Why I Choose to Cook at Home

I want to first start by clarifying that this not an article meant to judge or make anyone feel bad. This is an important issue to me and I wanted to share my perspective. can-stock-photo_csp15040789

As a kid I grew up on a farm and was surrounded by fresh produce. Huge varieties of fruits and vegetables. We had meat that we raised and butchered, and fish that my grandfather caught every weekend. We ate everything fresh in season and for the off season our freezers were full of produce and meat. Honestly I took for granted living in this environment. As an adult I did not think about my food sources, I assumed that it was produced in the same manor that my family had done it. I feel very naive admitting to this. It was not until college when I started doing researching and realized that mass produced food is really nothing like the food small farmers produce.

In factory farms the animals are often raised in such tight quarters that they can not even move. They live their life in filth and are given antibiotics to combat the diseases! When we consume those animals we take in those toxins. 

I learned that many of our fruits vegetables are genetically modified to resist insects. Mansantos the top producing company of the preside “round up” engineers seeds that have the pesticide right in the genetic code of the food! The seeds produced by the fruit and vegetables don’t even produce viable seeds for planting the next season!

I took a course in nutrition this semester and further educated myself on the science behind food. I learned the negative effects of certain types of engineered fats, known as trans fats. In our bodies these fats causes inflammation, increased “bad cholesterol” and decreased “good cholesterol” and contributes to heart disease and cancer. That Soy oil the top used “cheap” oil in restaurants and processed foods leads to obesity, infertility, and inflammation in the body.

I am a mother and wife and I am the shopper and cook in our house. I take this responsibility very seriously and I am always educating myself and attempting to implement good nutrition. 

I am not perfect! Yes we eat sugar. On occasion (rarely) I may fry foods in my awesome deep fryer. My motto is everything in moderation. To be honest I am overweight and working towards a healthy weight, while making sure my daughter never faces that issue in her life. I want my family to live a long healthy life and feel that food is an important aspect of that goal.

The number one thing that I do in my home is to cook at home and to eat as little processed food as possible! Here is why!

I have a bachelors degree in Political Science and the number one thing that we were taught was to question the motivations of each person/company/organization ! What is the goal of that person/organization/business to do what they are doing and does their underlying motivation fit with yours. 

A restaurant’s goal is to make money. It is not a crime or a bad thing, its just the truth. We all know that when we buy food from a restaurant it is a business transaction, not a personal one. 

My goal when feeding my family is health. I do care about the cost because I have a budget but my most important goal is providing food that will improve the health of my family and provide us with the energy, nutrition, and taste that we desire and need.

For our family we have decided that we will eat the majority of our meals made at our home with ingredients that we trust.

Organic non-GMO fruits and vegetables, Healthy oils, humane free range meats and eggs. Milk, cheese, and yogurt made from cow’s milk not treated with steroids. We eat out at restaurants very rarely, usually for special occasions so less then once a month. My nutrition class reinforced the idea that food is really the building blocks of our whole bodies and honestly I do not trust restaurants or factories to care as much as I do when it comes to the health of myself and my family. Their goal is profit, and using lowering the quality food is often a tool for increasing that profit. Using GMOs, preservatives, cheap oils, high levels of salt, and unhealthy flavor enhancements increases the taste of the food but at a cost to the consumers health. There are hundreds of example were GMO’s, too much salt, poor oils, and preservatives are used so I can not list them all but here are a few.  fast_food_kills

Subway is often hailed as the healthier option- One look at the ingredients for their egg for their breakfast sandwich tells us a different story. Their “eggs” are really a strange concoction that includes eggs and “premium egg blend.” Some things that are in this special blend include glycerin, a solvent found in soap and shaving cream, dimethylpolysiloxane, a silicone that can also be found in Silly Putty, and calcium silicate, a sealant used on roofs and concrete.

