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.

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

Masala Vadai/ Paruppu Vadai-Deep Fried Lentil Patties

Today is a cold snowy day. Coming back from work driving in the snow makes me want to sit near the fireplace eating some vadas or pakodas. Here is a recipe for masala vada. They hit all the right spots – hot, deep fried, spicy and crispy! Have it with a cup of tea or coffee or any drink of your choice.

Masala vadai/Vada is a popular (and one of my favourite) snack from South India. It is another easy to make snack is a great potluck food or an appetizer. You could serve this with coconut chutney or coriander chutney or eat it by itself.

Masala vadai brings back memories of traveling in a train anywhere in the South, where hawkers come selling hot vadais at every station. The smell of the vadai reaches you even before you can see the hawker, serving you the vadas on newspaper. These made long train journeys fun, eating different hot deep fried snacks depending on the region and station, every station famous for certain snacks. When I moved to Sweden, we would eat falafels which were the closest we could get to masala vadais.

Try it and let me know what you think. This recipe makes around 15 vadais.

Ingredients:

1 cup channa dal

1 red chilli

1-2 green chilli

1-inch ginger

2 onions, chopped finely

8 – 10 curry leaves

2 tbsp chopped cilantro/ coriander leaves

salt to taste

oil for frying

Directions:

Wash and rinse channa dal

Soak in water for 2 hours (to hasten the process soak in hot water for an hour)

Drain and set aside 2 tbsp channa dal

Grind the rest of the dal coarsely, with chillies, ginger and curry leaves.

Transfer to a bowl, add the rest of the channa dal, onions, cilantro and salt and mix well.

Heat oil.

Flatten a ball of the mixture, and slide it into the hot oil. Fry them for a few minutes till it is golden brown, then turn around and fry.

Once golden and crisp, remove with slotted spoon and remove excess oil on a paper towel.

Serve with chutney or by itself.

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.

This is a repost. I made this again yesterday and it was delicious.

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
  • 1 cup sugar

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.

Vendakkai Pachadi – Okra in a Spicy Tangy Coconut Gravy Why is Okra Slimy and What can you do?- Science in the Kitchen

Reposting this from October 2018.

After a long time, I decided to make Pachadi as a side dish for rice and Molagootal. I looked up a few of my recipe books including Samaythu Par and could not find the recipe. I then looked online and could find variations but not what I wanted. So I called my parents to get the recipe. This I assume is the Palakkad version of the dish.

Okra is also called Lady’s finger in some parts.

You could prepare the same dish with eggplant or white pumpkin too.

Why is okra slimy? Here is some science behind it!

I came across an article on NPR that talked about okra and then visited the blog, botanist in the kitchen. Here is the explanation as to why okras are slimy. Okra is slimy because of a water-soluble mucilage. It is an adaptation to retain moisture and store water in hot ares where they grow. Though there is no information as to why exactly it is slimy, there is enough information as to how to remove the slime while cooking.

In India, our mothers and grandmothers have been using acid to remove the slime. Tamarind is used in the south, but sometimes yogurt or lemon juice is added, depending on the recipe. The viscosity (the measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow, in this case, the thick, sticky, semifluid consistency) reduces at high heat around 90ºC. Then even when it is cooled, the mucilage does not return. Another popular way in India and Africa is to add an acid. Viscosity is at its peak at a neutral or alkaline pH, by adding an acid the mucilage becomes acidic and the viscosity reduces.

Ingredients:

300 grams okra/ ladies finger

1/2 cup white pumpkin or madras cucumber (optional)

tamarind paste 1 1/2 tsp (or fresh tamarind 1 inch diameter piece soaked in warm water and pulp removed)

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

salt to taste

1/4 tsp jaggery/ brown sugar (optional)

To grind to a paste:

1 tsp mustard seeds

1-2 green chillies

1/2 cup coconut

To temper

1 tsp oil

1/2 tsp mustard

1/2 tsp urad dal

a pinch of asafoetida

a couple of curry leaves

Directions:

Wash and pat dry the okra. Cut into small pieces.

In a pan, add the vegetables, tamarind paste, a cup of water, salt and turmeric powder. Let the vegetables cook.

Grind the coconut, chilli, and mustard to a paste.

