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Evening Winter Recipe: Haldi Doodh (Golden Latte)

12/12/2017
In the last few years, golden lattes have become the new trendy drink. However that plumpy old South Asian grandmother that you passed by the other day probably drank it the other night, along with her mother, and her mother, and her mother before. Haldi- Doodh means Turmeric-Milk. Culturally, most drink it to help with sleep, with a cough, to prevent sickness, or during and after pregnancy. I just think it's a perfect evening beverage for this unnecessarily cold time of the year. This drink does not need to cost as much as it does at your hippest cafe. It also tastes much better when made at home with all the extra ingredients. 

I am not a big milk drinker so I altered the recipe using almond milk, which also adds a natural sweetness and lots of protein.


Ingredients:
Makes 2 cups

8 ounces of almond milk & 4 ounces of filtered water
1 tablespoon of turmeric powder
Pinch of ground black pepper
A few whole cardamoms
Slices of fresh ginger
I tsp raw honey
Grated cinnamon bark
Pinch of nutmeg powder
1 tablespoon collagen hydrolysate
1 teaspoon of Maca powder
Pinch of pink Himalayan salt


These are common household ingredients for me, so I include them. However, for those looking to keep it simple, just milk, turmeric, pepper, salt, and raw honey is enough!





Key Benefits

Ginger: This is one of my favorite ingredients. Just the scent of it when I'm juicing it makes me happy. Ginger also reduces nausea, muscle pain, arthritis (because it's anti-inflammatory) and studies have shown that it has improved sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. It is effective against menstrual pain and has been found to reduce LDL cholesterol in the blood.


Cardamom: This is another common ingredient among many eastern cultures. It originated from South Asia and now Guatemala is the larger producer. It is in the same family as Ginger and it helps with digestive problems like IBS. Studies also show that it helps with lowering blood pressure. Most of the people I know just use it in tea, coffee, and some curries, or as a breath freshener.

Turmeric: I think most people are now becoming pretty aware of the benefits of turmeric. Primarily it is anti-inflammatory and an anti-oxidant. It contains a substance called curcumin which is best absorbed in the body with piperline (found in pepper) and fat. Although tumeric is very potent, the levels of curcumin in turmeric are not insanely high, so you should incorporate tumeric in your food and drink daily for best results. Curcumin also crosses the blood-brain barrier, which studies show an improvement of neurological function. There are also many studies that show a significant improvement in symptoms of arthritis. 

Directions


Heat the almond milk & water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in all of the ingredients except the cinnamon. 


Once the milk is close to a boil, it's ready to be put in the blender. At this point you could filter out the cardamom and ginger or you could blend it all together for extra flavor.


Sprinkle some nutmeg, cinnamon, and turmeric on top as desired. Swirl and enjoy!

Recipe: Matcha Afternoons

12/06/2017
Matcha lattes have started to become a recent alternative to coffee, especially in the afternoons when taking coffee would keep me up all night. I usually would just buy them from a coffee shop, but decided to start making them at home. I have had matcha powder in my cupboard for awhile now but only started using it! To be honest, coffee tastes way better and making matcha requires more attention. I also usually prefer my coffee black and my green tea unsweetened, so a heavier, creamier drink is not kin to my standard palate.

However, the benefits of Matcha are great, and far outweigh the benefits of my most precious elixir that is coffee. I also add certain supplements to my juices which also work fluently with the lattes. Collagen, Incan Maca, and Indian Ashwagandha all have a warmer tone to it, which complement the combination of milk and Matcha. I will mention the benefits of each below based on the research available. Keep in mind, there can almost always be room for further or replicate studies when it comes to nutrition. However, most of these supplements are well-documented and have been helping people for thousands of years. This Matcha recipe is packed with protein and adaptogens.

Matcha: Matcha is the finely ground, soluble form of regular green tea. Regular brewed green tea contains an antioxidant called catechins. Catechins have been found to have anti-cancer properties and increase metabolism. Matcha, however, usually contains three times the amount of catechins. Additionally, matcha does not cause the shakiness that coffee can cause, and fare better in those who cannot handle coffee.

