Friday, July 29, 2011

Savoring Seasonal Vegetables

One great thing about summer is that you can simply start your grill and cook a number of quick meals in a matter of minutes.  For a quick, healthy and delicious way to eat your vegetables, grill them.  Then eat them as is, in a salad or with bread - they are succulent and flavorful.  Toss in some spices or home made dressing, mix and match, and you have enough variety for a whole week.

Let's start off with some grilled peppers, eggplants and zucchini.

Grilled Vegetables

2 cups Slices/Strips of  peppers, eggplants and zucchini - make it colorful
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp Red crushed pepper/curry powder for spiciness (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl until all vegetables are coated evenly.

Grill on each side for a couple of minutes each, until done and marked.

This may be eaten with yogurt relish on the side (great on a hot day).  Add other vegetables such as onions, tomatoes,potatoes or mushrooms.  You could also add tofu.  If you are making a veggie panini, add goat cheese for that extra punch.  Experiment with other herbs and spices to make these your own!  Enjoy...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

'Good For You' Grapefruit Salad

I had a wonderful weekend.   A little short on sleep, but apart from that, it was wonderful.  Made a trip to the beach, shopped at the outlets, had dinner at two restaurants, and watched a movie while sipping superb Ecuadorian coffee, all in the enjoyable company of some very good friends.  I headed back to work feeling elated and energetic.  It is amazing what friends (and a weekend without cooking and cleaning) can do for a woman!

So, of course, I am all pepped up to have a great breakfast and a healthy lunch and am hoping to continue that trend for the rest of this week (we shall see...occasionally, I will come upon something that triggers my sweet tooth and I go on a wild binge - so NOT good for you!)

Grapefruit - This unassuming citrus fruit, not as popular as it's smaller buddy, the orange, is touted by health nuts as a superfruit, rich in detox enzymes, Vitamin A and C, and the antioxidant Lycopene.  It is also a good source of folate, iron, calcium, and other minerals. So, today, let us look at a breakfast and lunch version of grapefruit salad - that should help ease my conscience for having eaten rather irresponsibly the last three days.

Grapefruit Salad, in the morning

1/2 grapefruit, peeled and diced (warning - takes a few minutes, needs practice)
5 leaves mint, finely chopped
3 drops lemon juice (you may add more if you like it tart)
1/2 tsp sugar or honey

Toss ingredients in bowl and enjoy.  Feel free to add crumbled cheese or roasted nuts to the mix, to make this more filling.

Grapefruit Salad, for lunch

1 grapefruit, peeled and diced
2 cups spring mix
1/2 cup roasted cashew nuts
1/2 cup red onion, sliced
1/2 cup cucumber, sliced

2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
 salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp chili powder (optional)

Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl.  Throw in the rest of the ingredients and mix.  This is really good stuff.

Variations:  Granish with different herbs.  Use walnuts or almonds instead of cashew nuts, although cashews taste better.  Add other ingredients like spinach or avocado for a healthier version. You could even add tofu.

Have a healthy week!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Charming Chick Peas (Chatpate Chhole)

When I reach home this evening, I will have about an hour to put together a meal for friends who are visiting us from Canada.  They are 3 families, and then there's our family too.  So , what can I make in under an hour for 4 families that constitutes a complete meal?

Here is what I have in mind - Chhole (or Curried Chick Peas), Naan (store bought in this case) and Rice, accompanied by salad and/or yogurt relish, and pickled onions.

Curried Chick Peas  (this recipe serves 2 people)

1 can chick peas or garbanzo beans (16 oz)
2 bay leaves
1 finely chopped onion
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tsp garam masala powder
2 tsp coriander powder
4-6 slit green chillies (optional)
1 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
1 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

Wash and drain chickpeas and keep aside.

Heat oil in a pan,add cumin seeds and bay leaves, allow cumin seeds to roast until slightly dark.  Add the slit green chillies and ginger-garlic paste, followed by onions, stirring as you go.  Saute until onions are pinkish brown.  Now add the spices and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add tomato sauce and chick peas and mix contents.  Pressure cook for 10 minutes (this lets the flavor of the spices seep into the chick peas; alternatively, cook covered in a sauce pan on sim for 20 minutes) .

