February 27, 2015

Three Bean Okra Chili

When the weather is cold outside we just like to be cozy around at home and have have some warm and spicy food. Chili is something well suited for a quick'n'healthy dinner on a cold evening. The pressure cooker cooks your beans perfectly and the Vitamix makes the perfect puréed soup base which gives it a slow cooked feel without using a slow cooker, or spending the whole day in the kitchen to get the slow cooked feel for your chili. Addition of okra will give an interesting texture, and of course okra is a diabetic friendly and heart healthy vegetable which everyone is trying include in their meals these days. As Indians we are so fortunate to have grown up eating okra in so many different ways, one more is always a welcome addition :-). Go for this warm okra Chili on a chilly night...!!!



Ingredients:

  • Black beans - 1/3 cup
  • Red kidney beans - 1/3 cup
  • White vaal beans - 1/3 cup
  • Okra - 30 (medium)
  • Tomato - 1 cup (chopped)
  • Garlic - 2-3 Tbs (minced)
  • Onion - 1/4 cup (chopped)
  • Paprika - 2 Tbs
  • Oregano - 2 Tbs
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Black pepper corns - 1/2 tsp
  • Chile de arbol - 1 (or use equivalent amount of red chilly powder)
  • EV Olive oil - 2 Tbs
  • Sea salt - as per taste
Directions:

  • Soak beans for 8-12 hours or overnight. Drain soaked beans and cook with about 3 1/2 - 4 cups of water. Pressure cooker works best. 
  • To make soup base: heat olive on medium heat and add cumin seeds, black pepper, chile (if using) minced garlic and chopped onion. Roast till onion is slightly pink and garlic is roasted well. Add chopped tomato, oregano, paprika, red chilly powder (if using) cook till tomato is soft, for about 3-4 minutes. Switch off and let it cool. Purée this along with a scoop of cooked beans and some cooking liquid from beans. This is your soup base.
  • Wash okra and trim edges. Cut into an inch long pieces. 
  • In a soup pot, add okra and cooked beans along with all remaining liquid from cooking beans. Cook on medium heat till okra is almost done. 
  • Add the puréed soup base and salt. Simmer on low-medium heat for about 5-10 minutes till all flavors combine well and okra is cooked enough. Adjust seasoning and switch off. 
  • Serve warm with chopped cilantro and toasted quinoa. 
  • Enjoy!! 
Okra Tips: If you want to reduce the slimy texture of okra, wash and cut okra ahead of time and spread them on a clean kitchen towel.You can also in addition, sauté them in a tablespoon of olive oil before adding to the chili. 


For toasted quinoa topping:

  • Quinoa - 1/2 cup
  • Lemon juice - 1 Tbs
  • Sea salt - 1/4 tsp
  • In a pan dry roast quinoa till you hear continuous popping (about 4-5 minutes on medium heat).
  • Cook with about a cup of water, lemon juice and salt, till well done and you can fluff the quinoa with a fork.

February 23, 2015

Crunchy Spiced Almonds

We love to snack on nuts, usually it is almonds or cashews. Sometimes you feel like having something savory, so why not savory nuts. These slow roasted spicy almonds which will come in handy when you want to reach for a healthy mid-day snack. Also pack this when you want to gift someone with little bag of homemade goodies. For variation, try other kinds of nuts, vary the spices, be creative..:)




Ingredients:
  • Almonds - 3 cups
  • Organic free range egg - 1
  • Red chilly powder - 2 tsp (adjust according to spice level)
  • Coconut palm sugar - 1/2 tsp (optional) 
  • Herbs - 2 Tbs (I used oregano)
  • Garlic minced - 1 tsp (optional)
  • Sea salt - 1/2 tsp 
  • Nutritional yeast - 2 Tbs (optional)
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  • Separate egg white and yolk. Save the yolk for future use. 
  • Beat the egg white lightly. Add all the spices and salt, whisk well.
  • Add the almonds and stir well to coat. Add nutritional yeast (if you have it) at this point. Toss lightly to coat evenly.
  • Spread in a baking sheet without much overlapping.
  • Bake for about an hour or till crisp.
  • Cool completely and store in air tight container.
  • Enjoy!! 


February 20, 2015

Pink Pasta Sauce

Looking for a bright & colorful way to serve your pasta? Here is a pink sauce made with beets and hemp hearts. I know some of you are already frowning skeptically.... hmm, I was skeptical myself about trying this with beet. I am not a huge of fan of beets, but I never give up on any vegetable, feel they deserve a second chance :-). I keep trying different ways to include them and here I have disguised it in a sauce, and why not when beets are loaded with nutrition that is relevant especially in winter. Read here to know what Dr Mercola has to say about the benefits of beets.

