International Women’s Day!

8th March, the International Women’s day, kept me quite occupied! What a day I had filled with stories that inspired and amazed me. Vibrant Living was proud and honored to be featured at the first of its kind WE-Hub, which is an initiative by the Government of Telangana. It is India’s first state-led incubator exclusively for women entrepreneurs. I got a chance to inspire young women and tell them my story of Vibrant Living started as a passion. I am proud that Vibrant Living as a company started with a humble and selfish yet genuine interests to grow into a business that not only helps people be mindful about taking care of themselves, but also find beauty in connecting with nature, farmers, and understanding the need for sustainable living. I constantly do through my food, talks, videos, blogs, and posts to help everyone in the right direction of nutrition and lifestyles. IMG-20180309-WA0042 There were a couple of stories featured at WE-Hub who found inspiration through my work over the last few years. To be greeted with excitement and admiration by these ladies who already found their success, pushed me harder and stronger to a higher sense of responsibility to inspire others like them, more through my work and stories. And, it is always fun to see all these young and awe-filled girls take endless selfies with me, and be their hero of sorts! 🙂 Next, I attended another event “Ode to Sarees” that was conducted by Heera, Shravan and Amala to raise funds for animal welfare and awareness for different weaves of the country. I was one of the guests at the event and was honored for my choice and promotion of saris, and my work as a vegan company. I was in awe of the vast information that Shravan gave us on different weaves! He started off with Telangana, and went on to enlighten us with different weaves of the country, which had always confused me and was kind of sorted out that day. IMG-20180309-WA0043 Right from the age of 17 or 18, I started wearing saris. Amala mentioned how growing up in Kalakshetra she had a langa, jacket, and half sari and a sari for a uniform, depending on the age. Growing up in Tirupati it was pretty similar to me. But the tall girl that I am, I did not like half saris and tended towards saris. I was always attracted to cottons and handlooms and grandmother’s Venkatagiri sari from day one, and everyone thought I was really weird. They attributed these kinds of saris to older women but all I saw in them was comfort and ease. In fact, my first was a Kanchi cotton in bright yellow color. What a fit all my elders threw, telling me not to wear something that was for “older” women. Everyone around me of my age was wearing georgette or what not, and I was totally standing out, which didn’t bother me a bit even though I was raised in a very conservative family. I guess I tried to live my life on my terms. Eventually, however, everyone embraced the comfort and my sari choice became a sort of trend in the family. I have an extreme love for all things that are made by hand as it shows the passion and love that have been put into them. I believe that handmade and artisanal products that are made by materials from nature and are crafted by humans carry certain live energies. Perhaps that is the reason why my wardrobe and personal belongings that I buy from my travels always reflect that side of me - appreciation for art and craft and the choice for natural things. On the 7th March, I attended the “Journey to Motherhood Blog Launch” by Shilpa Reddy based on her own pregnancy. At this event I spoke to inspire women who are confused about motherhood or situations related to it. IMG-20180309-WA0041 My experiences and education help me see lack of nutrition and lifestyles that other people may not see or understand. I have been spreading awareness about the alternatives that are crucial for the health of a pregnant mother and her baby to come. People also come under the influence of various myths and misconceptions regarding what to eat and do before, during, and after pregnancy. I too had a very interesting pregnancy that I am looking forward to sharing in another blog soon!

International Permaculture Convergence 2017 held in Hyderabad

Dear friends,

It’s that time of the year when we all sit back to enjoy the winter chill and wait for the new year and also reflect on how we’ve spent this year. Through Vibrant Living’s various participation in different events, I've learnt so much this year. My team and I have met so many people and shared our knowledge of holistic eating, healthy habits, of course, organic foods and how eating the right superfood will help your mind, body, and soul feel better. If through that people become aware of organic products/produce then it makes me happy.

Another thing that makes me happy is the fact that I am not alone in this journey. Being present at the International Permaculture Convergence, hosted in Hyderabad in the last week of November, by Prof Jayashankar Telangana State Agriculture University and organized by Aranya Agriculture Alternatives has been such an enriching and enlightening experience. There were many speakers, leaders, educators and presentations which addressed the issues around sustainable living and sustainability as a life practice.  And that is something which resonates with me not just personally but with my brand as well. It was an enriching experience where we exchanged ideas, issues and common concerns. I wish, India could contribute in a larger way towards gourmet and healthy foods. We have everything required. It's part of our as traditional culture. 

