June 9, 2015

African Coconut Cupcakes

May-June is a birthday season around me as a lot of my close women friends are fellow Gemenians. Not sure if they have anything in common with me apart from being Geminians, but somehow I do gel well with them. One common thread I have found is that they are all strong women, who also put their family above everything else. Though my husband says you got to be wary of them all, being Geminians you don't know which way they turn ;-). This time also happens to be a wedding anniversary time with a lot of friends and family who share their anniversary with us during this time of the year.

Anyway, I made these African coconut cupcakes for one of my Geminian friend's birthday to go with an African themed birthday dinner. Though the dinner did not happen due to scheduling reasons, I made sure she tasted the cake, and she loved them. As the name suggests, the main ingredient is of course coconut. I have also used raw coconut sugar which gives this recipe an intense flavor. The two non-Gemenians at home lapped up the cake too :-). 


Ingredients:
  • Organic butter - 4 Tbs
  • Organic coconut palm sugar - 1/2 cup
  • Organic free range eggs - 2 
  • Organic grass fed milk - 1/4 cup
  • Organic finely shredded coconut - 1 cup
  • Organic sprouted spelt flour - 1/2 cup
  • Baking soda - 1 tsp
  • Citric acid - 1/2 tsp
  • For topping:
  • Local unfiltered honey - 2 Tbs
  • Organic finely shredded coconut - 1/4 cup

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line 12 cupcake molds with paper liners.
  • Cream butter add sugar together in a deep mixing bowl. Beat eggs one by one into the mixture using a electric or hand mixture. Add milk and coconut and mix at a medium speed. 
  • In a small bowl, whisk flour, soda and citric acid together. Add this to the wet ingredients and mix well. 
  • Divide equally into 12 cup cake molds and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Let it cool completely.
  • Meanwhile toast 1/4 cup of coconut on medium flame or just use the hot oven, toast till coconut is slightly red. 
  • Apply a pat of honey on each cupcake and sprinkle toasted coconut on top. Shake off excess coconut.
  • Enjoy!!


May 26, 2015

Acorn Squash Masala Dosa

Masala dosa (which is an indian crepe made of a fermented rice-lentil batter and stuffed with a spicy potato masala) must be the most ordered menu item in a south indian restaurant. It goes all the way from small appetizer sized masala dosas to the large table sized masala dosas in some fancy restaurants. This is one item that is a favorite with kids, well, kids of all ages I should say as even the older folks like my mom will always end up ordering this one.

The typical masala dosa can be quite filling, thanks to the potatoes that go inside it. Personally I like the masala dosa, but not the filling part of it as I like to have more of the dosa. In the quicknhealthy kitchen we put potato under the starch or carb category, and not so much under vegetables. We like to substitute potato with other less starchy vegetables, this way we can enjoy eating more dosas too :-). 


Ingredients:
  • Acorn squash - 1 small 
  • Red onion - 1 medium
  • Fresh ginger - 1 inch spear
  • Green chillies - 3-4
  • Curry leaves
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp 
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Virgin coconut oil - 2 Tbs 
  • Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  • Dosa batter - 2 cups (or as needed) **

Directions:
  • Peel and remove core from the acorn squash. Dice into 1/2 inch pieces. 
  • Chop onion, green chillies and ginger.
  • Heat coconut oil and add mustard seeds. When the pop, add curry leaves, chopped onion, green chillies and ginger.
  • When onion is slightly pink add chopped acorn squash and reduce heat to low-medium and cook covered.
  • In about 10-12 minutes, squash will be soft and cooked pretty well. Add salt and turmeric powder and continue cooking till squash is well done. 
  • Check salt level and remove from flame. 
  • Make dosa as you usually do, just before removing from the pan, scoop some prepared squash masala on the dosa, fold and serve. 
  • Can be served just as is or with coconut chutney.
  • Enjoy!

For dosa batter refer to my recipes below:

Coconut chutney: 
  • Shredded coconut - 1 cup (fresh or dehydrated)
  • Green chilly - 2-3 
  • Fresh ginger root  - 1 inch piece (peeled and diced)
  • Sea salt - as per taste.
  • Red pearl onion - 2-3 (optional)
  • Grind everything using a blender, adding 1/2 - 1 cup of filtered water. 
  • Garnish with curry leaves and optionally with a tempering of mustard seeds popped in coconut oil. 