Collagen: These are amino acids from cows and fish. It smells weird but there is no noticeable taste to it when mixed in drinks. There are countless cases that have shown improvement in skin quality (using scan technologies), in joint pain, and in decreasing intestinal permeability (leaky gut) symptoms. If none of these benefits happen for you, collagen will at least keep you fuller for longer. This is probably the only supplement on the list which is a newer trend that could afford to have more intensive studies.

Maca: The Maca plant is originally from the Andes region and was consumed by the Incans for thousands of years. Most importantly, it balances hormones and has more calcium than milk.

Ashwagandha: This root has been used in India also as an adaptogen for thousands of years. Studies show that Ashwagandha powder improves insulin sensitivity and decreases the stress hormone, cortisol. It also reduces hair loss.

Cinnamon: Make sure you use true Ceylon cinnamon. We buy ours from our local Indian store in sticks/bark. It balances blood sugar, is a source of anti-oxidants (which are anti-cancer), and reduces total cholesterol. Learn more about the well-documented and proven effects here.

Matcha Recipe

(Makes two cups)

Ingredients:

10 ounces of a nut mylk (I use almond or macadamia, without fillers or preservatives)
6 ounces of water
1.5 teaspoons of organic Matcha powder
2 tablespoons of hydrolyzed collagen
1 tablespoon of Maca powder
1 teaspoon of Ashwagandha root powder
Grate/sprinkle of cinnamon

Genuinne granite tray and mixing bowl are from HomeGoods, clay spice bowls are from a women's co-op in the Guatemalan village of San Marcos, & cups are from World Market


Directions:

1. Heat up the milk and water on the stovetop, almost to a boiling point. Lower heat.
2. Add the powders: Matcha, collagen, maca, ashwaghanda
3. Whisk or pour into a blender for extra frothiness
4. Pour and add cinnamon!


Enjoy!

Current Top 5 Favorite Natural Moisturizers

11/17/2017
I am obsessed with moisturizing; I can't tolerate the feeling of dry hands and lips. As a nurse, I wash my hands an innumerable amount of times in a day. I usually use whatever terrible and useless cream is lying around our unit, but at home I am sure to compensate. Our family has always tried to use simpler products, which not only are more effective, but a lot cheaper. Most of the products can be find at your local Indian or African store for a few bucks. 

1. Unrefined Shea Butter:

This is a long-time family favorite. I can honestly say it is the most moisturizing product out there for me. My skin does not respond to coconut oil or cacao butter in the same way. Yes, it is sticky and tacky. Yes, it is thick. But, you will not have dry skin for like 2 days. It is too heavy for my face, but we use this as a body butter and nothing can compete. Also, from experience, there is nothing that heals and fades scars faster. 

Since we use 100% unrefined solid Shea butter, other creams that only have a few percent of it do not impress me greatly. As an exception, I do really enjoy L'Occitane En Provence hand creams, especially as they smell lovely and are perfectly sized for traveling. I am also pretty easily sold by packaging and these are sold in tubes that remind me of oil paint. I am a painter so that probably is not cute to anyone else, but I love the industrial-chic combination. Most of their hand creams are 20% Shea or greater. I like this Provence-based brand in general, although I recognize that they are unreasonably expensive. 

2. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is another long-time favorite in our house. It melts a lot faster and is thinner. It moisturizes well, but not as well as Shea. We also use this as a body moisturizer, but what is great about coconut oil is the versatility. You can use it as a very effective makeup remover, you can use it on your face, you can use it as an amazing pre-shampoo conditioner, etc. In the winter, if your scalp and hair need a little hydration, massage coconut oil into your scalp and hair (and especially the ends) and put it in a bun. I would not recommend leaving it in all night--for some reason, my hair does not respond well to that, but a half hour every week makes a big difference. Do it on the day you have extra time to rinse it out.