In fact, being at the event reminded me of how my grandfather farmed his land. When I compare situations is exactly when I realize how huge the problem is and that if everyone could do their bit of protecting the planet, we can actually conserve our resources.  Back in the day, farmers used to grow crops that were suitable to the environment and season. They resorted to crop rotation and had fewer problems while growing the crops. Invariably, the crop would be nourishing to the body as well as be healthy for the environment.  So how they lived and what they ate, the principles and lifestyles they followed, the chicken and cattle they raised all makes sense now.

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Sridevi in conversation with environmentalist Vandana Shiva.
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At the International Permaculture Convergence 2017 held in Hyderabad.

You know, while I was living abroad in communities, people grew heirloom varieties in the gardens or farms. They would seldom go to supermarkets for buying fresh vegetables. Instead, it was considered ethical and a better  option when we bought directly from farmers who come to market for selling.

In order to achieve the common goal of attaining sustainable livelihoods for all, permaculturists work on three ethics – earth care, people care and fair share. They take initiatives by doing activities across the globe to secure basic human needs like clean water and food as well as adequate shelter and companionship without damaging natural resources. But as an evolved race, we need to do more for our society, environment and especially the future generations. 

It’s taken over centuries for us humans to make this world a rich place thanks to cultural diversity and the various traditions but sadly, globalization has weakened the vernacular cultures. Local references are not always there to be seen or experienced. 

Thus leading to standardized solutions and products becoming the norm. Permaculture bases its philosophy into ancient practices, revitalizes them with the fusion of modern, relevant techniques and innovations to revive the empirical know-how accumulated over many generations. Resulting in a fruitful and respectable connect between different cultures and times. It is through the permaculture principles that allows us easy reach to handle the different sources of water both responsibly and regeneratively. 

Adding to the same cause in a broader sense is my brand. Vibrant Living encourages traditional agricultural methods. We follow slow food and traditional methods of cooking and we revive and keep the traditional recipes. Foods grown using traditional methods is more nourishing and tastier. The best part is it helps lower your carbon footprint and is a lesser load to the planet.

 We, at Vibrant Living Foods, incorporate heirloom varieties of seeds, pulses and grains. These varieties of seeds are not easily available in the market as they are grown on a small scale. But we use it because we believe in the goodness and authenticity of the produce.

In fact, at Vibrant Living, we do 3 things that help in sustainable living.

  1. We procure millets from the remote areas of Telangana, legumes from Andhra.  Our coco, palm jaggery, vanilla are from Karnataka; Amaranth, walnut, buckwheat from Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
  2. We also empower women farmers/ workers from small mahila societies
  3. We process grains, beans using traditional methods.  For example, we soak Ragi, sprout them, sundry them naturally and make it flour. We use cold pressed oil. We sundry in controlled environment, sift and flour ourselves. And, we grow varieties of microgreens such as sunflower, mustard, fenugreek; fruit trees such as bananas, papayas and cashews; herbs like thyme, basil and lemongrass, wheatgrass, roselle and leafy vegetables at our own garden.

While doing so, we face a lot of challenges when it comes to promoting sustainable living. For example, discovering and reaching farmers who are into Permaculture. The lack of awareness among people even among the so-called health and fitness conscious. What disturbs me is the fact that we’re not questioning what goes into our body and asking whether it is actually good or not for our mind, body and the planet.

That's where I’d like to think Vibrant Living contributes. Through our food, we are able to show many creative ways of utilizing what has been grown. We get to show the world that we grow some amazing sustainable food locally and can share amazing local recipes like millet idlis, foxtail millet upma, black rice kheer or pulav, buckwheat crepes and pancakes, flaxseed and sesame crackers… these are only a few examples. I've spent most of my life practicing this lifestyle and creating good healthy food.  I through Vibrant Living foods promote healthy eating and sustainable living!

Here's an example of how Vibrant Living tries to avoid using regular ingredients in our food.