This sauce was first introduced in the quick'n'healthy kitchen on a valentine's day for a pink themed packed lunch for my son. He got his organic pasta with this sauce in his lunch and loved it, though it was pink :-). His friends said that in general it might not taste good, but if its your mom who cooked it it has to be good :-).  We made ourselves a warm batch of pink risotto with some steamed vegetables and wild rice. So go ahead and try this pink sauce, this might make you a fan of beets after all :-).





Ingredients: 
  • Beet root - 3
  • Garlic cloves - 7-8
  • Hemp hearts - 3/4 cup
  • EV olive oil - 2-3 Tbs
  • Black pepper - 1 tsp
  • Green chilly - 2-3 (optional)
  • Sea salt - as per taste

Directions: 
  • Trim the edges and rub the beets nicely to remove any dirt. Slice into 1/4 inch slices.
  • Heat olive oil on medium heat and roast garlic and beet slices turning a few times, for about 5-8 minutes. Let it cool. 
  • Blend roasted beets and garlic along with remaining ingredients and blend till nice and creamy.
  • Serve with your choice of pasta, or with steamed veggies, use it to make a flavorful risotto, or enjoy it by spoonful just as is :)


February 12, 2015

Hearty Muesli

Just before going to bed last night I was planning the breakfast for the next day. My husband said "let us make Muesli, you just soak some oats". We had an argument on whether Muesli was a wet dish or a dry granola-like dish. I had to do some research, and it turns out he was right, Muesli is made by soaking oats overnight in a sour medium and then consumed in the morning with milk or yogurt along with other healthy toppings. 

This easy dish has an interesting story behind it. It was introduced around 1900 by the Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner for patients in his hospital, where a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables was an essential part of therapy. It is interesting to note that about a century ago there were doctors who thought nutrition should be part of healing. 

Today's post is a hearty, nourishing Muesli recipe, which is so easy to make, easy to customize and easy to put together with little bit of planning. As always 'quicknhealthy' :-). Please be creative and use your own mix of whole grains and toppings that are to your liking. And as always use as much organic ingredients as possible. 



Ingredients:
  • Organic rolled oats - 1 cup
  • Homemade organic yogurt - 1 Tbs
  • Filtered water - enough to cover the oats (~1/2 cup)
  • Homemade coconut milk - 2 1/2 cups
  • Dates - 2-3
  • Cardamom - 1-2 (optional)
  • Arrowroot powder - 2 Tbs (optional)
  • Chia seeds - 2 Tbs (optional)
  • Blueberries - 1 cup (fresh or frozen)
  • Hemp hearts - 3 Tbs (optional for topping)
  • Banana - 3 (for topping)
Directions:
  • Soak oats in filtered water and yogurt for 8 hours or overnight. 
  • If you are making homemade coconut milk, you can make that ahead of time. You can also use organic whole milk or any other non-dairy milk of your choice. 
  • Blend the milk, cardamom (skin removed) and dates together in a high speed blender to make kind of a 'sweetened flavored milk'. Transfer to a saucepan.
  • Mix arrowroot powder with a few tablespoons of milk without any lumps, add to the saucepan with milk. Start cooking at low medium heat stirring continuously till the milk slightly thickened and creamy, for about 8-10 minutes. (if you are not using arrowroot powder, skip this step, just heat the coconut milk)
  • Add the soaked oats, stir well continue cooking till everything is evenly heated. 
  • Mix in the blueberries, chia seeds and hemp hearts. 
  • Serve warm topped with sliced bananas. 
  • This makes about 3 to 4 servings. Enjoy!!

February 10, 2015

Spiced Goji Coconut Barfi

The story for the past few weeks in the New England areas has been " If it is Monday, then it is a snowstorm" :-). 3 weeks of heavy snow, schools off (or delayed) and work-from-home days..., it is all happening. When its snowing outside and you are working remotely from home, you can loose focus (and control), and reach out for one or two extra mid-day snacks than usual :-). It is good to have a few options of healthy energy rich and nutritious snacks for such days. Preferably made with wholesome ingredients and without any processed ingredients, and more importantly without added sugar. Here is a recipe for a spiced barfi or bites made with goji berries, dried coconut, virgin coconut oil, spices and lightly sweetened with a few dates. A perfect mid day snack for a winter day, can also be used as an energy snack before your workout. 