Top with lemon juice and garnish with coriander leaves.

The chick peas may be served hot with rice and flatbread. 

Variations include adding kale or potato to the chick peas.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Snappy Spinach Fry

I went out and bought a bike this morning.  All through spring and early summer, I have been fantasizing about riding a bike.  I was jumpy all morning waiting for lunch break, so I could pull out my shiny new bike, and take it for a spin.  After the initial scramble for balance (from not having touched a bike in years), I set off like a free bird.  It was a thrilling, exhilarating experience, just me and nature in a quiet, peaceful setting with a view of lush green grass and colorful flowers, and the birds keeping tune with my gleeful humming.  Despite the daily commute, I feel fortunate to be able to work in such pretty surroundings, a place that is a tranquil retreat, away from the city’s industrial concrete, and the hustle and bustle of suburban fast food joints and supermarkets. Also, it is a secure place for a “re-beginner” to ride a bike, due to the absence of traffic. J
I returned to my desk with a chirpiness scarcely seen on warm afternoons in employees who would much rather prefer to nap after a heavy lunch!  If a short bike alone can be so exhilarating, I paused to wonder, what does a pilot feel like when launching into the air, soaring above the clouds, leaving the ground and lesser mortals beneath him?  It must be a breath-taking, liberating experience!  Having imagined that, I am now back to my computer, trying to get a few words in, before I dive into a new assignment.  Today’s recipe is a very simple spinach fry, that can be eaten as is, or loaded with frills and fancies, whatever your heart desires (You can tell I am still a little high here – exercise, endorphins, the works…)
Spinach fry
2 cups chopped spinach – fresh or frozen
1/4 cup sliced onion (optional)
1/2 tsp finely chopped green chilies (optional)
1 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
1 tsp Curry powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
Heat oil in a pan, add cumin and fenugreek seeds for a few seconds until roasted.  Add the sliced onions, and sauté until pink.  Add spinach, salt and curry powder.  Cook covered for a few minutes at medium heat, stir occasionally.  Spinach cooks real quick, so you have something tasty and healthy to eat, in a snap.  Hats off to spinach for being one of the most nutritious vegetables -  it is very high in calcium, fiber, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.  The only downside is that it is high in sodium.

Variations for this dish include the addition of garlic, other vegetables and tofu.  Simple and succulent, this is a real hit in any season. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Easy Cheesy Veg Muffins

While we are on the subject of baking, how about some vegetable muffins for the kids?
Easy Cheesy Vegetable Muffins
1 cup finely chopped/grated vegs : broccoli, tomatoes, onions, zucchini, peppers, etc
1 cup all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp milk
Salt to taste
½ cup grated cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl, pour into greased muffin tray.
Bake for about 20 minutes until done (toothpick inserted in center comes out clean)
These are good anytime, for kids and grown-ups alike.  Experiment with different vegetables and herbs.  Add finely chopped green chillies to the mix, for spiciness. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Heavenly Jalapeno Bread

I love freshly baked bread.  Growing up, I remember buying bread from a bakery called Paris Bakery.  I still remember the crisp smell of their baked goods and the pleasure of eating them.  Recently, we enjoyed homemade bread and cheese fondue at a friend's place, and now I am tempted to bake my own. 

For spice, we will add finely chopped jalapeno to the dough.  It looks intimidating, but with practice, and some instant yeast, baking bread is a breeze.

Jalapeno Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup finely chopped jalapeno (optional)

Fold in all ingredients in a bowl, cover and let sit overnight in a warm spot.  The next morning, you will see that the dough has risen and is bubbly.  Fold over a few times with floured hands into a ball.  Let it sit for a couple of hours.

Preheat oven to 450F.

Bake for about 40 minutes until crust is golden brown and inside is done (toothpick inserted in center comes out clean).

Cut into slices after bread has cooled.  Enjoy a slice with butter or cheese spread.  Yum!