Organic Ingredients Vibrant Living Foods uses

- Almond Milk

- Dates and Palm Jaggery
used for sweetening, are low glycaemic, high in nutrients, Diabetic friendly

- Nuts
are soaked and dried at low temperature; are easily digested and observed, rich in good & healthy omega oils.

- Fruit and Vegetables
are natural and organic,
- no chemicals or pesticides are used.

Regular counter ingredients used in general

- Regular cow milk

- Sugar
used for sweetening, causes obesity, hormonal imbalances, excess calories and also considered as white poison.

Nuts
Mostly fried or roasted the oils usually get rancid and become transfat
Mostly fried or roasted the oils usually get rancid and become transfat

- Fruit and Vegetables
contains dangerous and harmful pesticides.

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Celebrities who live our life

National

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Amala Akkineni – A vegan and an animal activist who has worked with various ngo’s in animal welfare, wildlife protection, child welfare, rural women’s empowerment, HIV awareness and protection of the environment. She has trained as a presenter with Al Gore and The Climate Project India on climate change issues too.

Vandana Shiva – Environment activist who built an organic agriculture movement through Navdanya Trust, an organization she founded and directs. She has given talks on the connection between sustainable agriculture, poverty alleviation and climate change.

Bijoy Jain – Won the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture from the Institut Grancais d’Architecture in 2009 and the BSI Swiss Architectural Award in 2012. As an architect, his designs show a concern for the relationship man and nature have, especially his office -Studio Mumbai. His designs are not just about the quality but about being attentive to the inhabitants, the materials and more importantly the environment. Bijoy’s instillation ‘Work Place’ at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010 gained worldwide recognition.

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Dr Rajendra Singh – Known as the Waterman of India, Dr Rajendra is a global water conservationist who uses traditional method of rainwater harvesting, especially in areas like Alwar, Rajastan.

International

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Ben Affleck – Started the Eastern Congo Initiative in 2010 that is focused on investing in creating a sustainable and successful society.

Gwyneth Paltrow – The actress thrives on sustainable and eco-chic living. She’s introduced an organic beauty line as well.

Leonardo De Caprio – Apart from being an actor, Leonardo has a foundation that is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of the Earth’s inhabitants. They focus on wildlands and ocean conservation, climate control and indigenous rights.

Stella McCartney – Designs clothes that don’t damage the environment.

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Cameron Diaz – Hollywood actress with a pressing concern about the dying oceans, processed-food industry, the toxins

Natalie Portman – Opted to live a sustainable lifestyle after learning the health risks and environmental effects caused by mass production of animals. She is a vegan and vegan activist as well as the producer of a documentary called Eating Animals, based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s book of the same title.

Don’t judge those FATS too soon!

 Read your news paper if you like but, DON’T EAT THEM!

I see that a lot of people have a habit of storing their vegetables, especially their greens, in newspaper. This is not a great idea, the ink used in newsprint is highly toxic and once it gets on your greens, it is impossible to wash it off.

23 sep smallThe best way to store greens is to wrap them in a kitchen towel or a paper towel and then put them is a box or plastic bag before putting them in the refrigerator. The same thing goes for your herbs like coriander, mint and basil.

I love way one of my suppliers sends me the greens – wrapped in leaves, instead of newspaper!

The secret to a tasty dish

More than culinary techniques or recipe, what really makes or breaks a dish is the freshness of the ingredients. When working with fresh, high-quality ingredients, you need to do very little to make them shine and taste great. Continue reading Don’t judge those FATS too soon!

Salad daze

Hello friends, Hope all is well and you had a good weekend. Sorry I was not able to send you mail for the last couple of weeks. My mailing list got all scrambled up! Those of you, who are taking my lunch did get the print out of the weekly menu every Monday. Over the last few decades, there have been a lot of fad diets that have scared people off including all kinds of fats in their diet. Despite their bad reputation, not all fats are bad. There is such a thing called good fat 🙂 OilsThe fact is that we need to consume fats in our diet to feel satiated, so we don’t reach for other unhealthier, calorie-rich food to satisfy our cravings. Fats are also important to facilitate the absorption of a variety of other nutrients. Anybody who cooks knows that you need fats to create delicious food. We need to use the right fats in the right way to ensure that we get the taste, satisfaction and health without harming our bodies. It is understandable why many diets advice people to shun fats – they have about 3 times the calories per gram when compared to proteins and carbohydrates. It is easy to assume, therefore, that eating fats will make you fat. But now, we know that fats alone do not cause weight gain; rather it is the imbalance of the wrong kind of carbohydrates and fats in our diet. Continue reading Salad daze

