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.

Vazhakkai Roast (Raw Banana Stir Fry)

My colleague and friend, Kalpana, brought a similar dish for lunch. It looked interesting and I had a bite, it was really good – spicy and the banana was cooked perfectly. When I usually cooked raw banana, I cut into smaller pieces and stir-fried them. But this way, it is almost crispy on the top and soft inside. This was inspired by her dish.

These raw bananas are usually of a certain variety (nendrakai or the Kerala plantains). It is widely available in India and is available in Asian/Indian supermarkets in the US.

Ingredients

  • 2 raw bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 9-10 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (add more if you would like it spicier)
  • salt to taste

Directions

  • Peel raw bananas. Slice them into 3/4 inch pieces. Place them in a bowl of water mixed with a tbsp of yogurt. This will help avoid oxidation of the banana. Also slightly oil your knife before cutting to avoid the knife to get sticky
  • Heat oil in a large flat bottomed skillet.
  • Add asafoetida, mustard seeds, and curry leaves.
  • When mustard starts to splutter, add the chopped onion and garlic.
  • Fry till golden
  • Drain and add all the spice powders to the slices and mix and coat well
  • Add banana slices to the pan and stir gently.
  • Cover and let it cook.
  • stir gently every 5 minutes. If required sprinkle some water and let it cook
  • It should not be overcooked, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside but there should be a bite to it
  • Turn off heat and serve as a side dish with roti or rice or even as an appetizer.
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Spicy Healthy Yogurt Dill Dip

This is a quick and easy dip to make and a big hit! It is healthy since we use yogurt instead of sour cream.

I always thought dill was an exotic herb until I realized it was sabakki / sabbasige soppu and available fresh everywhere in India. Sprinkle some fresh chopped dill goes well with baby potatoes; this was very common in Sweden.

For this dip, I started with a paste of chilli and garlic, which can be made ahead and saved for a few weeks in the fridge. Of course, it gets mellow as the weeks pass. I use this paste as part of a vinaigrette for salads too. If you have this paste in the fridge, you can whip up this dip with ease. Last year, my friend. Mohua, gave me a bottle of the chilli garlic paste, which I have since recreated.

Ingredients

  • 10 green chillies
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • salt to taste
  • 2 cups yogurt or greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill leaves or 1 tsp dried dill
  • a dash of lime juice

Directions

  • Add chillies, garlic, and vinegar to a blender and blend to a fine paste. Save in a glass jar till later use.
  • If using regular yogurt, place muslin cloth in a colander and the colander in a bowl to collect all the liquid.
  • Pour yogurt into the colander and let it sit.
  • Leave it for an hour or for up to 4-5 hours. I usually keep it in the fridge overnight.
  • Place hung yogurt in a bowl. Add 1/2 to 1 tbsp chilli garlic paste, dill, salt and a dash of lemon juice.
  • Check for taste and add more chilli garlic paste if required.
  • Serve with chips or pita bread.
  • For a no carb diet or for a healthier version, serve with carrot, cucumber and celery sticks.

Diet, You Say!

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

Cinnamon Coffee Crumb Coffee Cake

I have my usual quick dessert recipes which I make often. But at times, I get bored of making the same. This is a new recipe which had some raving reviews from my friends. This recipe has been adapted from Trisha Yearwood’s recipe on Food Network. Though there is quite a large amount of coffee added, the distinct taste is of cinnamon with an after taste of coffee. You could reduce the cinnamon by half if you do not like the taste of cinnamon. This cake was really soft almost like a sponge cake. I made a yogurt honey sauce to go with it, but it was good without the sauce too.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or yogurt
  • 225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Coffee Crumb Topping

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (maida)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 4 tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • a pinch of salt

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC)
  • Prepare a 9 by 9-inch baking pan. Line it with parchment paper and butter it.
  • For the cake: Beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat till well mixed.
  • Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, baking soda, and baking powder.
  • In a small bowl whisk sour cream (or yogurt) and coffee until smooth.
  • Add sour cream mixture and dry ingredients to the sugar-butter mixture and mix well.
  • Pour the batter into the pan.
  • For the crumb: Mix all ingredients except butter. Add melted butter. Mix.
  • Top the cake batter evenly with the crumb topping
  • Bake for 45 minutes till a skewer comes out clean
  • Cool for 30 minutes before serving
  • Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee

Yogurt Honey Sauce

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • Mix ingredients till smooth and serve with cake.

