Mythbuster 3.0 – Caffeine Edition

This month, since we’re on the topic of matcha, tea and caffeine in general let’s look at some common sayings about this chemical and how true they are.

  1. Caffeine is dehydrating: Sort of.

Caffeine itself is a mild diuretic (i.e. it makes you run to the restroom more), that’s a proven fact. However, since most of the caffeine you consume tends to be in liquid form (tea, coffee, colas), the water used to make them generally makes up for any slight dip in hydration the caffeine may cause. So while your cuppa will make you pee more, it probably won’t dehydrate you. We say probably however, because while the amounts of caffeine in a cup or two of coffee won’t cause any negative effects, having more than 3 cups may cause dehydration as the effects of caffeine are compounded. TL;DR – Caffeine can cause dehydration of your intake is too high.

  1. Coffee can stain teeth: True.

Our tooth enamel has lots of tiny ridges and cracks, and the dark pigments from caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea or sodas can become embedded in them. However, this happens over a prolonged period and is easy to avoid! Try rinsing your mouth with water after drinking such beverages, or drink through a straw. If nothing else, a quick visit to the dentist, or using DIY teeth whitening methods can also do the trick.

  1. Decaf means no caffeine: False

Decaf doesn’t mean totally caffeine free! For example, decaf coffee still contains about 20mg of caffeine. This is much less than a regular cup of coffee that tends to have about 100mg of caffeine. But still, about 5 cups of decaf would add up to a regular drink.

  1. Caffeine is bad for health: False

In fact, intake of caffeine has been linked to lowered risks of various diseases and cancers, like skin cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, Alzhimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression and many more. However, as is true of most things, moderation is key! A cup a day is no miracle cure, but will probably do no harm either.

  1. Caffeine is addictive: Sort of.

Caffeine is mildly addictive in the sense that it’s a stimulant for the nervous system that your body can learn to depend on. Due to this physical dependence, giving up high doses of caffeine can cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches and difficulty concentrating, as your body has become used to certain chemical reactions. However, there are no long term negative effects of giving it up, and the body is generally able to adapt to normal caffeine-free levels soon. This is why most experts don’t qualify caffeine as an addictive substance on the level of drugs or alcohol.

Miso Matcha Eggplant Rice

Matcha and miso are a match made in Japanese heaven! This recipe brings together classic ingredients from there into a more modern dish. Also a great twist to use that ‘baigan’ that nobody seems to like. (Very unfair, if you ask us! Maybe we’ll discuss the versatility of the eggplant in an upcoming article..? Let us know your thoughts on this.)

Serves: 2 | Prep Time: 40 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 eggplants (aubergine/baingan)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (dhaniya)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small piece ginger
  • ¾ cup rice
  • 2 tbsp. white miso paste
  • 2 tbsp. mirin (or any sweet cooking wine)
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp matcha powder
  • 1 tsp black sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 260°C.

Heat a pot of salted water to boiling. Add the sushi rice to the boiling water and cook for 16 to 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain thoroughly and keep aside.

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, then crosswise into quarters. With the tip of a knife, score a diagonal crosshatch pattern into the cut sides of the eggplant. Place the eggplant on a lightly oiled baking sheet, patterned-side up.

Finely chop the cilantro. Peel and mince the ginger and garlic, smashing until they resemble paste. Whisk together the ginger, garlic, miso, mirin, and half the soy sauce.

Drizzle the eggplant with olive oil and spread the miso mixture on the top of the eggplant slices. Roast in the preheated oven 14 to 16 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender and the topping is lightly browned.

Add the cooked rice back to the pot. Add the rice vinegar, sugar, matcha powder, half the black sesame seeds, and all but a pinch of the cilantro; stir until well combined.

Divide the green tea rice and eggplant slices between 2 plates. Garnish with the remaining black sesame seeds, cilantro, and soy sauce. Enjoy!

Matcha Protein Bars

This one is for all those gym devotees perpetually in the search for more protein (especially all you vegetarians out there!). This recipe is choc-a-bloc full of all the healthy alternatives to the usual culprits in other health bars. So go on, make this one post-workout snack you’ll never regret!

Serves: 10 pieces Prep Time: 30 mins

Ingredients

Line an 8-inch brownie pan with parchment paper both ways.

In a bowl, add the almond butter, milk, stevia and lemon flavor. Beat on low speed.In another bowl, whisk together the protein powder, oat flour and matcha powder. Slowly add this to the almond butter-milk mixture.

Mix until everything is well-combined and has the texture of cookie dough, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary.

Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and flatten the surface. Tightly cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, slice the protein bars and drizzle them liberally with chocolate! (More the better we say!)

To store, place the protein bars on a plate and wrap tightly.

