October 22, 2014

Sweet Pumpkin Boli (Puran Poli)

Deepavali (Diwali) traditions can be different for different people as India is so very diverse and each state and region has their own legend, tradition and tastes. Our Deepavali tradition have evolved a lot from what we have grown up with to what we do now. For my family, Deepavali (like many other festivals) was celebrated in a low-key way. We did an oil massage and took bath early in the morning, my father would get us a box of assorted sweets and that was about it. My husband's family also did not celebrate Deepavali elaborately, but since they were all big foodies, they had some traditions with the dishes that they made for Deepavali. They make a special breakfast with vadas (deep fried lentil doughnuts) and boli (sweet stuffed flat bread). After we moved to the US, we have kind of made a mix of these along with a few others into our family's Deepavali traditions. Traditions like wearing an Indian attire to work, sharing Diwali goodies and going out for lunch to an Indian restaurant with co-workers.

For today's recipe, I am making the boli with a seasonal touch. Traditionally boli is made with a dough and all purpose flour (maida), and a sweetened lentil filling. I am just giving a seasonal and quick'n'healthy touch to it by making it with whole wheat pastry flour and using sweet pumpkin as the sweet filling. Our farm lady has been asking me to try her newer variety of pink pumpkin. That is what I have used for this recipe. The pumpkin is already sweet to a good extend and hence I did not sweeten it with any added sugar.


Ingredients:
For filling:
  • Sweet pumpkin - 1 cup (cubed, roasted and mashed)
  • Cardamom - 3-4 (skin removed and powdered)
  • Nutmeg - 1/4 tsp (freshly grated)
  • Himalayan salt - a pinch
  • Finely shredded dried coconut - 2 Tbs (optional)


For boli dough:
  • Whole wheat pastry flour - 1 1/2 cups
  • Sea salt - a pinch
  • Pure organic ghee - 1 Tbs + little extra for spreading on the boli
  • Filtered water - 1/2 cup

Directions:
For Filling:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degree.
  • Peel and cube the pumpkin into 1 inch cubes.
  • Spread them on a baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes.  Let them cool down.
  • Once they have cooled down, mash them with a fork.
  • Add freshly grated nutmeg, ground cardamom and keep aside.
  • This can be made ahead and kept refrigerated till you are ready to make the boli.
  • When ready to make, add himalayan salt and optionally add finely shredded coconut (if the filling has extra moisture)

For Boli:
  • Mix all ingredients for dough and make a stiff dough and knead well and keep aside for about 30 minutes. 
  • Divide the dough into 8 equal sized balls. Divide the filling also into 8 balls. 
  • Take one ball from dough, press it with your palms. Keep a filling ball in the middle and cover it with the dough. 
  • Roll it out into 4-5' diameter boli. Repeat for remaining dough and sweet potato stuffing.  
  • Heat a griddle on medium-high heat and the rolled out boli. Once you start seeing small bubbles, flip and cook on the other side. 
  • Repeat this for a couple of times more till bolis are cooked evenly on both sides, it would take about 3-4 minutes in total. 
  • While bolis are still warm, spread a pat of ghee on each side. 
  • Enjoy, Happy Deepavali!! 




October 20, 2014

Choco-Nut Laddus

It is that time of the year when people all over the world start the holiday season. Indians celebrate Diwali irrespective of which part of India they come from, or which part of the world they live in. Different parts of India have different versions of the legends behind the celebrations and the traditions associated with it. One that is common to most must be celebrating Diwali with sweets. There are a variety of sweets made for Diwali depending on geography and the local resources. This time my Diwali sweet has a global touch to it as it has ingredients that come from different parts of the world. Almonds from California, organic peanuts from India,  organic cashews from Vietnam, organic dates from Tunisia, organic coconut palm sugar from SE Asia and a pure form of organic cacao paste from Peru.. yes I made laddus with cacao this time. I was in fact a little afraid if it might turn out to be more of a truffle than a laddu, but I am very happy with the end product. It is a good mix of western and desi flavors :-)

Here's wishing all my friends and readers A Very Happy, Healthy and Peaceful Diwali !!!



Now to my Laddu recipe:

Ingredients:
  • Almonds - 2 cups 
  • Peanuts - 1 cup
  • Cashews - few (optional)
  • Dates - 2 cups (chopped and packed)
  • Raw cacao paste - 1 cup (loose shavings from the block)
  • Coconut palm sugar - 1 cup 
  • Cardamom - 4-5 (skin removed)
Directions:
  • Toast the nuts either in oven (350 degrees for 10-15 minutes) or on medium heat on a pan. Let them cool down. 
  • Once the nuts have cooled down completely, add them to a high speed blender or food processor and process till they are coarsely chopped. 
  • Add dates and continue pulsing till everything starts to flow freely and becomes a coarse meal. You will be a able to hold them to shape at this point. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Powder the coconut sugar and cardamom to a fine powder. Add to the nut mixture.
  • Melt the cacao shavings on warm water till you get to a creamy liquid consistency.
  • Now you can start making the laddus. The trick with good laddu is to roll it to shape while the mix is still warm. So do the next step in batches. 
  • Keep the cacao cream over warm water so that it stays warm and liquidy. Divide the nut mixture into different batches, add cacao (proportionately), mix and immediately start rolling them into walnut sized balls. I apply a little pure homemade ghee on my palms so that my laddus get a nice desi aroma :-)
  • Optionally you can add a few pieces of chopped roasted cashews to each laddu while rolling them.
  • This will make around 30-35 laddus. 
  • Enjoy and Happy Diwali!! 