I think pretty much everyone is on coconut oil, but if you somehow missed the boat, do try!

3. Macadamia Cream

I buy this when I go to Guatemala from an herb garden co-operative run by women and benefiting women and children. They make their products by hand using the herbs that they grow. These lovely ladies have a wide range of products, such as rose and aloe facial cream, rosemary/aloe shampoos, (LOVE this) countless teas, natural soaps and so much more. They utilize all of their herbs for natural treatment and support, externally and internally. These ladies are so knowledgeable about their products and about natural medicine. The medicinal uses are listed on all of their labels along with the ingredient list, which is usually less than 3 ingredients. I usually buy the rose cream for my face, but I decided to try the macadamia cream on my last visit, and it really suits my skin. The texture is light but moisturizing. It almost works as a primer under my makeup and it smells nice. I use this cream more for when I travel.

Macadamia cream has a high amount of fatty acids and acids that keep skin taut. I would think this cream is thin enough to be an option for mixing in essential oils. 

4. Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter smells amazing. This is the only brand I buy and it is also from Guatemala. It is sold at a chocolate-making museum/store. I buy/regularly use their cocoa butter chapstick too.

The texture at room temperature is the most hard from this list. If the room is cooler, you really have to sharply dig in to get the product. I find that it takes a bit to melt too. It is the most similar to Shea but not as rich. It is much less sticky and tacky. I use this mostly for my hands, arms, and sometimes my face. Again, I take this more when I travel due to the size. What I love about cacao butter is how it smells in combination with a rose-based perfume. The scent also reminds me of Guatemala and traveling, so I'm a bit biased.

5. The Ordinary 100% Plant-derived Squalane

This is the newest one on the list for me. I have been trying to get into a solid night-time skincare routine (cannot stick to anything). I am still trying out different products, but this one I still like. This feels like an oil, but it is an emollient. I use this after my toner and serum as a final moisturizer, mostly just at night. My skin looks a lot more hydrated in the morning. It comes with a dropper and I only need to use 2-3 drops.

Squalane absorbs slowly and acts like a seal on the skin, keeping the hydration in. It also helps with skin cell repair.

My kitten, Lumos, naturally thought this set-up was for her

What's your infallible moisturizer?

-Anila

Queen of the Sea: Cartagena

11/15/2017


I entered the year of 2017 with a trip to a country of a continent I had never stepped foot in: Colombiaaa.

Colombia is a country that has always intrigued me. It is geologically and culturally diverse and is attached to a complex history. I have only tasted a glimpse of it through a short visit to the coastal, Caribbean-esque, colonial city of Cartagena. I hope to return to see more of this beautiful and varied country next year. Somehow, the more I see, the lengthier my travel bucket-list becomes. 

Upon arrival, Cartagena feels like a glittering, dusty, blue sea sauntering next to insistent, weathered colonial fortress walls, with a dusty highway forcing itself in between. With the first light, it feels like coffee and fresh bread on every morning corner, falling viney flowers from balcony windows with light-dappled peach, sun yellow, sky blue, havana pink walls.  In the afternoon, it feels like being stared at with enthusiastic smiles, coconut stands from machete-holding aged hands, and salons in the back room with manicures for $6. In the evening, it feels like climbing on fortress walls at sunset, walking on historic rooftops overlooking the sea, running through multiple distinct neighborhoods, flooding setting sunlight on hundreds of squinting faces, the sound of Spanish swept up by the wind. At night it feels like uncostly but lavish dinners in whimsical restaurants with intriguing diners from all over the world, clinking silverware, and warm wind. 

Cartagena feels like fallen grandeur retracing its footsteps back to its rich, romantic splendor. One of the most known love stories of endurance was set here, “Love in the Time of Cholera,” by Mr. García Márquez. Cartagena still enfolds its greatness and charm but in an adapting and withstanding manner. Barichara, Gutape, and Villa de Leyva are next on my Colombia list. If you get there before me, tell us all about it!