15 Amazing Facts About Indian Food

Ah Indian food! Our ultimate source of comfort, be it a bowl of dal-chawal or puchka from the street. But just as India is a land of many cultures, Indian food as we know it today is a blend of many influences, drawn from the rich and diverse history of the nation. On this Independence Day eve, let’s take a look at some interesting facts about Indian food:

  1. Many now staple ingredients of Indian cuisine like humble potato and tomato do not have Indian origins. They were bought to India by the Portuguese. Not only this, the Portuguese also introduced us to refined sugar. Before that fruits and honey were used as sweeteners – much healthier if you ask us!
  2. According to the Indian food theory, our food has 6 different flavours- sweet, salty, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy. A proper Indian meal is said to have a balance of all these flavours with one or two standing out.
  3. Love eating samosa? Here’s a shocker for you – samosa existed as ‘sambosa’ in the Middle East much before the 13th/14th century when it came to India.
  4. India is the land of rice that grows an unbelievable number of variants – white, red, brown, sticky and even black. Black rice is also known as Magic rice and is popular in Manipur.
  5. India is the largest producer of spices in the world (though this is hardly a surprise!). 70% of the worlds spices come from India.
  6. Everyone’s favourite chicken tikka masala as we now know it, was actually ‘invented’ in the UK. The British tamed down the spices in more traditional Indian curries and added cream to come up with the now-famous, rich, delicious preparation.
  7. The first Indian restaurant is said to have opened in London in 1809. There are now more than 9000 Indian restaurants and curry houses across the UK! In fact, there are now more Indian restaurants in London than Mumbai!
  8. Greek, Roman and Arab traders have contributed a lot to the first foreign flavours in the Indian cuisine. Who did you think bought the amazing saffron to India?
  9. Wikipedia lists nearly 200 types of Indian desserts!
  10. Rajma originally belongs to Mexico and is a staple there.
  11. West Bengal is the hub of Bandel cheese production. It is an Indian variety of cheese which is said to have been inspired by Portuguese.
  12. India is home to ‘bhot jolokia’ one of the hottest chillies in the world also called ‘ghost chilli’. It is grown in the North East states and is more than 400 times hotter than Tabasco Sauce.
  13. India has the lowest meat consumption in the world per person, which does not come as a shocker since 40% of the population is vegetarian.
  14. Naan is most often associated with Indian cuisine. However, it is said to have been brought to India by the Mughals and it has Persian roots.
  15. Who doesn’t like chutneys? Indian food is incomplete without this delicious side dish. But do you know the Britishers loved our chutneys as much as we do? In fact, they named one of the chutneys as ‘Major Grey’s’ and it is still sold in India.

Wishing you all a Happy Independence Day from the Foodstree team. We hope you liked this glimpse of the amazing, diverse culture we live in –  truly ‘Mera Bharat Mahan!’.

Our Top 5 Unusual Teas In The World

Matcha is not the only weird and wonderful way people drink their tea leaves. We trawled the internet and spoke to our fellow foodies about the strange, wonderful, rare or outright crazy teas they’ve had or heard of. The results did not disappoint. Presenting to you, our top 5 picks of the most unusual teas that we found:

  1. Panda Dung Tea

No there’s no actual dung in the tea, we promise. It’s actually a tea that’s fertilized specifically and only by panda poop. Since pandas absorb only about 30% of the nutrients in their food, the balance 70% is excreted, which is absorbed by the tea plants fertilized by it. An entrepreneur in China started this method, and people actually loved the flavour of the tea!

  1. Fermented Yak Butter Tea

This one is a Tibetan specialty, perfect for the chilly weather there. After making regular boiled tea from leaves, yak butter and salt (yes it’s a savoury tea!) are mixed with it and stirred continually for hours, until it’s homogenized and looks like a stew. It is said to have a high calorific value and warm up the body from inside.

  1. Yellow Gold Tea Buds

At around 105 USD for 50gms this tea is equivalent to buying a piece of jewellery! And for a reason – the tea leaves are coated in real 24-carat gold. What’s more it’s grown only on one particular mountain in the world, and harvested on one day every year, with special golden scissors, from a specific part of each plant, and is sold only in Singapore. Phew, talk about exclusive!

  1. Pu-erh

This is a type of green tea that is slowly and deliberately aged using fungus – think of It as the blue cheese of teas. This aging is said to give it a depth of flavour and texture that its addicts swear by. Pu-erh is mainly produced in the Yunan district in China, with the government officially only acknowledging teas produced there as authentic Pu-erh.

  1. Tieguanyin

This one is not as fantastical in its preparation – we’ve included it in this list however as it is by far the most expensive tea available in the world. At the fantastical price of 3,000 USD per kg, this is an oolong tea grown in China. Why is it so expensive? We’re not sure, but it is supposed to bring all five senses into play when it is consumed. Guess we’ll just have to try some to find out!