Resturant Salads-Unsurprisingly, most fast food restaurants don’t list the exact ingredients in their lettuce — you wouldn’t think they’d need to — but many places dust their salads with propylene glycol to keep the leaves crisp. While considered safe for consumption, propylene glycol can be found in antifreeze and sexual lubricants.screen-shot-2014-01-04-at-9-57-11-am

Gerber Babyfood-In the United States, all of the mainstream baby formulas that are not organic are made with GMOs. Families that are unable to afford organic baby formula have no choice but to feed their babies GMOs. Forcing toxic Roundup laced GMOs on infants is unacceptable.

Here are a list of common ingredients in processed and restaurant foods. 

INGREDIENT
WHY IT’S USED
WHY IT’S BAD
Artificial Colors
  • Chemical compounds made from coal-tar derivatives to enhance color
  • Linked to allergic reactions, fatigue,asthma, skin rashes, hyperactivity and headaches
Artificial Flavorings
  • Cheap chemical mixtures that mimic natural flavors
  • Linked to allergic reactions, dermatitis, eczema, hyperactivity and asthma
  • Can affect enzymes, RNA and thyroid
Artificial
Sweeteners

(Acesulfame-K, As-partame, Equal®, NutraSweet®, Sac-charin, Sweet’n Low®, Sucralose, Splenda® & Sorbitol)

  • Highly-processed, chemically-derived, zero-calorie sweeteners found in diet foods and diet products to reduce calories per serving
  • Can negatively impactmetabolism
  • Some have been linked to cancer, headaches, dizziness and hallucinations
Benzoate
Preservatives

(BHT, BHA, TBHQ)

  • Compounds that preserve fats and prevent them from becoming rancid
  • May result in hyperactivity, angiodema, asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis, tumors and urticaria
  • Can affect estrogen balance and levels
Brominated
Vegetable Oil

(BVO)

  • Chemical that boosts flavor in many citric-based fruit and soft drinks
  • Increases triglycerides and cholesterol
  • Can damage liver, testicles, thyroid, heart and kidneys
High Fructose Corn

(HFCS)

  • Cheap alternative to cane and beet sugar
  • Sustains freshness in baked goods
  • Blends easily in beverages to maintain sweetness
  • May predispose the body to turn fructose into fat
  • Increases risk for type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke andcancer
  • Isn’t easily metabolized by the liver
MSG

(Monosodium Glutamate)

  • Flavor enhancer in restaurant food, salad dressing, chips, frozen entrees, soups and more
  • May stimulate appetiteand cause headaches, nausea, weakness, wheezing, edema, change in heart rate, burning sensations and difficulty in breathing
Olestra
  • An indigestible fat substitute used primarily in foods that are fried and baked
  • Inhibits absorption of some nutrients
  • Linked to gastrointestinal disease, diarrhea, gas, cramps, bleeding and incontinence
Shortening,
Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Oils

(Palm, Soybean and others)

  • Industrially created fats used in more than 40,000 food products in the U.S.
  • Cheaper than most other oils
  • Contain high levels of trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol, contributing to risk ofheart disease
Sodium Nitrite and Nitrate
  • Preserves, colors and flavors cured meats and fish
  • Prevents botulism
  • Can combine with chemicals in stomach to form nitrosamine a carcinogen

  We are what we eat! So I make sure that the food my family consumes is healthy, safe, and made from natural wholesome ingredients. Our health is worth the extra effort it takes to cook our meals at home. Nothing tastes better then homemade because it is always made with love and thought. No restaurant or company will ever care as much as I do for my family. download

One Year Blog Anniversary!

I’m Back! download

I think that it is only fitting that the day that I returned from my forced one month hiatus, because of my college courses, is also the day of my one year anniversary blogging. One year ago today I started this blog! I sat down and wrote! I pushed down the fear and I just let it all pour out! I I gave myself the permission to be honest, raw, and genuine. To not be afraid of what others thought about me or my writing. It flowed out! Memories, opinions, recipes, pictures and so much more! I told my story, sent it out into the world and it was not so scary! In fact I learned that people actually wanted to read what I had written. download

This year of blogging has been absolutely amazing for me. I have met so many other writers. Learned new things about other cultures and families. Have seen a window into other’s lives. In this year I have moved back to California from Michigan and started my path in school towards becoming a nurse. My daughter has grown and learned new skills. Our family is flourishing.

