago in South America.

The popularity of the potato has grown over the years. It is so nutrient dense that some call it a near perfect food. The USDA tells us that a diet of whole milk and potatoes would supply all the elements necessary for the maintenance of the human body. The potato is high in nutrition and low in calories, and with its high water content, makes a filling bulk food.

Nutritionists claim that

  1. The average baked potato provides the recommended daily requirement of Riboflavin and Niacin, both B group vitamins..
  2. It is rich in iron and Vitamin C.
  3. It contains more potassium than a banana.
  4. A medium sized baked potato has as many calories as an average sized apple.
  5. It has 2 ½ times fewer calories than a similar quantity of bread. (88 calories in a medium 4 oz. potato). By itself, the potato is not fattening. High fat toppings add to the calories.
  6. Most cereals contain more starch than potatoes
  7. Most important of all, it is one of the least allergenic of all foods and can substitute for grain / cereal accompaniments at the dinner table.

Potato ‘Points to Remember

  • When buying potatoes it is important to choose firm, dry potatoes with unbroken skins.
  • Potatoes should be free from sprouts and green patches. Uneven surfaces or eyes do not cause harm.
  • Always store potatoes unwashed in a cool, dry place. Potatoes should never be stored with onions which can speed their spoilage.
  • New potatoes do not keep as well, and should be bought in small quantities.
  • Potatoes should not be refrigerated. Only new potatoes can be kept in the fridge.

Cooking Tips

  • Cooking potatoes with skins helps to retain most nutrients. We discard nutrients when we discard skins. The water that potatoes are boiled in can be used in soups, casseroles, and in any other cooking
  • Pressure cooking is an excellent way of retaining nutrients. It requires the use of minimal water which can easily be used up.
  • Cooking in the microwave oven is yet another good method of maximizing on the nutrients. It is best to undercook, test for doneness, then cook further if necessary.

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Yogurt is the best probiotic that we can include in our daily diet.  When derived from active cultures, yogurt maintains and improves the balance of different kinds of bacteria in the intestines.  Apart from improving overall digestion, these friendly bacteria help to synthesize  some of the B group vitamins and Vitamin K.

Antibiotics and painkillers can destroy friendly bacteria, and it is especially important to repopulate the gut flora with these, by ingesting plenty of yogurt.  Lactobacillus is the most important component of friendly bacteria.

Yogurt converts lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid, thus making digestion easier.  Lactose intolerant people can usually have yogurt without any problem.  Well known nutritionist Marion Nestle recommends trying hard cheese and yogurt, as “the friendly bacteria used to making these foods have already digested most of the lactose they contain.  However, caution is the key word here.

Studies tell us that not only are the proteins in yogurt more easily digestible, but also its micro components such as calcium and phosphorus are more widely and immediately available to our bodies.  Research shows that our bodies absorb twice the amount of calcium from yogurt than from milk.

Studies also show that–

-yogurt helps to stop dysentery caused by bacteria and unbalanced diets,

-plays a role in the suppression of cancer cells,

-regenerates intestinal flora upset by medication,

-helps in healing skin infection and eczema

-soothes chronic constipation,

-boosts the immune system.

The “Complete Food and Nutrition Guide” brought out by the American Dietetics Association (ADA), states that yogurt is one food that is a must for children, the elderly and for people recovering from illnesses. and that it can even prevent allergy symptoms.

Some yogurt facts written in the ADA Guide–

Regular yogurt supplies considerably more calcium than frozen yogurt.

No federal standards exist for frozen yogurt.

Very low temperatures in frozen yogurt slow down the action of any live cultures.

It is best to have yogurt as a snack rather than at the end of a meal.

Never leave fresh fruit in yogurt  for longer than half an hour.  Add cooked fruit to yogurt if you wish to make fruit yogurt.


Did You Know

That Ancient Egyptians preserved milk in containers made from animal skins, while in Mesopotamia milk containers were made out of dried gourds.  In India, the earthen pot is considered as the best to use for yogurt.

That yogurt is made everyday at home in many cultures.  In India people make yogurt by adding a small quantity of the previous day’s yogurt to warm milk, and keeping it in a warmer corner of the kitchen for about 4 hours, till it is set and ready to eat.  Yogurt culture can now be bought in stores, but where and how the first few spoons of yogurt were obtained centuries ago is a story that is lost in the mists of history.

That when bought from stores, we need to ensure that yogurt is made from live cultures certified by the National Yogurt Association.

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Fruits are the best snacks.  They are terrific sources of nutrients—vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

But kids with multiple allergies may not be able to eat from the entire variety of fruits.  Some fruits are known to produce allergic reactions, especially fruits like mangoes, papayas, pineapples, bananas, avocados, some kinds of berries, and in rare cases, apples. 

It is good practice to follow a few precautions before trying any new food, even fruit.  One strategy is to mash and apply that food to the skin to see if it produces any kind of itching, rash, redness or hives.  Even if no such symptoms occur, it is wise to give a very small quantity while introducing that food for the first time.  Allergic reactions can appear after several hours, so it is best to watch and wait before continuing to serve the new food.

Allergists recommend that all fruits should be washed thoroughly.  Many fruits have been treated with pesticides and fungicides.  Peeling is important, especially when fruits and veggies have been waxed, as in the case of apples, pears, cucumbers and squashes, 

Conventionally grown strawberries are often treated with a fungicide and must be washed well.

No plant/fruit wants to be eaten.  Some have ways of fighting back, with chemical ‘weapons’ which can attack the body’s immune system, producing a damaging mediator, namely, histamine.

Some fruits cause allergy-like reactions because they contain histamines—e.g. bananas, pineapples, avocados.