PS: You see some white laddus in the picture - they are the white versions of the same laddus - just replaced the cacao paste with cacao butter and omitted the dates.



October 16, 2014

Spiced Hot Apple Cider

My son has been asking me to make this hot cider that he had at school. I kept denying because I was not going to cook apple, since cooking will get rid of all vitamin C, and more nutrients might be lost during straining of the pulp. This apple season though, I thought of making it once for his sake. I have to say I am totally sold. The infused spices along with the mildly sweet, sour & crisp apples makes it a perfect formula for a fall evening. I am not claiming this to be a totally quick'n'healthy drink, but if you live in the New England area, and enjoy the fall season, then you definitely should give this a try :). It is so soothing and can be had anytime of the day, best for a cool evening. 




Ingredients:
  • Apples - 3 (I used 3 different kinds Empire, Gala and Mutsu)
  • Raisins - a small handful
  • Cinnamon stick - 1(crushed)
  • Cloves - 4-5
  • Ginger - 2 Tbs
  • Filtered water - 3 cups
Directions:
  • Add cubed apples, along with the spices, raisins and water into a soup pot or pressure cooker. Cook till apple is cooked just enough.
  • Once cooled down, run everything coarsely using a blender.
  • Pass thru a nut milk bag or a cheese cloth and squeeze out the juice.
  • Serve warm.
  • This makes 4 to 5 servings. Enjoy !! 

October 12, 2014

Hot'n'Sweet Beets Pickle

There is a lot of buzz around probiotics these days. Probiotics in simple terms is good bacteria, which is pro-life (no, not the political term, but the real meaning of it). Probiotics are important for your gut health, digestion and improving immunity; to name a few. There are a lot of ways in which you can include probiotics in your food. Probiotics are used across the world by many traditional cultures. Most traditional foods from around the world had their probiotics, just that we might not have thought of them in that manner. Some of the most common foods include yogurt, sauerkraut/kimchi (both are fermented cabbage preparations used across Europe and East Asia), Kefir (used in Eastern Europe and South America), Miso (Fermented Soy used in Japan and east asia), Kombucha (fermented green tea) and a variety of pickles. 

Being from India, I know that the Indian diet has a lot of probiotics as part of our daily diet. First and foremost would be yogurt, which has the good milk culture. From the part where I come from, we use yogurt in a variety of ways. Then there are all kinds of pickled vegetables that we have from different parts of India. I have been pickling all kinds of veggies to supplement our already good supply of pro-biotic from the daily consumption of yogurt. This one is inspired from the beets and dates pickle from the North Malabar area which is enjoyed with Biriyani. It will be a tasty addition to your meals along with providing you some much needed good bacteria :-). We have it 2-3 times a day as it goes well with all kinds of food. 




Ingredients:

  • Beets (root) - 1 medium
  • Carrot - 2 medium
  • Dates - 4-5
  • Green Chilly (or any hot pepper of choice) - according to spice level
  • Ginger - 2 Tbs 
  • EV Olive oil - 3 Tbs
  • Unpasteurized organic apple cider vinegar - 2 Tbs
  • Organic pro-biotic powder - 1 tsp (one that contains Lactobacillus acidophilus), Or use 2 tbs of whey from yogurt 
  • Sea salt - as per taste 




Directions:



  • Wash all veggies, peel and wipe dry with a clean kitchen towel.
  • Grate all veggies, ginger, green chilly and dates into a clean dry bowl.
  • Add olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and probiotic powder (or whey). Mix well, taste, adjust salt. 
  • Pack this into a clear glass jar making sure the veggies are well covered under the brine.
  • Keep this with a tight lid on, on your countertop and let it ferment for a couple of days. 
  • Keep refrigerated for up to a month.
  • Enjoy your daily supply of pro-biotic :-)

October 9, 2014

Hearty Bottle Gourd Soup

Bottle gourd is another neglected vegetable just like ash gourd. Also known as churakka, lauki, sorakkaai in different Indian languages, it is very popular in Indian cuisine. Just like ash gourd, it is simple in taste and comes loaded with nutritious and medicinal properties and is a highly recommended vegetable by Ayurveda. Besides, it reduces fatigue and keeps you fresh, it is rich in thiamin, vitamin C, zinc, iron and magnesium.  Also, bottle gourd fights constipation as it is fiber rich, and bottle gourd juice being alkaline helps with acidity, indigestion and ulcers. Just like ash gourd, it is low in calorie and has high water content  which makes it very diabetic friendly. Today's recipe is yet another simple hearty soup that is great for the fall weather. 