When the vegetables are cooked, add the paste and let it cook for 10 minutes on a slow flame. Add brown sugar if you feel it is too sour. It has to have the right balance of sourness from the tamarind and the spiciness from the chilli

Heat oil to temper. Add urad dal, mustard, asafoetida, and curry leaves. When mustard splutters, add it to the gravy and mix.

Serve as a side dish with rice and molagootal (or any gravy without tamarind).

Source:

Raji Chitti’s Special Carrot Chutney

Here is another repost from 2 years ago. Enjoy!

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my chitti (aunt) to give me some of her favorite recipes. I was expecting a traditional recipe but she sent me a carrot chutney recipe instead – very different. When I made it, it was really good and easy to make – just the right amount of spice, sweet and sourness. I served it with dosa, but this chutney will surely go well with rotis, idlis or even as a sandwich spread.

I love the way she sent me the recipe.

 Ingredients: 

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  • 2 grated carrots (3/4 cup)
  • 2 chopped tomatoes
  • 10 -12 shallots
  • 1/2 cup chopped coconut
  • 2-3 green chillies (depending on the spice level you want)
  • 1- 2 tsp coriander leaves/ cilantro – optional
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • salt to taste

To temper:

  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp urad dal
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp oil

Directions:

  • Heat oil in a pan. Add shallots and fry. Add the rest of the ingredients and fry well till tomatoes are well cooked.
  • Grind the above ingredients.
  • In the same pan add oil for tempering and add the tempering ingredients. When the mustard splutters, add to the chutney and serve.

Try it, it is really good!

Chatpata Chutneys

I am reposting this post from last year. Enjoy!

If you ask an Indian what their favourite chutney is, one will get multiple different answers. For me, it depends on what I am eating it with. With idli and sevai, it has to coconut chutney, with adai it is onion chutney, with sandwiches it would be a mint chutney, with flatbreads a sour and spicy chutney and so the list goes. Every family has their own versions of the chutney. I have already posted carrot chutney and spinach chutney. Here are a few more recipes. These chutneys can be served as an accompaniment or a side, a spread on bread or as a dip. It is easy and quick to whip up on short notice. (Chatpata means piquant or zesty.)

Peanut Chutney

Peanut or groundnut chutney is common in some parts of India, especially in Andhra Pradesh. It is almost like savory peanut butter with hints of onion, garlic, and coconut.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp channa dal
  • 1/4 tsp tamarind paste (you can substitute with 1/2 tsp lemon juice)
  • 3-4 red chillies (increase to 6 if you want it extra spicy)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-inch ginger (optional)
  • 1/4 cup coconut (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup water

To Temper

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp urad dal
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • a pinch of asafoetida
  • 4-5 curry leaves

Directions

  • In pan roast peanuts (or use roasted peanuts). Keep aside
  • Heat oil in a pan. Add channa dal and chillies. Add onions, ginger, and garlic and saute till golden brown.
  • Add all ingredients (other than tempering ingredients) into a blender and grind. Add water. Grind till smooth.
  • In a pan, heat oil for tempering. Add ingredients for tempering. Once the mustard splutters, pour on the chutney and serve.
  • Tempering brings out the flavor of spices and the dish ‘pops’. If you do not have certain ingredients, adding just mustard is fine too.

Onion Tomato Chutney

Ingredients

  • 4 tomatoes chopped
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 1 tbsp channa dal
  • 2-4 red chillies (depending on the level of spice required)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • To temper – 1 tsp oil, 1 tsp mustard seeds, a pinch asafoetida

Directions

  • Heat oil in a pan. Add channa dal, red chillies and fry for a minute.
  • Add onions and saute till golden brown.
  • Add tomatoes and saute till cooked well.
  • Grind with a few tablespoons of water.
  • In a pan, add oil and add ingredients for tempering.
  • Once the mustard starts spluttering, pour over chutney and mix.

Coconut Chutney

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh coconut (chopped or grated)
  • 1-3 green chillies (depending on the spice level you would like)
  • 1/4 cup roasted channa dal
  • 1/4 tsp tamarind paste (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • To temper – 1 tsp oil, 1 red chilli, 1/2 tsp urad dal, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, a pinch asafoetida

Directions

  • In a blender, grind all the ingredients except the tempering ingredients
  • Heat oil in pan, add rest of ingredients for tempering
  • Once the mustard starts spluttering, pour over chutney and mix.

Enjoy!