May 30, 2014

Why I stopped eating Mozzarella Cheese

I have never been a huge fan of cheese, and the one cheese I like is mozzarella. My son likes many types of cheese, and mozzarella is his favorite too. It is only recently that we found out that mozzarella cheese is made using rennet, which is a complex of  enzymes from the fourth stomach chamber of a calf. Here is a link to information about rennet. I couldn't digest the fact that young calves were being killed to make cheese. When I was young, my family had cows and we used to treat the cows and their calves as part of the family. The cow will be milked only after the calf had its share and all kids used to love the calves so much. To even think of killing the poor little thing for my cheese is beyond me. Besides, cow is sacred for Hindus and consumption of beef is a strict no.

After hearing this, my son tried researching on cheese made with vegetarian rennet, which comes from certain plants that have the ability to coagulate milk. He found out that certain brands have vegetarian cheeses. For instance, all of Organic Valley's cheeses use only vegetarian rennet. Now the source of vegetarian rennet can be many things ranging from simple fig juice to genetically modified organisms, so going organic would be best here so you avoid GMOs.

It is good to know of these things as many pure vegetarians consume cheese without knowing that it contains animal products like rennet. In fact, Mozzarella is just one example, but most cheese contain rennet, the exceptions being cream and cottage cheese from the main types. So if you are a strict vegetarian, check before you eat cheese. Most cheese in the market will contain rennet and many companies do not require to mention it. This is also true for cheese in pizzas as well.

Now, how about if you could make your own cheese?, that is raw, vegan and paleo as well :-).  I am calling it 'Mockzarella'. Obviously it is quick and easy to make. Of course, it can give you the nutritional benefits that your are expecting to get from eating mozzarella. I found this awesome recipe from a blog by a German couple. I am pretty much using their recipe with a slight modification. So here is the Raw Vegan Mockzarella :-).  As always try to use all organic ingredients.

  • Raw cashew nuts - 1/4 cup
  • Pure filtered water - 1/2 cup + 2 Tbs
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice - 2 Tbs 
  • Psyllium husk - 1 Tbs 
  • Himalayan pink salt - a small pinch
Directions :
  • Mix the water and lemon juice, mix the psyllium husk into this and let it soak for a couple of hours.
  • Soak cashew nuts also for a couple of hours.
  • After the soaking, psyllium husk would be thick and gel-like.
  • Drain the cashews, add it along with the soaked psyllium husk & liquid, and salt  into a blender and blend them well.
  • Fill it in a glass jar, depending on what shape you would like your mockarella to be. In about 30 minutes, it should be stiff and sliceable.  

  • Slice and serve. Refrigerate leftovers.
  • Serve just as is, top it on your favorite pizza, or serve it on your salad.. be creative.
  • Enjoy!!

May 28, 2014

Hot'n'Sweet Roasted Plantains

Here is one more savory snack that we tried out during our sugar challenge week. If I have to find similarities between Caribbean cuisine and Kerala cuisine, the first thing that comes to my mind would be the use of plantains, raw or ripe. Both cuisines use plantains in a variety of ways; steamed, baked or fried, and served alone, with fish or with anything else that you can think of :-).

What I have made here is a quick snack made with ripe plantains. This can be served as is for a quick energizing snack, or along with some scrambled eggs or cooked beans for a wholesome breakfast, or serve with a hearty salad for lunch or dinner. I would not serve rice or other grains along with this since plantains are already your source of carb for the meal and you don't need more of that :). If you love plantains you will love this one, if you don't, then this will make you hooked on to it... 

  • Ripe plantains - 2
  • Virgin coconut oil - 2 Tbs
  • Red onion - 1/2 cup chopped
  • Red chilly - 3-4 (coarsely crushed)
  • Sea salt as per taste
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

  • Peel and slice the plantains into 1/4th inch slices.
  • Heat 1/2 of the coconut oil on medium heat in a cast iron or non stick pan.
  • Add chopped onions and saute till they slightly pink. Transfer to a bowl. 
  • In the same pan add remaining coconut oil and heat in medium heat. Add plantain  slices and cook for a minute or so. Flip each slice carefully and cook on the other side also for a minute or till slightly golden.
  • Add turmeric, salt and red chilly flakes and stir to coat the slices well. Add the sautéed onion and mix. 
  • Serve warm, enjoy !!  