Spicy Stuffed Chilli Bhaji

On a cold wintry day or on a rainy day, this is the best dish to eat – hot, spicy, deep-fried goodness. A plate of bhajis, a hot steaming cup of tea or coffee, a good book and a comfortable chair – company optional.

I often see bhajis being fried in street corners in carts, the smell of the bhaji wafting across the street calling your name. Most often, I resist, because one cannot stop at one bite. My mouth is watering while I write this post, just thinking of those bhajis. You can use the same batter and dip slices of potatoes, raw banana, onions or cauliflower pieces, and deep fry.

Usually, chilli bhajis are not stuffed in the south of India and if they are, a mixture of tamarind paste and salt is applied on the inside of the chillies. Here I have stuffed them with potatoes and onions.

Ingredients

  • 5 green peppers (preferably banana peppers or slightly large peppers) – calculate one per person or more
  • 1 cup boiled and mashed potatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 inch ginger, chopped (optional)
  • 1 green chilli, chopped fine (optional)
  • 1 tsp chopped coriander leaves/ cilantro (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp oil
  • For Batter: 1 cup gram flour (besan/ kadale maavu)
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • a pinch of baking soda
  • about 1/2 cup water
  • To deep fry: 2 cups vegetable oil

Directions

  • Wash and slit chillies and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Keep aside
  • In a pan, take 1 tsp oil, When hot, add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add onions and fry. Add ginger and chillies.
  • When onions are golden brown, add mashed potatoes, salt and mix. Add cilantro. Keep aside and let it cool.
  • To make the batter, add all ingredients in a bowl, slowly add water and mix. The consistency should be of pancake batter.
  • Stuff 1-2 tsp of potato mixture into the chillies. (When I ran out of potato mixture, I stuffed some with an onion-chilli mixture.
  • Heat oil in a wok.
  • Add a drop of batter in the oil to see if it is hot. The batter should sizzle and rise to the top
  • Dip stuffed chillies into batter and deep fry till golden brown. Turn every few minutes to make sure they are golden on both sides.
  • Take it out of the oil and drain on kitchen paper.
  • Serve as whole or sliced. Serve by itself or with chutney or ketchup

Mushroom Spinach Pasta with Roasted Pumpkins and Carrots

I come home after a couple of days from a trip and look into my fridge. I have been eating out and all I wanted was some home cooked food. In the fridge, I have one small onion, two slices of pumpkin, a bag of spinach, a packet of mushrooms and a carrot. So I whipped up pasta with all these ingredients in less than 40 minutes. This is an easy and quick weekend dinner recipe.

Ingredients

  • 200 g button mushrooms
  • 2 cups chopped spinach, washed
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 carrot, quartered and sliced into big cubes
  • 1 cup pumpkin, cubed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 150 – 200 g spaghetti
  • salt to taste
  • pasta seasoning
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk (optional)
  • 2 tbsp goat cheese (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF
  • Toss pumpkin and carrots in 1 tsp olive oil. Sprinkle some salt and pasta seasoning
  • Roast this in the oven for 20 minutes, make sure the pumpkin is cooked
  • Boil water in a large pot. Salt it and add a tsp of oil
  • Add spaghetti and let it cook for 10-12 mins or till the pasta is cooked al dente. Drain and save 1/4 cup cooking water
  • In a saucepan, heat olive oil
  • Add onions and garlic and saute
  • Add mushrooms and saute. When cooked, add spinach and saute for 4-5 minutes
  • Add the roasted pumpkin and carrots.
  • Add cooked pasta, 1/4 cup cooking water, salt, and pasta seasoning
  • At this point, you can serve the pasta
  • Optional – Add coconut milk, mix and serve
  • Optional – Grate some goat cheese and add. Serve hot