I thank all my wonderful readers for all of your encouraging comments. This month of not writing had been very hard for me! I found myself yearning to write. To express my feelings, observations, and desires. To not have the time to do this was very frustrating. Looking back to my pre-bloggin days I wonder how I survived.

How did I NOT write !

My blog is humble. I don’t advertise, I dont have all the niffty blogging tools. I just write!

In one year I have written 132 posts, that is roughly 2.5 posts a week

In one year I have had 64,457 visits to my blog 

This part makes me the happiest,

In one year of blogging I have had 1,099 comments, almost all of which were positive! thank-you-for-reading

I want to thank my readers! Your encouraging words and wonderful insights make writing such a joy!

School is now done for the semester, crossing my fingers I passed chemistry, because it was the hardest class I have ever taken ! I am overjoyed to have the time to write again, so expect lots of new posts, pictures, stories, and recipes! I cant wait to catch up on all of my favorite blogs and reader’s comments and emails.

Its Crunch Time

1798799_10205294798403617_7629066103069954276_nThis early morning I have stolen a few minutes from my studies to write a quick post.  I personally become very attached to the blogs and writers that I read, and I worry when there is a period of silence. I start wondering if everything is OK at home and speculating about the details they have left in past blogs. I know I am a dork, but I really do get affected by blogs. I see a blog as a window into someone’s life and a period of silence is like the drapes being closed.

I don’t want any of my readers to worry or be left wondering why I have not been posting in recent days. I love writing this blog and connecting with all of you wonderful people but my college classes end May 19th, so until then I will have my head buried in my studies.

Its Crunch Time!

I may sneak away for a post or two but nothing too time consuming. I hope you all are having a wonderful spring and I cant wait to be done with these classes and feel free again to catch up with everyone!  Thanks for understanding. 11025766_10205294798083609_6801602802542996323_n

Happy Vaisakhi

Today is Vaisakhi!baisakhi2014-2 Happy Vaisakhi!

This last weekends Nagar Kirtan in Stockton helped me to better understand this holiday! It made me realize that this holiday is the most significant and most important holiday for Sikhs

Today is the day the Khalsa( Sikh Community) was created!

The reality is that Sikhism was, and is, a revolutionary religion in India. One the rejected the caste system and embraces one indescribable God! A God that sees everyone as equal! There was, and is, a need for strong community to uphold these beliefs. To reject the caste system and follow Sikh teachings. The Khalsa embodies all of the teachings of the Gurus and sets Sikhs apart and holds them responsible for their actions.

Here the story of how the first Khalsa was established! 

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“Vaisakhi (also spelled Baisakhi) is the festival which celebrates the founding of the Sikh community known as the Khalsa. It is celebrated on April 14 each year. On Vaisakhi day in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh summoned Sikhs from all over India to the city of Anandpur Sahib. At this gathering, the Guru called upon Sikhs to uphold their faith and preserve the Sikh religion. Guru Gobind Singh then lifted his sword and asked that anyone prepared to give his life for his faith to come forward. There was a big silence, but the Guru went on repeating his demand. One Sikh finally came forward and followed the Guru into a tent. Shortly after, the Guru reappeared alone with his sword covered in blood, and asked for a second volunteer. Another Sikh stepped forward and again the Guru took him into the tent, and re-appeared alone with his sword covered with blood. This was repeated until five Sikhs had offered their heads for the Guru. Finally, the Guru emerged from the tent with all five men dressed piously in blue. Guru Gobind Singh called the five Sikhs the Panj Pyare, the Five Beloved Ones.” facebook-4036

The Tenth (final) Guru established a Sikh identity and dictated that Sikhs should wear the 5 K’s ( articles of faith) to set them apart and to remind them of their promises.