May 23, 2014

Mini Quinoa Cutlets

We were on a sugar challenge for a week inspired from the 'Fed-Up' sugar challenge. What is Fed-up? If you have not heard about the movie Fed-Up, please do check it out. Fed-up is a brave attempt from the producers of 'The Inconvenient Truth'  and is narrated by Katie Couric. It is an educational and inspirational movie for everyone, especially for parents trying to solve the obesity problem in America. Watch the official trailer here.

When we, the 3 souls at quick'n'healthy, go on a sugar challenge, what do we keep away from? Pretty much nothing actually, because our only consumption of direct sugar is in the form of organic coconut palm sugar and raw honey (both in moderation). Also, some concentrated fruit sugar in the form of dried fruits like dates, raisins, figs etc. Since we do not buy any store bought sauces, condiments or anything from a can or a bottle or packet, we do not consume any hidden sugar either. So just to be part of the community and to support the cause, we kept ourselves away from coconut palm sugar, raw honey and dried fruits for a week. If you are on the SAD diet though, it is not that easy. I can list down a long list of things that are either a direct or an indirect source of sugar. Almost anything that comes in a packet and is processed has hidden added sugar, and when it says low-fat, be sure that it has double the sugar to make it taste good. Read about the Fed-Up sugar challenge here.

Now on to today's post. When we are on a sugar-free challenge, we had to keep away from our snacks made from nuts, cacao and dry fruits. Instead we tried some savory snacks. This one can easily be upgraded as a meal if you add a hearty salad on the side. Though I am posting a version with egg and soft paneer, this can be easily substituted with some cooked and mashed legumes (kidney beans or chickpeas maybe?). You can adjust the spice level and seasonings according to your preference.  

  • Quinoa - 1/2 cup (Soaked for 8-12 hours) (I used a half n half of red & white quinoa)
  • Free range organic egg - 1
  • Homemade fresh soft paneer - 1/3rd cup (see method below)
  • Onion - 1/2 cup (chopped fine)
  • Tomato - 1/2 cup  (chopped fine)
  • Garlic - 2-3 cloves (minced)
  • Coriander leaves - a small bunch (chopped fine)
  • Green chilly - 1-2 (chopped fine)
  • Arrow root powder  - 1 Tbs
  • Nutritional yeast - 1/4 cup (optional)
  • Virgin coconut oil - 2 Tbs
  • Sea salt - as per taste

  • Drain quinoa and cook in 1/2 cup of water. 
  • Beat egg, mix in all other ingredients including cooked quinoa.
  • Mix well, bind them all together to form a stiff dough.
  • Make small walnut sized balls and press them slightly and spread on a cookie sheet. 
  • Or fill mini muffin tins with 1-1 1/2 tablespoon of dough.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or till done well.
  • Makes about 24 mini cutlets.
  • Serve just as is or with a freshly made chunky tomato sauce. (see recipe below) 
  • Enjoy!!

Homemade Chunky Tomato Sauce:

  • Tomato - 4
  • Red onion - 1/2 medium sliced
  • Garlic - 2-3 cloves
  • Red chilly - 2-3 
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Preheat oven to 400 deg F
  • Arrange tomato halves garlic and onion slices (drizzled with a few drops of olive oil) and roast for about 25-30 minutes.
  • Let it cool down.
  • Grind along with red chilly and salt into a chunky sauce.

