Cabbage and Chickpea Soup

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It's that time of year. After months of eating out of our garden, or eating our stored garden vegetables, we're finally reduced to buying vegetables! Cabbage is an inexpensive winter vegetable that doesn't have to be shipped from Peru. It is a winter source of vitamins C and A, needed to fight respiratory infections. It also contains cancer preventative glucosinolates and has cholesterol-lowering benefits as well. The tomato, garlic and herbs help make this recipe acceptable for Vata. My resident Vata loves it!

Adapted from:

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Cabbage Soup 1.jpg


  • 4  garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 head cabbage, shredded
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 14.5-ounce can organic diced tomatoes
  • 1 16-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (or 2 cups cooked chickpeas)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • generous grating black pepper
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

Bring the vegetable broth to a boil in your soup pot. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a wok until it is hot but not smoking. Toss in the minced garlic and fry for a couple of minutes. Now add the carrots and cabbage and stir fry until glistening. Add this to the broth in the soup pot. Add all the other ingredients except the pepper and basil. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes, until the veggies are soft. Add the black pepper and basil and cook a couple more minutes before serving. Enjoy!

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My parents loved France. When my father was alive, they used to visit France every year. Their trips included visits to their favourite wine chateaux, where they acquired new finds for their wine cellar. My mother, a retired doctor, was--indeed, still is--an avid reader of the British Medical Journal. So of course, my parents were delighted when studies started coming out claiming that a glass of wine a day would help prevent cardiovascular disease. "Got to have our rations," they would chuckle, as they settled down to a good dinner of home-grown vegetables with a glass of excellent wine.

Alas! A new report claims that, where cancer is concerned, no amount of alcohol is safe.
This unsettling warning is offered in the 2014 World Cancer Report (WCR), issued by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). In fact alcohol was declared a carcinogen as far back as 1988. A causal relationship exists between alcohol consumption and cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon-rectum, liver, and female breast; a significant relationship also exists between alcohol consumption and pancreatic cancer. This relationship is dose-dependent, meaning that the more alcohol you drink, the greater the risk. Alcohol consumption may also play a part in the causation of leukemia, multiple myeloma and cancers of the cervix, and skin--although in these latter cases, more research is needed before a definite conclusion could be drawn.

Unfortunately, some of the studies suggest that even light drinking is associated with increased risk for cancers of the mouth, oesophagus and breast. Here I must admit to some skepticism, as these studies involved self-reporting about the amount of alcohol consumed. In my experience, people typically report only about half their actual use.

Does the type of alcohol matter? In general, not, according to this report. However, hard liquor like whiskey and vodka is especially dangerous for the delicate tissues of the oesophagus (gullet). And smoking really compounds matters, since alcohol and tobacco have been found to have a synergistic effect in terms of cancer causation in the mouth, larynx, pharynx and oesophagus.

What about alcohol's cardio-protective effects? This depends upon using alcohol the way my parents did. Remember, my Mum actually read the studies carefully and critically. They had a half glass each--a glass at most--in the evening with dinner. On the other hand, a patient of mine insisted on the beneficial effects of two to three glasses of wine each night. A Vietnam veteran, he was probably self-medicating PTSD. And of course, he did develop not only liver disease, but also hypertension and stroke--both of which are associated with heavy alcohol use.

The best approach drinking wine remains the nuanced Ayurvedic view described in our last blog. Here are a few pointers based on the latest research:

  • If you drink, only drink lightly
  • Don't binge or indulge in heavy drinking bouts
  • Don't  smoke, especially if you drink
  •  Avoid hard liquor
  • If you are at high risk for breast or colon cancer, don't drink at all.
  • A good meal in good company is the best intoxicant, even without wine

Dad growing the vegetables they had at dinner with wine! 

Alakananda's Carrot Ginger Soup

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This is a warming and comforting soup for fall and winter, making the best of the carrot crop. In flu season you need plenty of beta-carotene to help fight off respiratory tract infections, so carrots are an excellent choice. According to Ayurveda, Ginger, saffron, allspice, black pepper and nutmeg help make the soup more warming, more digestible and more anti-viral as well as tastier!

For stir frying, I prefer olive oil, coconut oil or ghee. There is some concern about whether olive oil is safe for stir frying. Olive is is mainly monounsaturated rather than polyunsaturated, which makes it more heat stable than other vegetable oils. And the taste is great too! See more here and here.
Some recipe books mention peeling the carrots. I never peel them, in fact I rarely peel vegetables as usually the most nutrients are in or just under the peels. So I just scrub the garden carrots.

