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.

Stir-Fried Okra with Peanuts

Okra is called ladies finger in India, maybe because it is slender and long. In hindi it is bhindi, in malayalam and tamil it is vendakka and kannada it is bendekai. When I was a kid, it was considered a ‘super food’ and good for the brain, my mom would say.

Okra has a bad rap for its sliminess. But there is a way to cook it properly and not have the sliminess. I had written about it sometime back. Here is the link. https://chaiwithpreethi.com/2018/10/19/vendakkai-pachadi-okra-in-a-spicy-tangy-coconut-gravy-why-is-okra-slimy-and-what-can-you-do-science-in-the-kitchen/

I ate this dish sometime back in Telengana and have tried to recreate it. It is crispy and spicy with a hint of sourness. Try it, you will love it.

Be sure to first wash the okra and wipe it dry. Cut into pieces and if you have time, spread on a sheet and leave it out for couple of hours. Some people also vouch that microwaving it for a few minutes does the trick.

  • 250 grams okra, cut into pieces
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp urad dal
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp curry leaves
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
Directions
  • Roast peanuts and keep aside
  • Heat oil in pan. Once hot, add mustard, urad dal, asafoetida and curry leaves
  • When mustard splutters, add onion and ginger and fry till golden brown
  • Add okra, salt and fry till crisp. Add spice powder and mix
  • Add peanuts and saute for a few minutes
  • Turn off the stove and add lemon juice and mix well.
  • Serve hot
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Decadent Dark Chocolate Cake

This is one of the best chocolate cakes I have eaten. I have made this cake many many times, sometimes just sprinkled with powdered suagr and sometimes with a glaze. The recipe says that only dutch-process cake works. I have tried with both and they both work. This recipe is from a magazine Cooking Pleasures, January 2002 issue. My picture does not do justice to the cake. I cut a piece after people started tucking into it.

Ingredients
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dutch-process cocoa (substitute regular cocoa powder and add 1/4 tsp baking soda)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 tsp instant espresso coffee powder (I sometimes use instant coffee powder)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
Directions
  • Heat oven to 350ºF (180ºC)
  • Grease an 8 inch deep pan. Line with parchment paper and grease. (If using non stick spray, you do not need parchment paper)
  • In a large bowl sift flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside
  • In a bowl combine buttermilk, coffee powder and vanilla. stir till coffee has dissolved
  • In a large bowl, beat butter till creamy. Add sugar and beat. Increase speed to medium high and beat for 4-5 minutes till light and fluffy
  • Add eggs and beat well for about 2 minutes
  • On low speed, add flour and buttermilk mixture alternating and ending with flour mixture. Do not overbeat, make sure all ingredients are incorporated
  • Pour batter into prepared pan
  • Bake for 45 to 55 minutes till a skewer comes out clean
  • Cool cake for 10 minutes and turn over and cool.

Glaze

  • Melt 3 tbsp butter in a saucepan
  • Add 1/3 cup cream, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup dutch process cocoa and a pinch of salt
  • Mix and cook over medium heat until smooth and hot but do not boil. Whisk constantly
  • Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Refrigerate until slightly thickened
  • Pour over cake
  • Stand until firm

Instant Pot Methi Palak Dal


I recently bought an instant pot (which I may have mentioned in an earlier post). I was introduced to it last summer when a few of my friends owned one. I had decided then that I need one (not want one but need one!). The first dish I made with that was a biryani and my son who is very picky about biryani and has previously told me that mine are not as good as the restaurant ones, said that it was ‘surprisingly’(!) very good. I then tried making khichdi with it. In both instances I sautéed the vegetables in a pan before adding it to pressure cook.

For those who are new to an instant pot, you can pressure cook, steam, sauté, make soups and stews, slow cook and even make yogurt with it. So, it eliminates the need for a pressure cooker, slow cooker and rice cooker. You just need one appliance. In the more expensive ones, you have smart options where you can sit at work and start your instant pot via wi-fi. I do not see the need for that for me.

My friend, Angie, asked me to send pictures and so I decided to make dal using the instant pot and use it to sauté and pressure cook. I was quite surprised that I could do all of it in one pot and when I realized that after pressure cooking, the liquid was too much (had added more water than I should have), I could also cook off the liquid and make a thicker dal. I am quite excited with the possibilities. Of course, you may ask why not use a regular pressure cooker which does the same. If you know me, you would also know that I love my kitchen gadgets. Also, I always had a pressure cooker and a rice cooker, now I just need one.

This recipe can be made in a regular pressure cooker too.

The recipe follows:

Ingredients

  • 1 large or 2 medium onions
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 inch ginger, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-3 green chillies, chopped (depending on the spice level)
  • 1 cup methi (fenugreek) leaves, washed
  • 1 cup palak (spinach), washed and chopped
  • 1 cup toor dal (lentils) or yellow moong dal, washed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder (optional)
  • 1/2 to 1 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
  • salt to taste
  • coriander leaves (cilantro), to garnish

Directions

  • Turn on the instant pot and press saute
  • Add oil and add onions, garlic and ginger and saute till golden brown
  • Add tomatoes and chillies and cook down
  • Add methi and spinach and saute for a minute
  • Add dal, water, spices and salt and cover the instant pot
  • Change settings to pressure cook (high)
  • Once it is cooked (if using regular pressure cooker, let it whistle 3 times), wait for the pressure to be released and open
  • If you would like thicker consistency, let it cook (saute in instant pot) till the required consistency
  • Garnish with coriander leaves/ cilantro
  • Serve with rice or rotis or have as a lentil soup with a dollop of yogurt

Simple Eggplant Curry

If you have been following my blog, you will notice that one of the vegetable I really like is eggplant. Continuing with my basic recipes with very few ingredients; this is an easy dish that even a college student can make.

