Healthy Quinoa Salad

Most of the time we think of healthy food and we and equate it to a drab, tasteless meal and especially, if it is a salad, we think of rabbit food. This salad is healthy and tasty, full of veggies and with a lime chilli vinaigrette. I was also making hummus and had some cooked chickpeas, so added that too to make a complete meal. It is also colorful and will make a beautiful addition to your holiday dinner table.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 green, red and yellow capsicums/peppers, cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 small English cucumbers, cut into cubes
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, cut into half
  • 1/2 cup, chopped coriander/cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans (optional – but will add protein to the salad)
  • salt to taste

Lime Chilli Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 green chilli finely chopped
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, cooked in a tsp of olive oil and chopped finely

Directions

  • Rinse quinoa well. In a saucepan add the quinoa and double the amount of water and place on high heat, till it boils. Then lower to medium heat and let it simmer for 15 minutes till all the water has been absorbed. Cover for 5-10 minutes and then fluff with a fork. Let it cool.
  • Meanwhile, add all ingredients for the dressing in a glass bottle, cover it and shake it well till well blended. Let it rest. The longer it rests, the better.
  • In a large mixing bowl add all the vegetables and the cooled quinoa.
  • Pour in the dressing and mix. (Pour half of it, mix, taste and then add more if required)
  • Season with salt and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. 
  • Enjoy!

You could substitute quinoa with couscous or broken wheat/bulgar too. This stays for a couple of days in the fridge, so save some for lunch the next day! I was inspired by the recipe in cookie and Kate and then adapted it to my own taste.

Hummus – Healthy and Easy to make

When I have guests, I have some easy appetizers and dips that I make. Hummus is one of them. I think the first time I ate hummus was at Oasis Falafel in Iowa city. It is a very small restaurant with maybe four tables but with the best falafel and hummus. Because I am lactose intolerant, I make this often, since it is dairy-free and of course healthy. I jazz it up with whatever catches my fancy that day and what I have in the pantry. Add olives, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted pumpkin and you get a different hummus.

Healthy Hummus

Ingredients:

1 cup dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or 1 can garbanzo beans

4-5 garlic cloves

¼ cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

2 tbsp olive oil

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt to taste

1 pinch baking soda

1 tsp cumin powder

4-5 ice cubes 

Garnishes: cumin powder, chilli powder, roasted chickpeas, chopped parsley, roasted pine nuts or sesame seeds

Directions:

Soak dried chickpeas in water, overnight or for 6-8 hours.

Cook chickpeas with 2 cloves of garlic and some salt till soft. I use a pressure cooker and let it whistle for 3-4 times. It should be soft. Let it cool.

Strain (save the cooking liquid) and rinse the chick peas.

In a small saucepan, heat a tsp of oil and cook 2 cloves of garlic till soft. (Usually, raw garlic is added, but I prefer to cook it)

In a blender/ food processor, add the garlic, tahini and ice cubes and blend. The ice cubes make the tahini smooth by breaking down the fat. Blend for a few minutes.

Add chickpeas in small batches and blend. Add some chickpeas cooking liquid and blend. Add cumin powder and salt and blend till creamy. (Be careful with the salt, since salt was added while cooking the chickpeas and the liquid will also have salt). Add olive oil and blend.

Garnish it with any of the garnishes mentioned.

Serve with pita bread.

Olive Hummus

To the basic hummus recipes, add 3-4 tablespoons of oliveand blend for 20 seconds. Serve.

Olive Hummus

Pumpkin Hummus

To the basic hummus recipe add a couple of tablespoonsof roasted pumpkin and blend till smooth. This hummus is slightly sweet. Garnish with small pieces of pumpkin or roasted pumpkin seeds

Sun Dried Tomato Hummus

To the basic hummus recipe add a couple of tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes and blend.

Be safe and keep cooking!

Long before I started writing this blog, I always wanted to write a cookbook for my kids. This was before ‘google’ and before you could get recipes in a jiffy. When I got married 25 years ago and moved to a different continent, my parents would handwrite recipes in letters as speaking on the phone was expensive and we spoke briefly once a week where I asked for recipes and then had to wait for the letter to arrive. I learnt some recipes from my husband who had been fending for himself for a few years. Today, I just have to google to find a recipe I want. But there are times, when we cannot find the version your mom or dad or aunt or cousin made. Every family has their way of making something. That you cannot find on google.