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Multicoloured garden carrots and chopped ginger ready to stir-fry.

Carrot Ginger Soup
Serves 4-5

 2 pinches saffron
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5" fresh ginger, chopped
1.5 lb carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 qt vegetable broth or water
2 pinches nutmeg
2 pinches allspice
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Yoghurt for garnishing

Boil a little water and pour over the saffron. Allow it to soak. Heat olive oil (or your cooking medium of choice) in a heavy bottomed pan. When it is hot but not burning, add the garlic and ginger and cook until lightly browned.  Now add the carrots and celery. While the veggies are stir frying, bring vegetable stock or water to a boil. Pour the water over the lightly stir-fried vegetables. Cover and cook until soft. Now blend until smooth using a food processor, blender or immersion blender. Add the soaked saffron and saffron water, spices, salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and let it sit a few minutes for the flavours to mingle before serving. Serve hot, with a dollop of yoghurt in the centre of each bowl.
Catering note: Most people will eat two cups of soup if it's a main item (such as soup and bread or soup and salad as the meal). Three standard ladles equal two cups.
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Wine in Crystal Glass by Candlelight preview image.jpg

In a previous blog, we looked at how various meats and alcoholic beverages are recommended for use in the winter months. Today, let's take a look at some Ayurvedic perspectives on alcohol.
How and why might we use alcohol in an Ayurvedic context?

One of the most important texts of Ayurveda is Charak Samhita. Charak takes a nuanced view of alcohol use and abuse. Wine, "is like a nectar when someone drinks it in the proper manner, in the proper quantity, at the proper time, with wholesome food, adjusted for the strength of the individual and with merrymaking. On the other hand, it acts like a poison when one indulges in drinking wine of poor quality, or in the context of a disorderly lifestyle or excess physical exertion." This same dilemma confronts us to this day. Alcohol can be a pleasant or even beneficial component of a celebratory meal, or it can be the destroyer of lives and families.

Wine has ten properties: it is light, sharp, hot, subtle, sour, quickly absorbed, quick acting, drying, sedative and rough. These ten qualities are exactly the same as the ten qualities of poison. When consumed in great excess, alcohol can cause coma and death. It is a notorious liver toxin and brain poison. Regular excess consumption can cause hepatic cirrhosis and eventually alcohol dementia. But, in line with Charak's nuanced approach, the same qualities that make alcohol a poison also render it a yoga vahi, an excellent vehicle for introducing medicines into the tissues. This is the rationale behind the use of tinctures, as well as the various medicated wines used in Ayurveda, known as asavas and arishtas. The most well-known and commonly used outside India is drakshasava, a wine made from dark grapes or raisins and spices such as cardamom.

Because wine is an intoxicant, Charak gives importance to set and setting for consuming alcohol. This is not something to be done casually, nor when alone, nor when sad or stressed. Make sure your body is externally and internally clean before partaking. Dress up nicely, in clean clothes and jewellery and wear essential oils suited to the season Recline on a comfortable couch with cushions. Your environment should also be uplifted, with flower arrangements and incense. Drink in a pleasant social setting, with guests whose company you enjoy. Sincerity and affection are key qualities in this context.

 Charak actually recommends using a gold wine-cup, like the Mycaenean one pictured here.


This makes sense in that gold only dissolves in aqua regis and hence would not contaminate the wine or impart a metallic taste. Nowadays we are more likely to use crystal (or cut glass, for UK readers). My father used to emphasize polishing the wineglasses nicely so they were not just clean, but sparkling. Charak would agree. And Charak also gives importance to pairing good food with good wine, mentioning fruits, green vegetables, well seasoned dishes and roasted meats.

 In ancient times a libation was offered before drinking wine. Today we might make a toast, or do kiddush, or at least say "Cheers" or
sláinte (in Irish,) santé (French), or l'chaim (in Hebrew). In other words, there should be some sense of sacredness, offering, blessing or well-wishing before partaking.

Finally, Charak offers some special precautions for each dosha.

Vata: Wine is drying for you. Make sure you get an oil massage (or self-massage) and hot shower or steam before drinking. Have warm and oily food before taking wine. Prefer sweet to dry wines.