Pineapples and papayas contain certain protein breaking enzymes which can attack the mast cells, which are a part of the body’s immune system.  Nutritionists recommend that these fruits should not be eaten on an empty stomach.  Canned pineapple is safe, as the heat used in canning destroys this enzyme.  Mango is another such fruit and must be introduced with caution.

Dried fruits are often treated with sulfites to prevent them from browning.  Kids with asthma could react to sulfites.

Fruits and veggies fall into certain botanical categories, ‘food families’.  Although it helps to know which ‘family’ a fruit or a vegetable belongs to, there is no thumb rule which indicates that a child who is allergic to a food from a certain group will be allergic to other foods from the same group.  Kids allergic to ragweed, may not necessarily be allergic to bananas which belong to the same family as ragweed..  There can be cross reactions with pollens such as birch pollens with apples.  Even peaches, plums and cherries are know to affect kids with birch pollen allergy.

The keyword here is caution.  The good news is that there are lots of options with fruits.



One apple has more fiber than a serving of oatmeal.  A medium apple has nearly 160 g of potassium, somewhat similar to oranges and bananas.  Researchers in the UK say that kids who are big apple eaters have better lung function and are at a lower risk of asthma.

Orange juice, when taken with meals, increases the absorption of iron and calcium from food.

Juice with pulp is better than pulp free juice.  Fruit pulp not only contains fiber, but it also has minerals like calcium, vitamins and antioxidants.

Most fruits are high in Vitamin C, the big antioxidant.  Berries and citrus fruits are great sources of this vitamin.  Fruits, as key sources of Vitamin C are extremely important for kids who are on regular maintenance medications for allergy.  Since steroids reduce the absorption of Vitamin C from the gut, these kids need to have that extra bit of Vitamin C.

An avocado is a fruit, not a vegetable.  It has 60% more potassium than a banana, and is cholesterol free.  It contains the good, monounsaturated fatty acids like olive oil.  Mashed avocado can be used as a butter alternative—just add  pinch of salt and spread it on those rice crackers.

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What is MSG?

Glutamic acid is one of the amino acid links in protein.  When glutamic acid is freed from the protein chain, it becomes soluble in water or body fluids, where it meets a sodium molecule which floats with it.  Hence the name Mono Sodium Glutamate or MSG.

In most foods, some of the glutamic acid is freed from protein.  Since it is not bound to protein, this freed glutamic acid or MSG is absorbed quickly in the blood stream.  If the amount is small, the impact is non existent.  If the amount is large, its fast release and absorption can overwhelm the body’s metabolism, and trigger a reaction.

MSG is sometimes difficult to identify because it is hidden in other food additives, or is the result of food processing, when it is added as a flavor enhancer.

Manufacturers add it as an ingredient that is part of another ingredient, such as “hydrolyzed vegetable protein”.  This is simply vegetable protein that is broken down (hydrolyzed) into its constituent amino acids

MSG may even hide behind a label like “natural flavors”.

Milk protein contains about 20% glutamic acid, but it is firmly bound to the protein chain.  In the cheese making process, fermentation breaks apart the protein, and releases MSG.  The more AGED the cheese, the more milk protein is digested, and more MSG is released.

Highly fermented soy sauce could also have high levels of MSG

It is best to exercise caution with fermented foods

Certain foods, such as peas, corn, mushrooms and tomatoes contain high levels of free glutamic acid.  BOILING removes much of the water soluble MSG. When corn is removed from the cob and boiled, each kernel gets exposed to boiling water and loses most of the MSG.

MSG is probably lost during some forms of corn processing which occurs in products such as chips, syrups etc.

Cooking helps to minimize the MSG in food.  Beans and sprouts, especially must be cooked.

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Soups can be tasty, varied and wholesome. At the toddler stage, soups provide the best basic nutrition. Tasty and creative combinations add a new dimension to eating out of jars, jars and more jars. Moreover, it is better to develop a liking and taste for veggies at this early stage. A 2002 survey tells us that one in five babies is “eating candy every day. And the #1 vegetable for toddlers isn’t pureed carrots: its French Fries.”

For older kids, soups are good comfort foods. Soup bases and purees can be used in many interesting ways with pastas and meats to provide wholesome meals. Even if some foods have to be avoided, there’s plenty which one CAN have and enjoy,and pack in lots of nutrition too.

Homemade, fresh/frozen soups have many nutritional advantages over canned/packaged soups—

  • The high heat typically used in making canned and jarred foods softens veggies and causes them to lose color, flavor and nutrient value, while meat can shrink and toughen.
  • The thickness of canned soups often comes from added thickeners.
  • Many of these soups are loaded with sodium.
  • The main additives of canned foods are salt and sugars, as in the case of fruit.

All Soups recipes in this section yield 4 adult servings.

The whole family can enjoy these soups—in fact, it is essential to have part of a meal at least in common with the child who has food allergies. This reduces the sense of exclusion that food sensitive children may develop.

I like to double the recipe and freeze at least half of it, in such a way that even small portions can be taken out right after that soccer game, or to satisfy hunger pangs on a cold evening.

To Freeze Soups

  • Remove the portion to be kept aside, before diluting the rest with milk, broth or additional water.
  • Pour the thicker portion into ice trays.
  • Cover with plastic foil and freeze for at least 6 hours.
  • Remove ice trays. Invert, hold slightly above the plastic foil that will come off the tray, Twist the tray so that frozen cubes will drop onto plastic foil.
  • Pack in Ziploc freezer bags taking care to eliminate as much air as possible before sealing the bag
  • Only the required number of cubes can be removed as and when needed. Microwave and dilute with milk, broth or water, or add creamed silken tofu for a dairy free alternative.

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