May 20, 2015

Asopao Inspired Plantain Mango Soup

One of our favorite restaurants around this part is Claire's Corner Copia in New Haven, Connecticut. It has been around for a long time, and pioneered the vegan, organic, healthy food around here much before many of this became famous buzzwords. It is a cozy family style, vegetarian restaurant serving organic, sustainable food with so many dishes that have vegan and gluten-free options. Sometimes we just stand there for 5-10 minutes figuring out what to choose, there is so much to choose from. So if you go with a group, everyone will get something to pick from the menu, even for the not-so-strict-about-health-kinda-guys :-). The last time we went there they had a Vegan Asopao as their soup of the day.

Here is a tropical soup inspired from it, made with ripe plantains and green mangoes. You can make it with shrimp and shrimp broth, but you can just go the vegan route too plain and simple, and it still tastes awesome, sweet & sour with plantains and raw mangoes. You can enjoy it as a light meal or serve as a stew over some rice, or pair it with a hearty salad. 


Ingredients:
  • Ripe plantain - 3
  • Raw mango - 1 cup (peeled and cubed)
  • Homemade tomato paste - 2 Tbs *
  • Garlic cloves - 3-4 (minced)
  • Homemade shrimp broth or vegetable broth- 2 cups **
  • Shrimp - 1/2 cup (optional)
  • Dried oregano - 1tsp
  • Paprika - 1 tsp
  • Red chilly powder - 1
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • EV olive oil - 1 Tbs
  • Chopped cilantro - for garnish
Directions:
  • Peel and slice plantain and cook them, either steam cook or pressure cook. Pressure cooker works best so that the plantain will remain soft in the soup.
  • Heat olive oil on medium heat and sauté minced garlic till slightly brown.  Add the mango cubes, tomato paste, broth, salt and the spices. Cook covered on medium heat till mango is cooked and soft, in about 6-8 minutes. 
  • Just before turning off add cooked shrimp (if using) and cooked plantain slices. Check seasoning and switch off flame. 
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm for comforting and satisfying light meal. 
  • Enjoy!!

* To make tomato paste: Quarter 5-6 well ripe Campari tomatoes and start cooking on medium heat. Let tomatoes cook with its own water. Gradually water content will reduce in about 25-30 minutes. When your desired consistency is reached, switch off and let it cool. Puree and store in an airtight jar. This can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks.
** If you are going to use shrimp broth, you can make shrimp broth by quick cooking the shrimp with 2 cups of water, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 1/4 tsp red chilly powder and 1/4 tsp of salt. (pressure cooker works best). If you are using vegetable broth refer to my recipe here:


May 12, 2015

Homemade Honey Mustard Dressing


Spring is here and so are salad days. I enjoy eating salads especially when there are baby greens and mixed fruits in my salad.  I feel that adding fruits to your salad is the best way to get into the habit of eating salad, mangoes and strawberries are the best. They make salads interesting and appetizing. To make it a little more enticing and healthy, you can try a variety of homemade salad dressings.


Why a salad dressing? According to nutritionists and food scientists, eating a salad without fat is actually less healthy. (read more here and here). The reason is that fat is needed by our bodies to absorb the nutrients in vegetables. So why homemade? Simple, because not all fats are same, and not all salad dressings are the same (read an interesting article on this topic here). So it is important that you choose good fats and other clean ingredients to make your own salad dressing.


Ingredients: 
  • Organic chia seeds - 2 Tbs.
  • Yellow mustard seeds - 2 tsp.(if using black mustard, use only 1/2 tsp) 
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Black pepper - 1/2 tsp
  • Unpasteurized Apple cider vinegar - 3 Tbs
  • Local unfiltered honey - 2 Tbs
  • Sea salt - 1/2 tsp
  • Filtered water - 1 cup
  • EV Olive oil - 3 Tbs.
Directions: 
  • Blend everything except olive oil in Vitamix at high speed for about a minute or till you get a creamy dressing. Add olive oil an whip for a few seconds. 
  • Transfer to a glass bottle and keep refrigerated up to a week. 
  • This serves 3 to 4. Enjoy with you favorite salad ! 



Recipe source: Eat The Rainbow