*Homemade Fresh Soft Paneer:

  • Organic whole milk - 1 cup
  • Organic homemade yogurt - 1 cup
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice - 1 tsp
  • Start heating the milk in a sauce pan.
  • When the milk is just about to start boiling, add the yogurt and lemon juice.
  • Let it simmer on low medium heat for 4-5 minutes or till milk is curdled completely.
  • Remove from flame and let it stand for 5 minutes.
  • Drain with a strainer lined with a paper towel or cheese cloth.
  • Use them while it is still soft in the above recipe. 
  • This makes about 1/3rd cup of soft paneer. 
  • Reserve the whey for using later. (I use it as my soaking medium for my soaked grains pancakes)

May 16, 2014

Injera - Ethiopian Fermented Flat Bread

In an Ethiopian restaurant you will see some similarities with a South Indian restaurant. Fermented sourdough crepes similar to South Indian dosas, the aroma of spices similar to indian spices, an array of vegetarian and meat side dishes eaten along with the crepes, and all enjoyed using your trusted fingers :-). There is one difference though. In an Ethiopian restaurant the waitress encourages you to eat with your hands and brings silverware only if you ask for it. The Indian restaurant on the other hand brings you silverware by default and you are not really encouraged to use your hands.

Anyway, today's post is not about these similarities or differences, it is about the fermented sourdough crepes/flat breads or Injeras. They are made with a sourdough batter made with teff which is naturally fermented. Teff leads all the grains, by a wide margin in its calcium content. It is also an excellent source of vitamin C, a nutrient not commonly found in grains. Teff is high in resistant starch, a newly-discovered type of dietary fiber that can benefit blood-sugar management, weight control, and colon health. A gluten-free grain with a mild flavor, teff is a healthy and versatile ingredient for many gluten-free products. It’s been estimated that Ethiopians get about two-thirds of their dietary protein from teff.  Many of Ethiopia’s famed long-distance runners attribute their energy and health to teff. So teff is indeed a super-food, without the hype (yet).

I browsed thru a lot of ethiopian recipes and videos to learn to make Injeras. They are generally made with teff flour and water mixed, and kept aside to ferment for a couple of days. I could only get whole teff and not the flour, so I decided to go the South Indian way to make the batter. I ground the teff with salt and water, and fermented it for 18-24 hours. I make my crepes just like how we make dosas. It can be served with any Indian style side dishes (preferably the drier varieties). I serve them with a side dish made of collard leaves which is very typical in African cuisines. I also serve them with South Indian style spicy fish curries which go really well with these crepes.

  • Wholegrain Brown Teff - 1 cup
  • Sea salt - as per taste

  • Soak the teff in water for about 8-12 hours
  • Drain and grind the teff with about 2 cups of water and sea salt. Grind till you get a fine batter like a dosa batter. (I use vitamix, but it should be easily done on any reasonably powdered blender)
  • Keep aside in a warm place for about 18-24 hours to ferment. Once the batter is fermented, you will see the batter as risen, bubbly, and cracked.
  • Heat a pan (non stick or cast iron) and pour about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of batter depending on how big is your pan.
  • Either fill the batter in a thin layer to fill the whole area of the pan or just pour the batter in the middle and just tilt the pan to shape the crepe.
  • Once you start seeing some bubbles or eyes on the crepe, cover the pan with a lid.
  • When you start seeing a lot of steam coming thru the lid, remove the lid and slowly start removing the crepe from all sides.
  • Don't flip the crepe, directly transfer to a pan. Roll up and keep stacking while you make the remaining crepes. 
  • Enjoy with your choice of side dishes!!

May 10, 2014

Okra Theeyal

Do you miss curry leaves? I know you can get a pack of curry leaves for a dollar at any Indian grocery store nearby, but I am talking about the freshly picked tender curry leaves right off the plant. I dearly miss them and for some dishes, curry leaves elevates the dish to a different level. I am sure my Malayali friends and readers will agree with me. How do you get them though when you live in New England, especially when you do not have the green thumb to grow a plant yourself? That is what dear friends are for. I get my fresh supply of curry leaves whenever I visit this close friend who definitely has a green thumb and most importantly has a good heart to share these precious little leaves with me ;-). She takes so much care with the plant even nurturing it through the harsh winters.