Balcony view. Beautiful but apparently it's normal for cars to honk their horns until 5 AM

The meals in Cartagena always surpassed our expectations and service was always spectacular

Dessert after. This beautiful restaurant was called Marea By Rausch. Definitely try it!

Can you imagine just living here?

I love this photo of my friend, Tasneem.


Fortress wall that encloses Cartagena

Coconuts everywhere & no machete work for me. Delicious!

Rosario Islands

Every street was art

Standing atop the fortress perimeter. On one side was the sea, the other was this view

My cousin, Tayyaba, always aptly playing the role of the explorer

Bought this cute Frida Kahlo canvas tote bag from a street artist

Cheapest breakfasts in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Getsemani

Until next trip, Colombia...

-Anila

Cold-Pressing Juice for the Soul (And also for the body)

I do not know why I have not yet written on here about juicing. Although, I have only regularly began juicing for less than a year, it has become a regular part of my life. I started off with a traditional centrifugal juicer and soon after moved up to a cold-pressed juicer. This is the same thing as a slow juicer or a masticating juicer. The difference is that instead of using intense speed to juice the fruits and vegetables, it slowly crushes it to extract all of the juice and nutrients--without producing heat. I have noticed that the juice is crisper and it yields a bit more juice. However, either types of juicers will benefit you greatly.

I have several recipes that I adore, but I will start with the first one that I fell in love with: Carrot, orange, ginger, lemon.

This combination has an insane amount of vitamin A, vitamin C and a huge anti-inflammatory kick for a healthy gut and joints. If you make a big jug at the beginning of each week you can drink a glass every other day to support your immune system. Drinking this for a week before traveling can give you that necessary boost that you need for germy planes, sleepless schedules, and new environments. Also, your skin will thank you. External skincare products can only do so much, beauty comes from the inside out. Vitamin C plays a role in tissue repair which helps with skin damage and acne scars. Vitamin A functions similarly and stimulates fibroblasts which cause new skin cell production and plumpness. Basically, your skin will improve greatly.

Not only is juicing so beneficial for your body, gathering nature's bounty together with such care and knowing and appreciating the power of each fruit and vegetable can be a therapeutic experience. And when you are too busy to appreciate it, there's always next week. My mother always says, for every ailment, there is a cure in nature.

Make sure they are organic:

15 carrots
6 oranges
1-2 inches of ginger (I actually never measure this, I am obsessed with ginger)
1-2 lemons (or however much you prefer)

Optional:
1 teaspoon of turmeric (super anti-inflammatory, as most brown kids grew up knowing)
1 teaspoon of Maca powder (hormone balance)
Blend in the gel of a small aloe leaf (soothes the gut, removes fat-soluble toxins)


One additional step I sometimes take is to pour the freshly made juice in a blender and blend it with a small carrot and another tiny piece of ginger. I like the texture that creates. Do not blend for long so as to not produce too much heat, allowing the nutrients to remain raw and intact.

This recipe will give you about 5 servings of juice. I usually put it in the fridge to get colder. Then...

Provecho!

-Anila


Saudi Arabia: under the desert moon

12/26/2016
People often say that you make a trip to the holy cities of Madinah and Mecca to find God - you don't. God is everywhere and endless. You make this trip to find yourself. To know your self, to know the very core of your being. You go to these places to know what real peace is like, the kind of peace that stems from the inside walls of your heart. You go to feel what it is like to return to a home you've had all along. You go to these cities to leave behind your life, to realize the insignificance of so many problems, the mundane, to realize your only needs. To realize that all we have are the prayers in our hands. You go to meet people from all over the world, to not speak the same language, and to realize that that is okay. To remember that emotion is the universal language and devotion is just love by another name.