Many many years ago, I had tried compiling traditional recipes from the family. But it did not go far except for my dad sending me some recipes. In the midst of the pandemic, I realise people are turning to comfort food and food that makes them happy. So I am trying again to get my family to share recipes. I am asking my extended family to share recipes. I have also asked friends. So hopefully, I will be including recipes from friends and family in this blog. I hope you enjoy this as much as I will (not only writing up their recipes but connecting with them)! If you would like me to include your recipe or would like to be a guest blogger do let me know!

Be safe and keep cooking!

Chocolate Brownie with a Hint of cinnamon and cayenne

There is only one thing the whole world is talking about and that is the Pandemic. It is a scary, crazy time of our lives; the fear of the unknown. The stores have been depleted of hand sanitizers and toilet paper. Interestingly, the baking aisle is also empty; no flour, sugar, yeast or baking powder. Luckily, I had a big bag of flour and atta (whole wheat flour which is used for chapatti/ rotis). Seems like everyone plans to bake when they are ‘social distancing’.

I am now working from home and it saves me the travel time. So more time to cook and bake. For me baking is calming; maybe the same for others; and at this time when we are all cooped up in our houses, we need to do something which calms us down and takes us to our happy place.

Be Calm and Bake On!

Brownies, who does not love brownies. Here is another recipe. This has been adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018653-brownies?action=click&module=Global%20Search%20Recipe%20Card&pgType=search&rank=1

Earlier in the week, I was watching food network and a lady was making mexican chocolate cake. She added some cinnamon and cayenne powder so I thought I would add some to the brownies. They were good; just a hint of spice. It is an unexpected spice at the end when it is least expected.

My boys are back home and the brownies (doubled the recipe) were gone in no time!

Ingredients

  • 8 tbsp butter (1/2 cup)
  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate (85 gms)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used atta)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (chilli) powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

  • Heat oven to 350º F ( 176º C)
  • Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan on low heat. Keep mixing. When chocolate starts to melt, take it off heat. Stir until mixture is smooth
  • Grease an 8 inch square baking pan. Line it with parchment paper and grease
  • Pour chocolate butter mixture into a mixing bowl. Beat in eggs and vanilla
  • Add flour and salt and mix. Stop stirring when no traces of flour remain. Do not overmix
  • Pour into prepared pan. I added some walnuts to half the pan. This is optional
  • Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until set and barely firm in the middle.
  • Eat as is or serve with ice cream.
  • Enjoy!

Pumpkin Espresso Cake

I had made this cake in the new year. Lots has happened in this year, especially in the last few weeks with the pandemic, the fear among people and the unknown. The one thing that keeps a lot of us sane is comfort food, cooking and baking. I went shopping and all flours were out. I had white flour and atta flour, used half and half and it was good. I made this recipe again and it hit the right spot. This time I used a bundt pan. It looks fancy and it is truly scrumptious. do try!

Reposting the recipe with some new pictures. If you cannot get canned pumpkin; cook pumpkin in a little water and blend in a blender/mixie.

It is that time of the year – shorter days, colder days. It is time when you you want to wrap a blanket and sit on your couch. It is the time when you want to eat bhajis and pakodas. It is the time when you want to bake. Actually, I like to bake anytime of the year. It is the time for pumpkins and I found this recipe from https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/pumpkin-espresso-bundt-cake-recipe

The recipe used a bundt cake pan. I did not have one so made it in a regular pan. I ate a couple of pieces without the glaze. I was not going to make the glaze. It was good without the glaze. I finally decided to make it and then added the glaze. It elevated the cake to another level. This cake is a keeper.

It freezes well. Everytime I eat a piece, I forget how good it is. The pictures does not do justice. You should try it.

I have copied the recipe from the king arthur website. The link is given above.