Ingredients 
For Soup:
  • Bottle gourd - 1 small or 1/2 medium. 
  • Fresh ginger root - 1 tbsp
  • Green chilly - 2-3
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Fresh homemade coconut milk (recipe here) - 1 cup
For optional Garnishing:
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1 Tbs
  • Garlic - 2-3 cloves (sliced thin)
  • Red onion - 1/4 cup (chopped) 
  • Lemon juice - 1-2 Tbs 
  • Chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) - 2-3 Tbs 
Directions:
  • Peel and cut the bottle gourd into cubes. You need about 3 cups of cubes. 
  • Add them along with chopped ginger, green chilly and turmeric powder to a soup pot and cook covered (let it cook in its own water - no need to add water) on low medium heat. 
  • Let it cool and puree it completely or just mash and pass thru soup strainer depending on preference. 
  • Add coconut milk and simmer on heat it on low heat. 
  • Optional garnishing : Heat coconut oil on medium heat and saute garlic and onion till slightly brown and add to the soup.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
  • Serve with freshly squeezed lemon juice. 
  • This makes 2 servings. Enjoy!! 


October 5, 2014

Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Bread

Do you have a bunch of overripe bananas in your fruit basket at the end of the week that you don't to throw away? You can be creative and find endless uses with them. You can freeze them to make smoothies or ice creams. Or you can make these quick breakfast bread squares. You just need overripe bananas and rolled oats. You can play around with other additions. Just takes about 30 minutes to mix them up and bake.




Ingredients
  • Overripe banana - 3 medium
  • Rolled oats -1 cup
  • Dried shredded coconut - 1/2 cup
  • Baking soda - 1/4 tsp
  • Sea salt - 1/8 tsp
  • Ground cinnamon - 1 tsp

Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Powder half of the oats to a fine powder using your dry blender or coffee grinder.
  • Powder remaining half to a coarse meal using your dry blender or coffee grinder.
  • Transfer to a bowl, add all dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Mash the bananas with a fork and add to the dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Line a half sheet cookie tray with parchment paper and spread the batter to about 1/2 inch thickness.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes.
  • Let it cool and cut into 6 squares (approximately 4 inches)
  • Serve them as is or make breakfast sandwiches with homemade nut butter, or your choice of nut or fruit spread.
  • Enjoy!!




Here are some quick'n'healthy breakfast spread ideas:

Fig GojiBerry Breakfast Spread
Carrot 'CreamCheese' Spread
Carrot 'CreamCheese' Spread
Homemade Quick Berry Jam
Homemade nut butter











October 2, 2014

Almond Fig Barfi

Barfi or katli is any Indian sweet lover's weakness. Problem with them is that they are too sweet for even barfi fans like my husband. That too sweetened with (who knows what kind of and how much) refined sugar. You could use a healthier version or a pure form of sugar. Even better would be if you could make a quick'n'healthy alternative for the barfi itself. These awesome barfis are made with homemade almond butter and sweetened only with dried figs. It is sweetened just enough to satisfy your sweet tooth and at the same time you get the nutritional benefits of figs. Above all, you won't believe it is so easy to make !!




Ingredients:

  • Almonds - 2 cups (or 1 cup almond butter)
  • Pink himalayan salt - a pinch (for the almond butter)
  • Figs - 2 cups (chopped)
  • Cardamom - 4-5 (skin removed and powdered)
  • Virgin coconut oil - 2 Tbs (optional)*


Directions:

  • Make almond butter with the nuts. Get recipe here: 
  • Add chopped figs to a high speed blender jar or food processor jar and process till you get a coarse fig-spread consistency. (High speed blender works really well for this - @high speed for 30-40 seconds) 
  • Transfer to a bowl. Add the almond butter, cardamom powder and coconut oil (if using) and mix well.
  • Line a 4x8 tray or baking dish with parchment paper. Spread the almond fig mix and press well evenly.
  • Freeze till firm and cut into desired shapes. 

Note: Avoid coconut oil if you are planning to take it outside in warm weather.

October 1, 2014

Ash Gourd Mint Juice

In my last post, I talked about raw ash gourd (kumbalanga/wax gourd/winter melon) being 96% water. That makes it an apt vegetable to juice. I have been trying all different combinations of juice with ash gourd in the mix, but here is the one which is a keeper. Ash gourd juice sweetened slightly with apple and refreshingly flavored with fresh mint. 




Ingredients:

  • Ash Gourd - 2 cups (cubes)
  • Apple - 1 or 1/2 (for sweetening)
  • Mint - 3-4 stems
  • Lemon -1
  • Himalayan pink salt - a pinch

Directions:

  • Peel and cube ash gourd.
  • Peel lemon and cut into quarters.
  • Cut apple into cubes. 
  • Juice everything using a juicer. Serve with a pinch of himalyan salt.
  • If using a blender, blend everything except lemon. Strain, add squeezed lemon juice and serve with a pinch of himalyan salt.
  • This makes about 3 cups of juice. 
  • Enjoy !!