One of the most perfect moments I have ever had was in the nighttime, while standing on the roof of Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, assembling in lines for isha (nightly prayer). The sky above us was effortlessly clear, without many visible stars, and a moon that was too perfect for words but quietly humble in it's own beauty (as always). The air was dry and there was a cool, light breeze that is frequently invited by the desert in the nighttime. The iqamah (call to prayer) was called and the entire city grew quieter as if by habit, and the children playing behind me on the roof quickly ran to find their place next to their parents. I stood behind rows of women, some from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Algeria. The woman to my left was from Sudan and she carefully placed her beautiful, curly haired baby on the ground in front of her as she stood to pray. Then, in one of the most incredible acts of discipline the world may ever see, literally thousands of people around the Kaaba and at every level of the mosque raised their hands in prayer behind the voice of the Imam (leader of prayer). He begins to recite the chapter of the Quran entitled "Ar-Rahman" or "the Most Merciful". Allow me a moment here to discuss the structural beauty of this chapter. Those that know this surah (chapter) know how beautiful it is just to hear, even without knowing any of it's meaning. It is written in the style of early Arabic poetry, with rhymed couplets and it's beauty is such that this chapter itself is often referred to as the beauty of the Quran. The imam begins to recite the verses of this chapter, the especially iconic one being "Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?". Imagine. Thousands of people in complete silence, standing shoulder to shoulder, listening to the verses of this beautiful surah, contemplating the concept of gratitude or perhaps the lack thereof. In the most heartfelt and natural way, the imam begins to softly cry during his recitation. Only the moon could witness how many more followed suit in that moment.

A part of me never wants to share these experiences with anyone, for fear of any of it leaving my heart in their perfect state. The fear of speaking too often about memories is that they can transform, they begin to sound and feel different - and maybe they begin to make you feel different too, or worse, nothing at all. But maybe not. Some memories are already in the most protected abyss of my heart and my mind will hold them the way thirst holds water. So much so that I could never forget them, despite my hardest efforts. *Nervous chuckle*.



Beautiful white architecture of Masjid al-Haram


Stunning 

Qiblatain Mosque

Qiblatain Mosque

Beautiful Miqaat Mosque in Medina 
how lovely are these fresh dates?

Masjid an-Nabawi at Sunrise.  
Perfection 
Prayers on the roof; chill, I didn't take this photo, fam did


I could stare at this architecture all day

The only portrait; white turbans against tanned skin and lines is such beauty 
all the feels in the desert
Till the day I'm lucky enough to go back. 

"For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.I have been blessed to visit the Holy City of Mecca." - Malcolm X, in Letter from Mecca




Wishing you all the light and peace, 

- S 

The Dominican Republic: Plantains & Sugarcane

12/08/2016
Some people say that the entire world lives in New York and in the last year, I've learned that there is a lot of truth to this. I'm learning every day about a part of the world that loves plantains, that loves to bachata, that loves to kiss on the cheek, that loves to live life without shying away from it. A part of the world that calls me 'mi amor' every day. The Dominican Republic, for as much as I had been concerned in years past, was a tourist destination for cruise ships. However, the quisqueyanos will quickly tell you that the real Dominican Republic - the raw beauty and true flavor of its country is in the center of the island, miles from the sandy, blue beach resorts.

Almost a year ago, I had the opportunity to not only see a glimpse of this beautiful country but also to learn much about it's rich and troubled past with Haiti -- and the downstream effects of that on the healthcare provided today. As in many countries worldwide, there is a huge lack of resources and poor access to these resources especially for the poor. Despite this, there are still lots of beautiful individuals and organizations working to help the neglected, whether it be orphans, the HIV populations, or undocumented civilians working in the sugarcane fields.

The part of New York that is often called "Little Dominican Republic" has much of the same essence of the DR and often the same types of beliefs/perspectives when it comes to healthcare. There is a ton of air traffic from NY to the DR, so seeing the health system in the DR sheds a whole new light on our patients' beliefs/perspectives here at home. Hasta la proxima vez!

Santo Domingo


Men sit around and play chess or dominoes - both in NY and DR
















Blurry but perfect

At a school in the Sugarcane plantation

this little doll 























Till next time, 
-S