Ingredients

Cake

Filling

Glaze

  • 1/3 cup (74g) strong brewed coffee
  • 1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (21g) rum, optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. To make the cake: Beat together the pumpkin, eggs, oil, sugars, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until well blended.
  3. Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt until smooth and uniform in appearance. Set aside.
  4. To make the filling: Whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and espresso powder in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Hummus is my favorite go to recipe, quick and easy. But the original hummus can sometimes seem plain and I like to spruce it up, Here are my previous recipes for various hummus recipes: https://chaiwithpreethi.com/2018/12/11/hummus-healthy-and-easy-to-make/ https://chaiwithpreethi.com/2019/03/29/slow-roasted-tomatoes-on-hummus/

I have made pumpkin hummus before and rather liked it. I decided to try using carrots instead. I was inspired by the ingredients in a carrot cake and used a hint of cinnamon and walnuts instead of the usual pine nuts.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

1/2 kg (1 pound) carrots, peeled

3 large garlic cloves

¼ cup tahini (sesame seed paste)

3 tbsp olive oil

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt to taste

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 – 1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp za’atar powder (optional)

1/4 tsp cinnamon powder

4-5 ice cubes 

Garnishes: cumin powder, chilli powder, roasted walnuts, grated carrot

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC)

In a sheet pan, add a tbsp of olive oil. Add the carrots, sprinkle some salt, za’atar powder and a 1/4 tsp of chilli powder. I threw in a few cloves of garlic too and avoided frying the garlic.

Roast in the oven for 20-25 mins

(If you like, you can roast them in a pan on the stove or on the grill too)

In a small saucepan, heat a tsp of oil and cook garlic till soft. (Usually, raw garlic is added, but I prefer to cook it)

In a blender/ food processor, add the garlic, tahini and ice cubes and blend. The ice cubes make the tahini smooth by breaking down the fat. Blend for a few minutes.

Add chickpeas in small batches and carrots and blend. Add some chickpeas cooking liquid (or water)and blend. Add cumin powder and salt and blend till creamy. (Be careful with the salt, since salt was added while cooking the chickpeas and the liquid will also have salt). Add olive oil and blend.

Garnish it with any of the garnishes mentioned.

Serve with pita bread or carrots and celery.

Rasam – A Tangy, Spicy Soup- Perfect to Fight a Cold!

It is flu season again! So, reposting this.Make a bowl and enjoy as it clears your sinus.

Rasam is synonymous to South India. Every person or region has their version. But one thing common is the tangy spicy taste, The tang can come from tomato, tamarind or lime. If you are fighting a cold, this is a must have- the pepper clears your sinus and the turmeric works as an antiseptic. It is our version of the ‘chicken soup’, only vegan. People who do not understand rasam, call it the ‘watered down sambar’. Do not say that to any south indian! Here is one of the many versions of rasam. Rasam is eaten with rice. But in every family I know, when rasam is made, you always have a glass of rasam to drink.

It is said that the mulligatawny soup originated from rasam. The name comes from milag tanni which means pepper water. It was a popular soup when the british ruled India.

Here I have used rasam powder from a caterer who caters to a school I worked in, Annapoorna Caterers, in Bangalore. They make some great sambar powder too!

You could also make the powder at home or use store bought, MTR is good. My mom makes her own blend of the powder. For this , you roast red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, channa dal, tur dal, black pepper and asafoetida. Powder and store.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup tur dal
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 4-6 cloves garlic (optional)
  • 1 tbsp rasam powder
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste concentrate or a 1 tbsp tamarind puree
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • a couple of curry leaves (optional)
  • a pinch of asafoetida
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Wash tur dal well
  • To an instant pot or pressure cooker, add tur dal, turmeric, chopped tomatoes, 3-4 cloves of garlic, 3 cups of water
  • Pressure cook for 5 minutes in instant pot or 3-4 whistles in a pressure cooker
  • Once the pressure has released, turn to saute in instant pot or transfer to a pan from a pressure cooker
  • Mash tomatoes with a spoon. Add salt and tamarind paste
  • Cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Add rasam powder and pepper powder and cook for a few minutes. Once it boils, turn off the stove or instant pot
  • Taste and add more seasoning if required.
  • In a small pan. add oil
  • Add asafoetida and mustard seeds and let it splutter
  • Add curry leaves and 2 cloves of whole garlic
  • Add to rasam, add cilantro and serve hot as a soup or with rice.

Diet, You Say!

I miss my friends and the exercise routine. We worked really hard but we had a lot of fun. Reposting this post in honour of my friends.