Special Mention: Kombucha is a Russian tea, famous for its sour taste. It is made from sweet, balck tea fermented with a mixture of yeasts and bacteria. Made famous now in the West by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and other celebrities, it is supposed to have many health benefits, including boosting immunity.

Matcha Cucumber Lemonade

Kick your ‘nimbu paani’ up a notch! This concoction is delightfully zesty, refreshing and cooling. The health benefits are numerous as well – lots of Vitamin C from the lemon and antioxidants from the matcha! Perfect for these sweltering days, when you can’t bear the thought of hotter forms of caffeine.

Serves: 4 |Prep Time: 15 mins

Ingredients

Lightly puree the cucumber and mint leaves in a blender (we like some chunky bits in out drink! If you don’t, go ahead and make it a smooth puree).

In a large pitcher, combine the water, lemon juice, agave/honey, and matcha powder. Blend well until all ingredients are fully combined.

Add the cucumber-mint puree and blend well again.

Serve in ice-filled glasses, with a garnish of fresh mint and cucumber!

Matcha-do About Something?

The world seems to be obsessed with matcha. Beautiful people are knocking back shots of it at fashion shows. Gwyneth and her tribe are toting jars of it to yoga classes. Cafes are serving it in lattes and chefs are turning it into everything from soup to brownies. Japan’s most revered form of green tea has now become a must-have ingredient for the ‘wellness’ set. But what’s the truth behind the health claims? Here’s what you need to know if you want to join the green party.

What is matcha?

Let’s begin with what it actually is: matcha is essentially a stone-ground, powdered green tea. It originates from Japan, where the green tea plants for matcha are shade-grown for about three weeks before harvest, after which and the stems and veins are removed, and the leaves are processed and ground.

The main difference between  conventional green tea and matcha is that in traditional green tea, you consume the  essence of the leaf that is infused in water with the leaves themselves being discarded, while with matcha you are drinking the actual finely powdered leaves.

What are the health benefits?

One of the main reasons matcha is so wildly popular is that it has numerous health benefits. As one serving of matcha has the nutritional equivalent of 10 cups of regular green tea, it is packed full of anti-oxidants (including the powerful EGCg). These help to boost your metabolism, burn fat, increase immunity, detoxify your body, fight cancer and even slow down aging (phew that’s a lot!).

Matcha also contains a rare amino acid called L-theanine, which is a saviour for those who need a caffeine hit without the coffee jitters. Each cup of pure brewed matcha contains about 70g of caffeine – quite a kick. However, the presence of theanine helps the body process this caffeine better, inducing a calm, alert state of mind as opposed to the high and subsequent crash of coffee. In fact, Japanese monks have used it for centuries for meditation.

Does matcha taste sweet or savoury?

In a nutshell – both.  Our favourite compound Theanine influences the taste of matcha as well. This amino acid beings in a flavour of ‘umami’ – the fifth taste identified after sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Many people describe umami in different ways, but it is essentially a rich moreish flavour that is difficult to pin down but is adds a delicious richness and dimension to food.

The presence of ‘umami’ gives matcha a mellow, sweet, natural flavour, with moreish undertones. This combination of sweet and savoury makes matcha an easy match to use in cooking.

 

The last important thing that we’d like to tell you about matcha, is that it comes in various grades and qualities. Not every powdered green tea can be called matcha, and it is important to look for good quality to reap the health benefits. Always look for ceremonial-grade (high-quality, fit to be used in formal tea ceremonies) matcha, and keep a look out for the iconic bright green colour of the powder. If it’s yellowish or browning, it may not be in it’s prime or may be adulterated.

Shop original matcha here on our site!

Almond Butter Chocolate Fudge ‘Nice’-Cream

This ice-cream is so healthy yet so tasty – all of the yum without any of the guilt! An easy no-churn recipe, with simple everyday ingredients most of which we bet you already have on your kitchen. Perfect for the summer months, for a decadent yet cool dessert.  It’s almost too good to be true, which is why this is no ordinary ice-cream – it’s a ‘nice’-cream!

Ingredients

For the ice-cream

  • 2 medium size bananas, ripe but not overripe
  • 3 cups creamy almond butter
  • 1 cup almond milk (or regular milk)
  • 5 tbsp maple syrup (or honey)

2 tsp vanilla extract

For the fudge

  • 25 cups creamy almond butter
  • 5 cups dark chocolate, chopped
  • 5 tsp vanilla extract

Blend the bananas and almond butter on high until smooth. Add the milk, maple syrup, vanilla and blend again until just combined, but not too long. Pour the mixture into a butter paper lined 8×4 inch loaf pan and set aside (do not freeze yet!).