Food for the soul

Monday 2nd September Pesto salad Pesto Genovese on steamed string beans, young potatoes and carrots. Served with a side of basil and masoor dal salad. This is a version of one of the most famous Italian dishes, pasta al pesto. Here I am using starchy potatoes in place of pasta! Please forget the common myth about potatoes - they are actually a diet food since 1 full potato is only 110 calories yet very filling and can therefore actually lead to weight loss and/or weight maintenance rather than weight gain. It’s so nutritious, one could almost live on potatoes alone as they provide you with almost every nutri¬ent you need. Really! This includes protein, fiber, and most of the major vitamins and minerals. On the other hand, pasta is made of white flour and has very low nutritive value and unnecessary calories. Tuesday 3rd September Spinach & Pumpkin salad with mustard microgreens and spicy mustard sauce sauceBaby spinach is carefully selected and tossed with roasted pumpkin. Raw, previously soaked and dried crunchy walnuts are added to make a colorful salad that is rich in nutrients, crunch and flavor. Fresh microgreens of mustard not only will add a bite but boosts the goodness of the salad. Served with a side of yellow peas and a spicy mustard sauce. Continue reading Food for the soul

Eat healthy, be nutrition wealthy

Monday 1st July

Satisfying lobia and crispy vegetable salad with antioxidant-rich pomegranate dressing. Made with lobia (black-eyed peas) which contain a good amount of protein, fiber and vitamin B9 (fo­late). Also contains potassium, which is so im­por­tant for the proper functioning of every cell in our bodies and is critical for the proper functioning of our heart and other muscles. A good source of other minerals such as manganese, magnesi­um, phosphorus, copper and iron. Soaking black-eyed peas for many hours makes them a lot more bioavailable and increases their nutritional content.

Tuesday 2nd July

Zuppa di verdure – One of my most favorite dishes in Italian cuisine. Since it requires so many varieties of vegetables it is always hard to make in small quantities, happy that it is not an issue now. It is the most popular item in Italian menus around the world, along with pasta. Minestrone, meaning soup! Serving with a “creamy” double bean sage side and ragi crisps.

Wednesday 3rd July

Indian Jewel Salad. Tomatoes, cucumbers, pomegranate, semi-ripe mango and coconut together with yummy sprouts: Mung bean, moth beans, chenna, micro greens of sunflower and coriander. Sprouts are considered superfoods because of their high nutritional qualities. Loaded with protein, fiber, iron, calcium and other nutrients, sprouts are also high in bone-friendly and heart-healthy vitamin K. I am hoping you will feel the symphony of flavors while you chew on this salad. Enjoy! As always, please chew well..

Thursday 4th July

Stuffed and baked green bell pepper with masoor dal, red rice, greens in a tangy tomato sauce. Served on the side with a crispy salad and a simple dressing made of olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Inspired by the Hungarian stuffed peppers made by my land lady from former Yugoslavia 20yrs ago! It is tasty served warm or at room temperature.

Friday 5th July

Goa-inspired salad made with green papaya, carrots, semi-ripe kobbari mango, red and yellow bell peppers and sprouts of mung and sunflower in a “creamy”, sweet and spicy coconut, kokum and coconut vinegar dressing. It is so satisfying both for its intense flavors and from the richness of the spicy cashews (made in house!). Served with seaweed “kismur” and raw food crackers

Bon appetit!

Juices each evening are
made with various combinations of organic carrots, beets, green mangoes, amla,
pomegranate, cucumbers, dosakais, spinach, sunflower sprouts, dark leaf
lettuce, sorrel, moringa leaves, lemon, ginger etc.

Morning smoothies are
all made with difficult-to-obtain organic superfood berries, protein-rich and
heart-healthy chia seeds, bananas and mangoes to give the sweetness as well
as the potassium from banana that your body needs to balance out the sodium
you eat through salt and other sodium rich foods.