Our Zumba instructor, Bhavana, has been asking us to go on the GM diet for a few months. We always had excuses – dinner party, special lunches or travelling to places with amazing seafood. Even though I told her I eat in moderation, she thought it would be good to cleanse the system. It was three of us who decided to go on the diet and we decided to diet for 3 days, maybe 4, because we had a lunch on the 5th day and did not want to miss that. So you can see that we all love food! We had fun dieting (again not a word you think of when you think of the D word). Fun, because we dieted together, sharing food and sharing lots of laughs at our misery! So this recipe is dedicated to Bhavana, Uma and Ram. Thank you Bhavana for putting up with us and our moves. We are like Lucy in this video ‘I love Lucy’. https://youtu.be/XYvr6U5xv9w . We really feel for you but are so thankful to you for pushing us to exercise and eat healthy. I cannot believe I ate fruits while everyone else was eating pooris!

Diet conjures images of insipid food, boiled, tasteless, boring. But for me it was a challenge. How do I make food interesting, tasty, scrumptious even. The path to good food is flavour. I hardly used oil in this but packed it with flavour!

The first day was just fruits, except for bananas. My friend and I brought our cut fruits and ate it for snack and lunch. I made some fresh watermelon juice for the evening. Btw, if you prepare to eat fruits the whole day, be prepared to visit the restroom many times.

Day 2, was only vegetables, no potatoes except for breakfast. Food can never be boring for me. I went to the vegetable market and picked up different vegetables. Stir fry, it was. Cauliflower rice seems to be the craze in the USA, so I decided to try it out. Day 3, fruits and vegetables, no bananas and potatoes, so soup it was. The truth is I feel good. My stomach has gone down a bit, the weighing scale is being good to me. But of course I will start eating carbs and sweets again, but surely will add more fruit in my diet. Eat anything you want but in moderation is my motto!

Cauliflower Rice

  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into flowerlets, washed and drainer
  • 2 tbsp onion, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Directions

  • Pulse cauliflower in a food processor. It should be powdery, not a paste
  • In a pan, heat oil. Add onions and cauliflower and saute for a few minutes. Sprinkle some water, add salt and fry till cooked. It should not be overcooked.
  • Serve instead of rice

Stir Fried Veggies

Pack it with flavours and you will not miss the oil, the soy sauce and the chilli sauce you might add otherwise. There is added sugar in almost everything processed, so read the labels.

  • 2 cups of 3-6 veggies of your choice (carrot, beans, mushroom, capsicum, broccoli, baby corn), cleaned and cup into pieces
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp oil (when on a diet; otherwise increase it if you want)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil ( I had both, so added both. you can add just one)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  • Heat oil in a wok.
  • Add onions and fry for a minute. Add chillies, garlic and ginger. Add vegetables according to their cooking time. Add the broccoli and capsicum last as you do not want them to overcook and get mushy. Add salt
  • Fry till vegetables are cooked, not overcooked.
  • Sprinkle and mix the herbs.
  • Add lemon juice and mix. Taste for seasoning.
  • Serve with cauliflower rice

Throw It Together Vegetable Soup

How do I make soup with no readymade stock, my friend asked! Pack it with flavour, you do not need Maggi. Throw in vegetables you have, maybe some leftovers (you get my drift) and make a hearty soup. I always make a batch for atleast two meals. Since it had no stock, I made a paste of grilled tomatoes and eggplants to give it heartiness and depth. Grilling tomatoes brings out a sweetness

  • 1 eggplant, grilled on stove and skin removed
  • 3-4 tomatoes
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 green chillies
  • veggies of your choice (I used the same as above).
  • Also had some grilled pumpkin which i threw in (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp leftover cauliflower rice (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 4-5 cups water
  • 3-4 tbsp chopped coriander
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Directions

  • Grill tomatoes and 3-4 cloves of garlic in the oven. Remove skin of tomatoes (Heat oven to 200ºC/400ºF, grill for 25-30 minutes)
  • Grill eggplant, remove skin.
  • Grind together grilled tomato, garlic and eggplant to a paste.
  • Keep aside. (Add some olive oil, sumac or chilli poser and a dash of lemon juice and you can serve it as a dip)
  • In a pot add onions, rest of the garlic, chillies and vegetables that take longer to cook. Save broccoli, capsicum for the last.
  • Add 3-4 tbsp of the tomato – eggplant paste
  • Add water and salt and let it cook on a low flame for 30 minutes
  • Add rest of vegetables and cook for a few minutes
  • Add chopped coriander and lemon juice
  • Serve hot