Ingredients

  • 6-7 baby eggplants or 4-5 long eggplants
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp dessicated or freshly grated coconut (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp chilli powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp oil + 2 tsp oil
  • coriander leaves/ cilantro (optional)

Directions

  • Chop onions, garlic and tomatoes
  • Slit eggplant or cut into pieces
  • Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan
  • Add chopped onions and garlic and fry till golden
  • Add the tomatoes and saute till cooked
  • Add coconut and keep aside to cool
  • In a chopper or blender, pulse till fine (optional)
  • In the same pan heat 2 tsp oil. Add eggplant and fry for a few minutes
  • Add the paste and spices and cook
  • Add a quarter cup of water if required and cook till the eggplant is cooked
  • Add more seasoning is required
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro
  • Serve with rice or rotis

Kitchen Tools You Can Do Without!

One day, when my colleague and I were getting ready for a class to teach simple machines, we asked our students to look around the classroom, school and their homes to look for simple machines. The next day, I brought in my kitchen tools to class. I love kitchen tools, and I buy anything interesting. It was an interesting class because most students started guessing what the tool could be used for. Many years ago, I used my kitchen tools to teach ‘sets’ in math.

Today, as I wait for my shipment to arrive, I am working on minimal things in the kitchen. The things I really miss are my good chef’s knife, a peeler, a good cutting board, my measuring spoons, my kitchenaid mixer, a chopper , a good set of ladles, a good colander and sieve, a good tea strainer, a rice/ pressure cooker, a regular masher.

So do I really need all these tools?

Potato masher: I prefer the older, simpler one. The potato ricer, I use to break nuts into pieces rather than a ricer.

A potato masher (left) and a ricer (right)

Sifter and the Sieve: I prefer to use the sieve, it is easier to use. Though the sifter is a fun tool to have, but not necessary.

Sifter and the sieve

Measuring spoons: More the merrier. I always seem to need atleast two of them at a time. I use these for baking.

Measuring spoons, cups and tsp/tbsp

A bowl scraper: I love the simple bowl scraper I got for free almost 15 years ago when I subscribed to a magazine. I have not been able to find a replacement for it. It finally broke and I had to retire it. Sigh! I definitely use them to scrape all the dough from my mixing bowl.

More kitchen tools: I use all of these, except for the garlic press (I use it to pound or break nuts but rarely for garlic). The one on the left is an egg separator. My husband, when he makes egg white omelettes for me, uses this as he does not like to touch the egg. The yolk stays on top and the egg white falls into the bowl. I just use my fingers. The cookie dough scoop is really useful while making cookies to get the same amount and cookie size.

The other tool which is good to have is a chopper. I have tried many different ones. I now bought a Ninja electric chopper which I really like. It is good to chop onions, garlic, tomatoes. You can whip up a chutney, salsa or guacamole with ease.

Of course, a good cutting board, good knives and a good set of pots and pans, ladles a pastry brush are essential. As I now know, I do not eat half the things I have. But I wonder if it will stop me for buying the next cool tool I see. I suppose I can use it for other things, like teaching!

Pushpa’s Bassaaru

Bassaaru is a popular dish of Karnataka. Using the same ingredients, a curry and a vegetable is made. This is usually served with ragi mudde (ragi balls) or rice. This is a healthy dish packed with lentils, spinach and spices. The coconut gives the curry a creamy texture. A dish I would surely try again.

Pushpa, my help who is like family, made this dish for me and also suggested using ridge gourd and green beans instead of spinach. This is something she cooks often and eats it with ragi mudde. Ragi mudde are balls made of ragi (finger millets), which is a super food. In the south of India, ragi is used for dosas, idlis etc. Ragi mudde is an acquired taste. It is dipped in a gravy and swallowed. It is very high in protein and keeps you full for a long time. Therefore it was eaten by farmers.

Try it. It was truly lip smacking delicious

Pushpa cooking Bassaaru
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup tur dal (split pigeon peas)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups chopped spinach. washed
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 4 green chillies
  • 10-12 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 lime size tamarind or 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 + 1 tbsp curry leaves
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • salt to taste
Directions
  • Cook tur dal in a sauce pan with 1 cup water. Do not use pressure cooker as you want the lentils to have a bite.
  • When the lentils are half cooked, add spinach and dill, 1 tsp salt and cook
  • Using toothpicks pierce two green chillies and tomatoes. Add to spinach and let it cook for 5 minutes and take out chillies and tomato and keep aside
  • Meanwhile, in a small pan dry roast pepper and cumin seeds
  • Grind cumin, pepper, green chillies, coconut, coriander leaves, 8 cloves garlic and grind to a paste
  • Once spinach and lentils are cooked, drain well and save the liquid
  • This liquid is the base for the saaru or gravy
  • Keep aside 1/2 cup of spinach lentil mixture
  • In a sauce pan, add the liquid and the ground paste. Cook
  • In a blender, grind 1/2 cup spinach lentil mixture and the tomato to a paste and add to the gravy and cook.
  • In a small sauce pan, heat 1 tsp oil
  • Add 1 tsp mustard seeds, curry leaves and 2 cloves of choped garlic and add to the gravy. Set aside
  • For the Stir Fry: Heat 1 tbsp oil
  • Add 1 tsp mustard and curry leaves
  • Add chopped onions, 2 green chillies (chopped) and fry till golden
  • Add the lentil spinach mixture and fry well
  • Add salt if required
  • Serve gravy, stir fry spinach with rice or ragi mudde