Picture below shows Cheddar Jalapeno bread...

Tuesday Morning Blues...

It is Tuesday, July 5th, and although this promises to be a short week, I had a hard time getting ready for work this morning.  This weekend was pretty good for me in that I did not clean closets, a dreadfully boring task.  Instead, I took my daughter to the movies, which I never do (many thanks to my hubby for this; he watched my little one the whole time)!  We went to watch Cars 2 – superbly entertaining.  Instead of cleaning curtains and comforters, I took my little one out in her stroller twice every day. 
Unlike most people, instead of winding down on Sunday night in anticipation of the routine and running around slated for the coming week, I go into overdrive, trying to do all the things that I was not able to get to over the weekend.  This way I do not have tasks piled up for the next weekend, and me being me (cleaning compulsive, although you wouldn’t think it when you come visiting!), I probably would not be able to endure a whole week with too many pending things staring me in the face. 
Last night, however, I resisted.  I had had a good weekend so far.   I did end up doing a lot of dishes, and laundry, of course!  However, I did go to the movies, and I did catch up on some long overdue reading and also managed to watch a movie at home, albeit in two sittings (which isn’t bad).   All the ‘me’ time at home was at the expense of some much needed beauty sleep, staying up until the wee hours of the morning!  That’s why I say – no pain, no gain!  Gotta work on some easy peasy recipes for the week to give myself a break.  But first, let’s focus on today’s breakfast item, it’s gotta be grab-and-go, but healthy. 

Yogurt Parfait
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup blueberries (I love berries)
½ cup granola/chopped nuts

Top yogurt with berries and granola/nuts, enjoy!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Relish Yogurt?

I hope you are one of those people that loves yogurt, because today we shall make yogurt relish.  Perhaps this will make it more attractive to those of you who don't like plain yogurt.  The variations are amazing too!

Yogurt Relish

1 Persian cucumber - peeled and grated
1 cups Greek yogurt
1 minced garlic
salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon white sugar (optional)
1/4 tsp minced green chillies (optional)
1/2 tsp roasted cumin, coarsely ground (optional)
1 tsp roasted peanuts, coarsely ground (optional)
Finely Chopped cilantro for garnish
Picture from

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Serve cold.
Variations:  Use finely chopped onions(skip the garlic in this case), cooked eggplant, boiled potato or chick peas, or chopped up fruits in place of cucumber.  Use int instead of cilantro. 

By the way, this goes great with tomato rice! :-)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tangy Tomato Rice

Today's recipe is a special recipe that I learned to make from a a co-worker who was very precise in her cooking, and well, maybe everything else too. I was always impressed with her foresight and how she handled certain situations, especially with her communication skills, and although she has now moved overseas, I remember her often. I hope to imbibe more of her qualities in me, and hope to see her when she visits.

Today's posting is special for another reason too - this recipe is for a very special friend, someone who is sensible and supportive, and certainly more mature than I!  For now, let's savor the taste of some tangy tomato rice, which can be made in a jiffy!

Tomato Rice

1 cup basmati rice  

1 tbsp tomato paste
1 large onion (cut length wise)
1 tbsp  ginger garlic paste
Finely chopped Mint leaves (half bunch)
Salt to taste
1 tsp chili powder(optional – for heat)
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
1 tsp black cumin seeds
2 cloves
2 Cardamoms
2 small cinnamon sticks
2 Bay leaves
10 Cashew nuts
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Finely chopped Cilantro leaves for garnish
Picture from
Cook rice , drain and keep aside. Rice should not be sticky.  
In a pan, Add unsalted butter, cloves, cardamoms, bay leaves, cumin seeds and cashew nuts.
After 2 minutes, add onions. When onions are golden brown, add ginger garlic paste & mint leaves.
After a few minutes of sauté, add tomato paste. Add salt, chili powder and curry powder and let it cook for 10 minutes.
Add the cooked rice and mix gently.
Sprinkle with Cilantro and 1 tsp lemon juice over the top before serving.  
 During the summer, this is great to eat with yogurt or buttermilk.
Have a Happy 4th!