Pitta: Wine is heating  for your constitution. Take a lukewarm or cool bath, use a rosewater spritzer, wear sandalwood or vetiver essential oil and loose clothing. Select a menu of sweet, bitter and astringent foods such as green vegetables, sweet potatoes etc. Choose red wine or mead (honey wine).

Kapha: Wine adds extra calories to your meal. To get your metabolism going, season your food with black pepper. Use kapha-soothing grains such as barley or quinoa.
Choose red wine or mead (honey wine).

Next week, we will look at some of the latest medical research regarding alcohol. Is it beneficial? Is it safe? We'll find out next week. 

We use wine for merrymaking (sometimes in excess)

Merrymakers, 1870, Carolus Duran, Detroit Institute of Arts

And for rituals as well, like Kiddush.


Painting by Hevda Ferenci.



Pumpkin Soup

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I made this delicious soup for Christmas Eve supper with our guests--Joy, Hakim and Jojo. It was well appreciated by all. Jojo is a picky eater. But she liked the soup so much that she fed herself--using a soup spoon for the first time! The original recipe suggests using two sugar pumpkins, but you can use whatever you have. In fact you could use butternut squash instead of pumpkin.  I used the medium pumpkin pictured below.

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Pumpkin Soup Recipe
Adapted from

  • 1 medium pumpkin or 2 sugar pumpkins (3 cups pumpkin puree)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp mace
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 2 pinches nutmeg
  • 1 tsp dry ginger
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Cow, goat or vegan yogurt as desired (for garnish)

  1. Preheat oven to 400' F 
  2. Place pumpkin/s on baking sheet in oven and bake until soft.
  3. Cut in half and remove seeds.
  4. To a large saucepan over medium heat add 1 Tbsp olive oil, shallot and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly browned and translucent. Turn down heat if cooking too quickly.
  5. Add remaining ingredients, including the pumpkin, and bring to a simmer.
  6. Transfer soup mixture to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Pour mixture back into pot.
  7. Continue cooking over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes and taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve with a garnish of yoghurt.

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If you try this recipe, let us know. Take a picture and tag it @alandiayurveda on twitter. Let's build community around sharing Alandi's recipes!

Ayurpaleo?--Meat and Ayurveda

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"I'm interested in Ayurveda but I eat meat. Isn't that a conflict?" Perhaps you or a friend of yours has had this question. After all, Ayurveda comes from India, where there is a history of over two millennia of vegetarianism.  The vegetarian diet, based on respect for all life, comes from India's little-known Jain tradition. Now comparatively obscure, Jainism was the predominant cult of a large portion of India from the fifth to twelfth centuries. During this time, the doctrine of ahimsa (non-violence) and vegetarianism spread widely. But Ayurveda is much more ancient than this. And the texts of Ayurveda make provision for meat eaters as well as vegetarians. So while there are many good and some compelling reasons to be vegetarian, Ayurveda isn't actually one of them.

As we mentioned in our previous blog, Ayurveda recommends meat as a warming and strengthening  food during the winter. But that doesn't mean you should hurry over to Arby's--what to speak of McDonald's! The meat used at fast food outlets usually comes from CAFO (concentrated feeding operations or feedlots). To find out what's really in your burger, look here. And even a grass fed steak may not be your best choice.

If you have turned to Ayurveda in the hope of healing a chronic illness, fatigue or digestive problems, chances are that your agni or digestive fire is low. And whatever the nutrients in that steak, they won't do you any good if you can't digest and absorb them. In fact, dense and heavy foods tend to make agni even weaker and to build up ama or toxins. So we want to use meat-based foods in ways that support rather than impair your healing process.

Here are some key points:

  • Meat soups (including chicken soup) help build muscle and strength
  • Bone broths build bone, strengthen the nervous system and improve digestion (especially chicken broth)
  • Spices help meat foods to digest
  • Stews and curries are more digestible and nutritious than steaks and burgers.
  • Ginger, turmeric, cilantro, cinnamon and cumin are super-foods and help you get the most out of meat foods
  • If you don't want your food to taste "Indo", try Persian or Moroccan recipes. They also use beneficial spices
  • For a more Western taste, you can use garlic, bay, oregano, basil and thyme.