Ingredients:
  • Goji berries - 1 cup
  • Dates - 3-4 (optional) 
  • Shredded coconut - 1 1/2 cup
  • Red chilly powder - 1/4 tsp (or vary based on your preference)
  • Ginger powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Cinnamon - 1/2 tsp 
  • Himalayan pink salt - a pinch
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1/2 cup

Directions:
  • Add goji berries and dates (if using to a food processor or blender) and process till everything is powdered coarsely. 
  • Add remaining ingredients and process till everything is combined well to form a dough.
  • Line a tray with parchment paper and transfer the dough and press down evenly.
  • Set aside in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to harden. 
  • Cut into preferred shapes sizes and serve. In warm weather, you should keep this refrigerated till ready to serve. 
  • Makes about 30 1' square barfis. Enjoy!!


February 7, 2015

Homemade Body Butter

I am generally not someone who use any kind of cosmetics, including makeup, beauty products, hair dye or any such products. My features are part of my characteristics and make me what I am, and I don't like to change them to look like someone else. There are certain things that I have to do though living in this part of the country where it can get very dry during the winter, and hence I need to use a moisturizing cream. Most  of the commercial bath and body products have endless lists of ingredients out of which you will not even be able to understand half of them. Many are definitely not good for you, while some are harmful instead of being useful. I try to use natural and organic products as much as practical. There is nothing more luxurious than homemade bath and body products. 

We have been using pure organic coconut oil as a moisturizer, but I wanted something that is more creamier and with the scent of my preference.  Have been reading on many DIY sites on  making our own cream and I really wanted to give it a try. So here is my first attempt at it and it has been great so far. It is made with pure and wholesome ingredients, that this is quite edible :). I will provide updates as I keep improving this and create more varieties. 


Ingredients:
  • Organic virgin coconut oil - 1 cup 
  • Good quality pure Shea butter - 1/2 cup
  • Organic extra virgin olive oil - 1/2 cup 
  • Wheat germ oil - 1 Tbs
  • Pure rose essential oil - 20 -30 drops
Directions:
  • Melt coconut oil and Shea butter by keeping them in a warm water bath. Melt just enough so that you can mix them together well. 
  • Add the melted coconut oil, Shea butter, olive oil and wheat germ oil in a large mixing bowl. 
  • Add the essential oil and stir  well.
  • At this point if you feel the mixture is too 'liquidy', keep refrigerated till it is semi solid.
  • Using a electric hand mixture whip this mixture till it is nice and creamy. 
  • Transfer to a container, store in a cool dry place preferably where it does not go above 60-65 deg F
  • Enjoy pampering yourself with your own homemade body butter. Little goes a long way, this is on an average enough for about a month. 

Notes: 
  • You can change the fats and oils, just keep in mind to have a 3:1 solid to liquid ratio. Cacao butter is a good, but expensive substitute for Shea butter, so is almond oil in place of olive oil :)
  • You can substitute wheat germ oil with any other vitamin E rich oil. 
  • You can use any preferred essential oil like sandalwood, lavender, orange, peppermint etc.
  • Please store in a cool place so the texture remains creamy and do not start melting.

February 4, 2015

Middle Eastern Style Green Pilaf

Here is yet another recipe for the lunch box. A middle eastern style pilaf made with bulgur wheat, chickpeas, greens and apples, and mildly spiced with aromatic middle eastern style spice mix. For a gluten-free option, substitute bulgur with quinoa or wild rice. Easy to put together and packs well for a warm winter day lunch. Substitute chickpeas with other kinds of beans/lentils for variations. 


Ingredients:
  • Bulgur wheat - 1/2 cup (soaked overnight)
  • Black chickpeas - 1/2 cup (Soaked overnight) 
  • Middle eastern style spice mix - 2 tsp (recipe below) 
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • EV olive oil - 2-3 Tbs
  • Red onion - 1 
  • Garlic - 2-3 cloves
  • Baby kale - 4 cups  (or spinach) 
  • Bell pepper - 1 (chopped fine) 
  • Apple - 1 (chopped)
  • Minced coriander/mint leaves- 1/4 cup 

Directions:
  • Drain and cook chickpeas with 1/2 cup of water using a sauce pan or pressure cooker. 
  • Once chickpea is almost cooked, add drained bulgur wheat and continue cooking till all water is absorbed and everything is cooked well. (note: soaked bulgur will cook in no time)
  • Heat 1 Tbs of olive oil, sauté garlic till slightly golden. Add onion and sauté till slightly pink.
  • Add cooked chickpea and bulgur, along with the spices and salt. Add chopped greens and bell pepper and cook till just wilted. 
  • Switch off add chopped apples and minced coriander/mint leaves and mix well.
  • Serve warm or pack for a warm packed lunch. 
  • Makes 3-4 servings. Enjoy!! 



Middle Eastern Style Spice Mix
  • Coriander seeds - 2 tsp
  • Cardamom - 4
  • Red chilly - 4-5
  • Black pepper - 1 tsp
  • Ground cinnamon - 1 tsp (or 1 inch stick) 
  • Grind everything using a coffee grinder.