To make the fudge, heat the chocolate in a microwave in intervals of 15-20 seconds until melted, stirring well between each interval. Add the almond butter and vanilla and combine into a thick smooth mixture.

With a spoon, take dollops of the fudge mixture and drop it into the unset ice-cream in the loaf pan. Take some plastic cling wrap and tightly wrap the ice-cream, pressing down lightly on the liquid surface to eliminate as much air as it freezes. Freeze for at least 6 hours, or even over night.

Scoop into a bowl and serve! When storing be sure to re-cover with plastic wrap and re-freeze.

*Foodstree Pro-Tip: Don’t over blend the ice-cream mixture! This may cause air pockets and crystalline in no-churn ice-cream

Grilled Almond Butter, Dark Chocolate & Fruit Sandwich

This is no ordinary PB&J! It takes all the essential elements of one – bread, nut butter & fruit jelly, and gives it a mouth-watering gourmet twist. This is the PB&J for adults – a healthy, delicious, quality snack or even dessert. Once you have this, you’ll never go back!

Ingredients

  • 4 slices whole grain crusty bread
  • 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 4 tbsp roasted salted almond butter
  • 4 squares dark chocolate (don’t exceed 70% cacao)
  • 2-3 tbsp fruit – pomegranate, banana, mango, peach, the choice is yours!

Gently butter (or oil) the outsides of the all the 4 slices of bread.

Slather the inside of 2 slices with almond butter.

Top the almond buttered sides with 2 squares of dark chocolate each, and your fruit (chopped as required).

Top with the other slice of bread, buttered slice up and place in a heated pan or skillet.

Push down with a heavy spatula to compress. Gently flip when the bottom is browned and crusty – about 2-3 minutes. Cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes & serve immediately!

*Foodstree Pro Tip: The choice of fruit is completely dependent on your mood and your taste! Bananas for a creamy texture, pomegranates for a sweet pop, peaches and mango for a tangy addition – the possibilities are endless.

Fat Is Our Friend! – Mythbuster 2.0

F-A-T. One of the most controversial 3-letter words in the English language. We’re not here to judge anyone’s lifestyles or bodies, we’d only like to dispel one of the longest held beliefs about fats in food. Fat has often been portrayed as the ultimate dietary nemesis and most people have been trained to choose low-fat foods over high-fat ones.

However, fat is actually an essential part of any healthy diet and necessary for a strong body and mind! The key lies in which fats you choose to eat, healthy or unhealthy. Healthy fats – namely mono and poly unsaturated fats help to reduce bad cholesterol, keep your heart in good shape and benefit insulin levels. Unhealthy fats, of which trans fats are the worst and saturated fats partially so, increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

So where can you get these good fats and avoid the bad ones? Most of the sources of healthy fats are common knowledge, so we’ll list them out for you here:

  1. Avocado: Versatile, delicious, cholesterol free and jam packed with monounsaturated fats
  2. Nuts: One to the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, especially walnuts. Also rich in other vitamins and minerals, depending on the variety
  3. Nut & Seed Butters: An easier way to get all the fatty goodness of nuts.
  4. Olives & Olive Oil: A cup of olive contains 15g of fat, and one tbsp. of oil contains 14g.
  5. Fish: Oily fish like salmon, trout, tuna etc are full of omega-3 fatty acids.
  6. Dark Chocolate: Contains healthy fats, anti-oxidants, vitamins A, B & E… we could keep going!
  7. Tofu: Along with healthy fats, one serving of tofu contains almost a quarter of your daily calcium needs.
  8. Eggs: An inexpensive source of unsaturated fat, protein and choline.

Unhealthy fats on the other hand are generally found in the usual culprits – processed and fried foods. When purchasing food, look out for terms such as ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ oil on the nutrition label. Those are just fancy terms for hiding trans-fat, which is completely unnatural, produced under complex chemical conditions and extremely bad for you. It’s the common prevalence of these trans-fats and their adverse health impact that gives all fat a bad rap!

While saturated fat is not as harmful as trans fat it is still believed to increase cholesterol, which in turn can cause a host of other problems. In other words, while unsaturated fats are actively healthy, saturated fats are now considered neutral to the body in the within the correct quantities. These are hence best had in moderation, up to 15g per day. Common sources of saturated fat are butter, cream, red meat and cheese.

So that’s the low down on fat – the good, the bad and the ugly. However, one thing that we would like to reinforce is that just like the right friends, the right fats are in fact extremely beneficial for you! Most dieticians would recommend up to 20-35% of you daily calorie intake coming from fat, for a normal individuals diet. Some celebrity nutritionists like Rujuta Dwivedkar even promote the intake of healthy fats like ghee! So let’s not demonize all fat and instead make informed, conscious decisions to replace the bad with the good in our diets.