Most Ayurvedic cookbooks are vegetarian focused. However, Alandi's friend Lois Leonhardi has written a great book, Eat Well, Be Well addressing the  needs of mainstream society, including recipes for non-vegetarian diets.  Some of my patients also like Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions.
Here is a collection of recipe suggestions:

Bone Broth Recipes:
Broths, Stocks and Bone Broths
Beef Bone Broth
Chicken Bone Broth
Fish Stock

Meat Soup Recipes:
Gluten Free Chicken Noodle Soup

What to do after the 'flu

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It's an exceptionally bad "flu season this year. In a previous blog, we offered herbal teas for 'flu.
In case you do get 'flu this year, here are some tips for the post-'flu blues.

During the post-flu period, you may feel listless, depressed, ragged and having low energy. At this time it is good to take rejuvenative herbs to rebuild the energy of the respiratory and nervous systems. Ayurveda recommends a preparation called  Chyavanprash at this time. (See ingredients here.) Take a teaspoonful of Chyavanprash in the morning on an empty stomach and another teaspoon in the afternoon, around 3pm, right at the time when you feel like eating cookies or chocolate. If you tolerate milk, it can be good to drink a cup of cow's milk twenty minutes after taking the Chyavanprash. If you do not take cows milk, you may take a non-dairy almond drink.


English: Shelled almonds (Prunus dulcis) Itali...

English: Shelled almonds (Prunus dulcis) Italiano: Mandorle sgusciate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Non-dairy almond drink:

Soak 10 raw almonds in 1-cup pure water overnight.

In the morning, drain off the water. Rub the skins off the almonds.

Soak 20 raisins in 1-cup pure water overnight or several hours

Pour the raisins and their soaking water in the blender with the drained & peeled almonds and add:

1 tablespoon organic rose petals (optional- rejuvenative),

1 tsp. ghee (rejuvenative),

1/32 tsp. saffron (increases digestion & rejuvenative),

1/8 tsp. ground cardamom (increases digestion),

Pinch of black pepper (helps control kapha)

Blend until smooth.

To rejuvenate both your lungs and your nervous system, drink tulsi ginger tea.


If depression is a significant feature of your post-flu experience, drink Brahmi tea. Steep 1tsp. Brahmi in boiling water for 10 minutes, strain well, add honey and drink 3 times daily, between meals. Do not drink brahmi at bedtime unless you add milk or almond milk, otherwise the Brahmi will create alertness.


Ayurvedic Self Care for Winter

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Winter in Massachusetts by Sadananda

During winter, our strength is increased because the cold constricts our skin capillaries. The heat doesn't dissipate as it does in other seasons and agni, the digestive fire, is much stronger. If we don't take care to eat heavier foods and larger portions in winter, the increased digestive fire starts to consume our tissues. This is particularly dangerous in the case of elderly people, whose tissues can't build up as well as they used to. The vata, or bodily wind, helps agni digest the tissues. So it's important to eat warm, well cooked foods and to make use of the three tastes that calm vata--sweet, sour and salty. At Alandi Ashram, we make big jars of kimchi in winter for a sour, salty and warming condiment and eat miso soups. We bake winter squashes  and use sweet potatoes, yams and squashes in our soups and dals to bring in the sweet taste. We also enjoy warming antiviral teas like tulsi tea and ginger tea.

On  winter mornings, calm vata with an abhyanga (oil massage) using oil medicated with vata-soothing herbs such as ashwagandha and bala.  Recommended oil blends are Ashwagandhadi tailam or Ashwagandha Bala Oil.

After the long winter night, you will probably have a keen appetite for breakfast following your yoga or morning exercise.
Take a warm, nourishing breakfast such as oatmeal with toasted almonds, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. Other ideas are uppama, Spicy Quinoa Breakfast Burrito, Spicy Scrambled Eggs or Kitcheri.

The ancient Ayurvedic texts recommend chicken soups or meat soups in winter, meat curries, sweet wines, cordials, urad dal, semolina dishes, milk products, and use of ghee and oils like mustard oil and sesame oil. Some readers might be surprised to see meat and liquor being recommended, although there is no doubt these are heating foods. In subsequent blogs we will explain more about how and why to use or abstain from these foods.

Avoid drafts, making sure your house is well-insulated. Wear warm boots, thick sweaters and cozy socks and use warm slippers indoors. Wool and cotton blankets are recommended. And keep warm beside the one you love. The Ayurvedic texts recommend sexual activity in winter, when our strength is increased. So cuddle up to your honey--and remember to practice safe sex!
Trident in the snow at Alandi Ashram photo by Alakananda

I wanted to share with you a glorious cooking experiment for my birthday---pumpkin and goat cheese low carb lasagna. It was a bit sloppy in consistency but was pronounced delicious and 'best lasagna ever' by the guests. A double batch of this was a time-consuming project and I spent some happy hours listening to New Dimensions Radio and cooking while snow fell outside.
This recipe is based on one in Rose Elliot's Vegetarian Pasta. I substituted zucchini strips for the pasta. Part of why it was such a project (and I have a blister to show for it) was that I cut six zucchinis into strips using my favourite peeler. I didn't have a mandoline or slicer! Compare mandolines and slicers here.