The Five Ks are:

1 Kesh (uncut hair)

2 Kangha (small wooden comb held in the hair),

3 Kara (steel or iron bracelet),

4 Kacchera (undergarment) and

5 Kirpan (short dagger). fiveks

Vaisakhi is the celebration of this monumental event! The creation of Khalsa! The celebration of Sikh traditions. Many people go to the Gurdwara on this evening to celebrate, there are also events throughout the week. We attended a Nagar Kirtan parade on Sunday in honor of Vaisakhi. This event really taught me about the significance and need of the Khalsa especially for Sikhs living outside of Punjab. A community to keep the traditions and teachings alive just as they were intended by the Gurus.

Happy Vaisakhi!

Stockton Nagar Kirtan: An Afternoon of Cultural Pride!

This last weekend I had the great pleasure of attending the Stockton (California) 17th annual Nagar Kirtan.

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The Guru Grath Sahib Float before the book was placed in it

A Nagar Kirtan is a Sikh religious parade. The Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holly book,  is put on a float and paraded through the town of Stockton while prayers are recited. The Guru Grath Sahib Ji is treated with as much respect as a living Guru (prophet). The holy book is placed on a special alter covered in colorful cloth. Everyone in the presence of the book must cover their heads and take off their shoes. Even outside people had their heads covered in respect but kept their shoes on for safety. As the parade moved down the street, the roads were cleaned ahead in respect to the the holiness of the book.

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Love my husband in a turban

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Hot and tired but we are happy

It was an amazing afternoon, here it is Tuesday and I am still filled with the excitement from this weekend! We left the house early in the morning all dressed in our best Punjabi clothes. My husband wore a yellow turban in honor of the event. It is the tradition to wear yellow, orange, or blue. Nasreen and I did not have those colors so we wore pink, which is fine.

The Nagar Kirtan was done in honor of Vaisakhi, which celebrates the founding of the Khalsa( Sikh community).

When we arrived there were hundreds, if not a thousand Sikhs all gather at the Stockton Gurdwara. It was an amazing sight to see so many people with turbans and suits and speaking Punjabi. There were also people from around the area who were not Sikhs but who came to enjoy the event, some even dressed in Indian attire.

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yummy Saag

There were food stands everywhere. It was overwhelming to see so many options of yummy food to eat. There was maggi noodles, samosa, chanas, Saag, all kinds of fried foods, Gulgapas, Julabies. Oh my I cant even began to explain all the food that was available! All of these stands were serving free delicious food. Everyone in our group were enjoying all there was to eat. It was especially nice for vegetarians because there was no worry, because it was all vegetarian friendly.

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daddy’s shoulder is the best place to see the event

After eating we enjoyed some of the demonstrations they had on display. I am trying to remember the name of these sports, but at the moment I can not and hubby is at work so I cant ask him. Adults and young people dressed in the blue and yellow of the Khalsa  and performed battle exercises with ancient styles of mock weapons. Sikhs are warriors at heart, and faced with decades of oppression have learned special styles of self defense. Think Sikh Kong Fu. It was amazing to see all these young people embracing their roots and seeing the pride they had in demonstrating these skills they had learned.

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These kids were amazing

We lined up for the parade behind the float containing the Guru Granth Sahib. From the loud speaker prayers were conducted! Waheguru ( The most holy word for God) could be heard chanted all over Stockton! “Waheguru,Waheguru,Waheguru” It was beautiful! I felt a pride for my husband’s culture well up inside of me. I am not Punjabi or exclusively Sikh but I felt that sense of community with all of these people! I am used to my husband getting strange looks when he ties a turban but here in this group it was so normal and beautiful!

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Walking in the parade

We all walked in the parade. I was not able to walk the entire length of the parade because our daughter Nasreen being only four and it being a hot day could not take that kind of walk, so we went back to the Gurdwara with our friends. My husband and his friend walked the entire length.There was even more food available when we got back. I had an amazing time with my friend and her daughter and family. It was just wonderful to be around so many people all so proud of their culture and traditions.

