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

May 1, 2015

Homemade Nutella

Are you a fan of Nutella? Hardly seen anyone who does not like it after having tasted it. We were big Nutella lovers too and used to stock it in our pantry. We used to have it as a spread for bread, better still if you use banana along with it inside your sandwich. Well, it is best if you just take a spoonful and put it inside your mouth. So we used it a lot till we started discovering more about commercial food and since then have not used it. Looking at the ingredients, you will find that Nutella is loaded with sugar and other ingredients which are strict no-no in quicknhealthy kitchen for the past few years.  That does not mean that we do not like the taste of it anymore as the hazelnut-choco combo is awesome :-).

So I have been trying to recreate homemade versions of it which are close to the original in taste, but comes devoid of all the unwanted ingredients, and hence does not have the infinite shelf life like the branded version. But who cares about the shelf life when we can make it as much as we want, when we want it and using only ingredients that you believe in. So here is my latest version of homemade Nutella which is made with organic hazelnuts, pure organic chocolate, grass fed organic dairy and sweetened with only dates and pure honey. We can call it as Nutrella !!!



Ingredients:
  • Hazelnuts - 3 cups
  • Dates - 2 cups (packed) 
  • Raw unfiltered honey - 1/4 cup
  • Unsweetened baking chocolate - 6 oz 
  • Organic cream - 1/4 cup (I just separate cream from top of my milk can) 
  • Organic whole milk - 3/4 cup 

Directions:
  • Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast at 350 Deg F for 15-20 minutes. Let it cool completely. Remove skin as much as possible (just by rubbing them between your palms. 
  • Add the nuts and dates to a vitamix and process at high speed tamping down as you go till you get a nut butter consistency. Try to do this as fast as possible and finish everything under a minute, else the nut butter might heat up and start separating oil.
  • Chop the chocolate into chunks, melt them over a pot of hot water till nice and creamy. 
  • Add the melted chocolate, honey, cream and milk to the hazelnut butter and process till everything is nice and creamy. 
  • There you go, your homemade Nutella is ready. Scoop up and fill into glass jars. Let it cool down completely. Close the jars and keep refrigerated. 
  • Makes about 4 cups of homemade Nutella. 
  • Enjoy!!

April 23, 2015

Rajasthani Guar Ki Sabji (Cluster Beans in Rajasthani Style)

During our recent trip to the north of India, we did the famous golden triangle, Delhi-Agra-Jairpur. While it was a trip to discover our cultural heritage and learn the rich history of India, it was also a culinary journey for us to experience the range of different styles of cuisine from each region, and from different types of eateries ranging from street food to exquisite five star food. One of my favorite on the trip was the Rajasthani vegetarian thali that we had at the famed Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar restaurant (known as LMB) in Jaipur known for its traditional Rajasthani food. It was nothing like the typical food that we categorize as 'North Indian'. It had a wide range of vegetarian dishes, each one had a distinct taste and texture. I was an instant fan of Rajasthani cuisine. I have been trying to re-create some of those flavors back here in the quick'n'healthy kitchen. 

Today's post is a quick side dish with guar beans or cluster beans (a.k.a Kothamara in Malayalam, and Kothavarangai in Tamil). Cluster beans has a distinct flavor and texture compared to green beans or long beans. They are also powerhouses of nutrients with loads of vitamins and minerals, they are diabetic friendly, heart healthy and also bowel healthy. A bunch of reasons to love these beans and here is one more way to enjoy them :-)




Ingredients:
  • Guar beans (cluster beans) - 1 lb
  • Campari tomatoes - 5-6
  • Fresh ginger - 1 inch piece
  • Garlic - 4 cloves
  • Green chilly - 1-2
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Amchur (dry mango powder) - 2 tsp
  • Homemade garam masala  - 1/2 tsp
  • Homemade coriander powder - 2 tsp
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Your choice of unrefined cooking oil - 1 Tbs (I used virgin coconut oil)
Directions:
  • Wash and trim the beans, chop into approximately 1/2 inch long pieces. 
  • Add ginger, garlic, green chilly and one tomato, all roughly chopped into food processor or blender and make a coarse masala paste. Keep aside. Chop remaining tomatoes fine.
  • Heat oil on medium heat, add the ground masala paste and sauté till the raw smell goes away. Add tomatoes and sauté till soft. 
  • Add chopped beans, turmeric powder and the spice powders. Stir well to coat the beans with the masala evenly. Reduce the heat to low-medium and cook covered. 
  • Once the beans are almost done (in about 10-15 minutes), add salt and continue cooking, stirring frequently.
  • Check/adjust the salt and spice level and switch off when the beans are done well.
  • Serve warm with freshly made rotis or rice. 
  • Enjoy!!


  • Note 1: If you buy conventionally grown beans, before using, soak them in water along with sea salt, turmeric powder and baking soda for about 30 minutes. Drain, wash and rinse well. 
  • Note 2: Homemade coriander powder is made by grinding coriander seeds in your coffee grinder. 
  • Note 3: Garam masala is a mix of ground spices which can vary from region to region or even family to family. Here is my recipe:
    • Fennel seeds  - a handful
    • Cinnamon - 5-6 inch long pieces
    • Green cardamom - 4-5 
    • Black pepper - a few 
    • Cloves - a few
    • Dry roast the spices on medium heat till nice aroma comes out. Let it cool completely and grind to a powder using coffee grinder. 
Sharing this on: HealthyHappyGreenNaturalParty