I used a mix of different varieties of pumpkin and golden squash for a delicious taste.


Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Low Carb Lasagna
Serves 6
(A double batch made enough for a 18"x 9" dish and fed 16 people, with side salads and appetizers as well.)
3 medium zucchinis (courgettes)
Salt to taste
3.5 lb pumpkin, peeled and cubed into half inch cubes
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
Olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
8 oz goat cheese log, sliced in thin rounds
1 batch vegan bechamel (see below)

Heat oven to 400' F (200'C)
Select a baking tin or glass casserole dish 8" x12" and at least 2.5" deep. Grease with olive oil or ghee.
Slice zucchinis into one eighth inch slices using mandoline, slicer etc. Place in colander and sprinkle with about half a tsp of salt.Toss to coat evenly.  Put a bowl under the colander. Water will be drawn out of the zucchini. Toss them again in about 15 minutes. Let them drain for at least an hour, more is better. Meanwhile, prepare the pumpkin and the bechamel.
Heat olive oil in a large pan or wok. When it is hot but not smoking, add the garlic and pumpkin. Mix to coat with the oil and cook slowly for about 20 minutes until soft. Season with salt and pepper.
Pat the zucchini strips dry with paper towel.
Now start assembling your lasagna dish! First cover the base with zucchini strips, add a third of the bechamel and  half the pumpkin. Put another layer of zucchini strips. Then put half the goat cheese, the rest of the pumpkin (remove pumpkin with slotted spoon) and some bechamel. Put the rest of the zucchini strips on top. Now layer on the rest of the goat cheese and bechamel.
Bake for at least 40 minutes.


Vegan Bechamel
2.5 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup tapioca flour (or other flour)
1 bay leaf
A few stalks flat leaf parsley
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Nutmeg to taste

Mix the flour in a little of the almond milk.  Put the rest of the milk in a pan with the bay leaf and parsley and bring to a boil. Pour the boiling almond milk over the flour mixture, stirring well. Now tip the whole mixture back into the pan. Cook on moderate heat, stirring vigorously, until thickened. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Winter Hot Breakfast: Uppama

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Upma 4jpg.jpg

Here is a delicious and nutritious winter weekend breakfast, brunch, or light supper. You can make this recipe with semolina, cream of wheat, or suji from your Indian grocery store--depending upon your shopping convenience. You can also make it with cream of rice (brown rice farina) if you want it gluten free!

Scroll down for recipe.

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Prepare the veggies (we used multicoloured small garden carrots)

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Roast the semolina


Adapted from


1 cup semolina

2 Tbsp ghee or sunflower oil

1 inch ginger, chopped 
1-2 green chilies slit sideways (optional, depending how spicy you want it)
1 carrot, chopped

1 tomato, chopped
1/4 cup organic frozen peas
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal (optional, gives a good South Indian taste)
1 tsp chana dal (optional, gives a good South Indian taste)
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
chili powder to taste (optional)
A few curry leaves (optional, available at Indian grocery stores)

Lemon juice to taste

¼ cup fried cashew nuts (optional)

Cilantro, finely chopped



·      Heat 1T ghee or oil and fry semolina on a moderate heat, stirring constantly, until it is light brown in colour.  Set aside.

·      Now heat 2 T ghee or oil in a pan and add mustard seeds and allow them to splatter.

·      Add the dals and optional curry leaves to it and fry till they turn red. (Omit this step if you don't have these ingredients)

·      Add ginger and green chilies. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.

·      Add all the vegetables, turmeric, chili powder and salt to taste.

·      Now add 3 cups of water and cover the pan and allow it simmer on low heat until the vegetables are done. Add the fried semolina to it stirring constantly till it thickens.

·      Take off from the heat and add lemon juice if desired.

·      Serve hot garnished with optional cashews and coriander.

Eat on its own or serve with coconut chutney or chana dal chutney. I didn't have fresh coconut handy so I very quickly and easily made chana chutney with some dried coconut powder.

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