Here is a dish that is very common in south Kerala, it can be made with a variety of vegetables like okra, eggplant, pearl onion, Indian yam or shrimp. It can be made without curry leaves and will still taste good, but curry leaves will transform the whole dish and your kitchen, and your heart will thank you!!

  • Okra - 25-30 (small)
  • Red pearl onion -sliced -1/2 cup (can be substituted with red onion)
  • Curry leaves - few leaves 
  • Fenugreek seeds -1/2 tsp
  • Coconut oil - 2 Tbs
  • Turmeric powder  - 1/2 tsp

  • Tamarind -1 Tbs (skin and seeds removed)
  • Warm water - 1/2 cup 

  • Coconut - 1/4 cup
  • Coriander seeds - 2 Tbs
  • Red chilly - 3-4
  • Curry leaves - few leaves
  • Red pearl onion - 2 Tbs sliced (can be substituted with red onion)
  • Soak the tamarind in warm water for about 30 minutes. 
  • Wash the okra, trim edges and slice them lengthwise thru the middle - spread them on a clean kitchen towel to dry them.
  • Add coriander seeds, red chilly, onion slices and curry leaves to a pan and dry roast till raw onion is slightly red and nice aroma comes from roasted coriander seeds. Add coconut and continue till coconut is slightly red as well. Grind the this along with 1 1/2 - 2 cups of water. 
  • Mash the tamarind well into the soaking water and squeeze out the juice. Strain the tamarind juice thru a strainer or just pass thru your fingers.
  • Heat coconut oil on medium heat and add fenugreek seeds. Once they are slightly red, add okra, onion and curry leaves and saute till onion is slightly red and nice aroma comes out of curry leaves, for about 8-10 minutes. Okra should be 3/4th done by now. 
  • Add the ground coconut mixture, and tamarind juice. Simmer over medium heat for 5-6 minutes or till okra is cooked just enough.
  • Serve warm with rice, preferably cooked parboiled red rice.  
  • Enjoy!! 

    Allergy Free Wednesday@TessaDomesticDiva

May 7, 2014

Sprouted Mung Coconut Dosa

I have not posted a recipe for the about 3 weeks now. Yes, I was still cooking, and I was also coming across new quick'n'healthy recipes that were worth sharing. Just that I was trying to reduce my screen time for a while. I guess it is necessary sometimes to look up from the screen and see what is happening around you. This is very important when you work in the information technology field where you get paid for being hooked on to the screen :-). I have decided to reduce my screen time after work and I will be striving for an optimum social presence from now on.

Anyway coming to today's post, this is a slight variation of 'Pesarattu', the South Indian crepe made with whole mung beans. I am making it with sprouted mung beans and adding some coconut to the mix for some good fat and an extra flavor. Also, coconut has always been a never-fail addition for a good crepe.

  • Organic whole mung - 1 cup
  • Shredded coconut - 1/2 cup
  • Green chilly - 2-3
  • Sea salt - as per taste

  • To sprout the mung beans: Soak mung beans for 24 hours. Drain and tie them in a nut milk bag or in a clean kitchen towel and hang it away from direct sun light for another 24 hours. (you can also refer to my 'homemade mung sprouts recipe'
  • Grind the sprouted mung along with coconut, green chilly, salt and about a cup of water. Grind till you get a fine batter similar to dosa or crepe batter.
  • Heat a cast iron griddle and make dosas.
  • Serve with your choice of chutney or side dish. See recipe for bell pepper coconut chutney.
  • This makes about 8-10 dosas. 

Bell Pepper Coconut Chutney:
  • Red/orange bell pepper - 1 (chopped)
  • Tomato - 1 (chopped)
  • Coconut shredded - 3/4 cup
  • Green chilly - 3-4
  • Red onion - 1/2 cup (raw or sautéed slightly in coconut oil)
  • Coriander leaves - a small bunch (chopped)
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Grind everything to make the chutney. 

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