Sikhs , especially after 9/11, have been attacked by people in the United States and around the world because of their turbans and the perception that they are terrorists. Public events like the Nagar Kirtan shows a community that Sikhs are just like everyone else. They may speak a different language, wear different clothes, worship in a different way, but the reality is people are all the same all over the world. We all want to be able to take care of our families, worship our God, and enjoy life.

It was a blessing to attend this event! My daughter has been greatly effected by this, and has now been wanting to speak more Punjabi. In the past she has been shy about speaking the language. Her dad would speak to her in Punjabi and she would answer in English even though she knew how to respond in Punjabi. I think this is because none of her friends or cartoons speak Punjabi so she felt odd speaking it. The Stockton Nagar Kirtan showed her that she has a beautiful proud community that she can be apart of and I think that she felt included in that wonderful energy and has a renewed interest! I cant wait until my next Nagar Kirtan!

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ke Fateh

Started a Photography Blog

Some of you may or may not know that I a photographer. I have a real passion for photography. I recently switched from a gallery based photography page to a business blog page. I really love my options on a blog format! I have only transferred a few of the photo shoots, I will be continuing to update all the work. Feel free to subscribe if you like the page.

https://tinarallhanphotography.wordpress.com/

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Making The Bird Nest Birthday Cake, and Reflections on Life’s Journey

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Monday was my husband’s birthday. It was the day after Easter so he had to work. As soon as he was out the door, I started baking the cake. My daughter had preschool at 9:30 and I had a whole list of things to do ! I only had a couple of hours to bake and decorate his birthday cake.

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Pinterest example

I had decided to make a bird nest cake that I found on Pinterest. I was scrolling through cakes ideas months ago, and my husband pointed at the bird nest cake and gushed how much he liked it!

I just want to say I am NOT a cake decorator. I have never taken a class or been taught. I like to be creative and I look at pinterest and youtube for inspiration. Please dont judge me too harshly, lol!

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horrible process of carving the cake!

Step 1: I baked two Devil’s food cakes layers. The pinterest example used a double recipe(4 layers), but there was no way I was making that much cake for our small family(2 1/2 people), so I had to adapt. Once I baked and cooled the cakes I frosted the center and stacked them. I had to carve a whole in the middle. I thought this was going to be so simple! How can I mess up a hole! The cakes were too light and fluffy, and I should have used a pound cake recipe that was more dense and solid. It became a disaster very fast! I was very close to crying when I saw the misshapen cake I had created!!

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gooey mess!

Step 2: The next step was to frost! I though I could save the cake with a nice even layer of frosting! As I tried to spread the frosting the cake started falling apart in chunks! This is when I actually started to cry! I was a gooey sticky mess and my dream cake was quickly turning into a Pinterest fail!

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Fondant my miracle!

Step 3: I had not planned to use fondant, but I happened to have some left over from my daughter’s Birthday cake. Fondant is like edible sugar play dough. You roll it out and drape it over the the cake. Once I put on the Fondant the cake took on a much better shape. The roughness was smoothed out, and I started to feel a bit better.

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Not too bad!

Step 4: I Frosted the cake over the layer of fondant. This process was alot easier and I was able to get the desired effect. The Pinterest example cake was covered in textured piping that gave the cake the look of being made of twings, I was running out of time so just textured mine with a butter knife to give it a softer look.

Step 5: Lastly I put on the birds I had gotten from the Dollar store and the Easter candy eggs! I was so happy to be done! I thought the cake looked good. Different from the example, but still cute!

In many ways this cake represents life’s journey.

This cake started as a disaster. I was ready to give up! I calmed myself down, took a breath, and just kept working it!

Thats life!

There are rough spots in life where nothing looks like it will work out but you can’t give up. Soon that mess will be shaped into something so much better. Nothing is as bad as it seems, it just needs more work. It may not go according to plan, but in the end it is something uniquely yours!

My husband had a beautiful birthday and loved his cake. A store bought cake would have been easier, but sometimes its more rewarding to take the harder route in life!

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