Juices and smoothies are
freshly-made and delivered on Saturdays also.

The summer of mangoes

Hello everyone!   Hope it got cooler in Hyderabad and mango season is in full swing. Even though berries and apricots that I love are in season here in Europe, I realize that nothing compensates for the lack of mangoes. Perhaps a durian fruit would have done it for me but for that Europe is not the place to be. Last week, in a Florence market, I bought some imported mangoes that smelled great but their goodness went only as far as the smell. I apologize for the big mishap with the avocados a couple of weeks ago. It was quite embarrassing that I write all excitedly about how crazy I am about avocados and how I am going to generously share with you! 🙂 What can I say? Such is nature. Also, that is one thing which disappoints me in India – the farmers these days are often ignorant about what they are growing in their own farms and thus also ignorant about how and when to harvest their produce, especially when it is something that they are growing as a cash crop. Perhaps it is just part of their learning curve. It is very sad to see precious food go to waste as the avocados were not left on the tree long enough to properly mature! In fact, it is heart breaking…I have seen vanilla beans being grown in family farms where they bought synthetic vanilla essence for their own baking needs at home! I was not able to send a weekly menu for a couple of weeks as the organic produce was extremely limited in both quantity and variety. That is one of the reasons for giving my lunch staff a week off. Figured I will make the best use of the situation and take a week off for the lunch deliveries. Hope it did not cause much inconvenience to you. Now that it has cooled down and summer is coming to an end, we expect excitement again in our kitchen! Continue reading The summer of mangoes

A slice of summer

OilsThe "everyday food" which most people consume on a daily basis is sapping their energy levels, making them sick, overweight and literally “attracts” all sorts of diseases, many times chronic or deadly ones. The food choices we face daily are frequently:
  • High in unhealthy saturated fats which can lead to heart disease, diabetes and weight gain.
  • High in calories (empty calories with little or no nutrition).
  • Frequently fried and containing the dreaded trans fats. Formed when vegetable oils are fried with. Here’s more facts about trans fats: Continue reading A slice of summer

Mango mania and more

Think about what prepared food frequently looks like. Does it look like real food or not? What does it contain? Most people who take the time to think about these will be amazed at how far from “real food” today’s society has strayed. On the other hand, when food is prepared with the freshest ingredients, food which is naturally loaded with nutrients, food whose goodness you can see, smell and taste – then here’s what you can expect:
  • Gives you the nutrients you need to prevent and even reverse many diseases, including chronic ones
  • Live a longer and much healthier life. So not just adding “years to your life” but adding many more happy, productive and disease-free years! Continue reading Mango mania and more

My introduction to mango panna and your daily dose of healthy food

Blog-15Hello everyone, Hope you had a good weekend. I am sorry for disappointing you last week by not sending my little weekly bits…I know some of you said you look forward to them. Thank you :). I was traveling too much to put my thoughts together to send out a decent email, but I made plenty of notes on the go, and took lots of pictures. I’m hoping to be able to easily share with you with my upcoming blog and website. It should probably be ready in two weeks. I am back at ‘home’ in Florence and happy to be in the kitchen trying out new recipes. I was in Athens, Greece when I partially wrote this. I thought the smells in the city of Athens were truly intoxicating from a flowering tree all over the city called Paskhalia. Apparently it blooms around Easter (Paskha in Greek) for a short time, I just got lucky to be there at this time. Come to think of it, the tree, flowers and the little fruity seeds that form after the flowers are all very similar to our neem tree except the flowers here are like lilacs. There are a lot of varieties of jasmines too, so felt right at home! Also, the city is lined with a type of orange trees that are quite sour and a little bitter. I know it from casually picking them from a tree and trying them. No wonder people didn’t seem to have any interest in picking them to eat. We had two people at different times warning us that they are “not edible”, so obviously I was curious to smell and taste them! First I asked some people if they are toxic, and realizing that they’re not harmful but merely considered, as unpleasant-tasting by the Greeks, I was free to taste, smell, etc. They are called Naranja. Once again similar to our naarinja. The peel had fabulous aroma; no wonder it’s used in making sweets, jams and even essential oils. Continue reading My introduction to mango panna and your daily dose of healthy food