Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gluten-free Banana-Walnut Cranberry Bread



I always have a surplus of bananas in my house. My little ones and I eat one banana every morning for breakfast. As long as my kids eat one whole banana and drink one glass of milk, I don't stress about them eating or not eating anything else for breakfast. Bananas here in the US are big and filling. Coming back to the ones in my home, sometimes they become overripe and mushy:( Thrifty that I am, I hate to throw them. Previously, I used to make halwa out of them, but now I automatically say " Banana Bread". This is thanks to my very dear friend Phani. She is efficiency personified! She is also a marvelous cook. She passed on this recipe to me and it is absolutely foolproof. Her version is with whole wheat flour. I have substituted it with Oat flour and added some cranberries. Oats is gluten-free as long as it is specified on the box. This is because quite often it is processed at the same factory/plant where wheat and wheat products are processed and therefore can be contaminated with wheat. This could be a issue if one is gluten-intolerant.

Everyone needs a little dessert now and  this is one of my few indulgences. I hardly eat more than a slice once-in-a-while. My husband relishes it more with his evening tea.

Servings:8


Ingredients:


Oat flour: 2 cups( for regular kind you can use wheat flour)

Baking soda: 1 tsp
Salt:1/4 tsp
Ground cinnamon: 1/2 tsp
Ground nutmeg: 1/4 tsp
Vanilla extract:1 tsp
Butter:1/2 cup
Brown sugar:3/4 cup
Eggs: 3 beaten
Overripe bananas: 2 1/3 cups(6 bananas),mashed
Walnuts:1/2 cup,chopped(optional) 
Dried cranberries: 1/4 cup ( optional)


Method:


Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and keep aside.

Beat together the butter, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg  in a medium bowl until fluffy. 

Add the mashed bananas, and eggs, beating until the mixture is homogenous. 

Add the flour and nuts, stirring until it is mixed well. 

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and let it rest uncovered for 10 minutes at room temperature.

Bake the bread for 50 minutes. 

Lay a piece of foil gently across the top and bake until a cake tester (like a toothpick) inserted into the center comes out clean, 10 to 15 minutes more. 

Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes before turning it out of the pan onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve warm with tea.

For those who are not calorie conscious, you can spread some butter on it and eat.Absolutely divine! If you are even more enterprising, eat it warm with a scoop of your favorite ice-cream!

Enjoy!


Cooking made easy:


Before you start cooking make sure you have all the required ingredients in front of you. This way you don't have to run looking for something when you are halfway through the recipe.

Tip for healthy living:


Bananas are considered a complete food by itself. It is such a rich source of essential nutrients. My mother says that eating a banana first thing in the morning boosts your metabolism. Banana is rich in potassium helps keep the heart healthy.It is known to be a prebiotic and helps the good bacteria in the gut to flourish. It is also beneficial in the treatment of diarrhea.It also apparently has a beneficial role in people with diabetes, blood pressure & asthma .It supposedly also helps prevent cancer.

References:
http://www.livestrong.com/article/505406-top-ten-health-benefits-of-bananas/
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=7
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/271157.php


Food for thought:


Never give up.( unknown)


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ghosale Sheera Chutney ( Ridge Gourd Peel Chutney)



Whenever I make Ghosale upkari ( ridge gourd stir-fry), I save the peel and make this absolutely delicious and healthy chutney out of it.  The ridge gourd peel is fibrous and hence this chutney is rich in fiber, thereby contributing towards my daily dietary fiber intake.Even though this chutney is ubiquitous in Konkani households, I learnt this recipe from my mother-in-law. Her's I think comes out better than mine :)

Ingredients:


Ghosale sheera (ridge gourd peel): from 2 ridge-gourd.
Coconut Oil/ghee: 1 tsp
Mustard: 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves: 1 sprig
Jeera ( cumin): 1 tsp
Black pepper corns: 1 tsp
Green chillies : 2
Tamarind : marble size ( if using pulp, use 1/4 tsp)
Asofoetida: pinch 
Jaggery/ Palm sugar:1/2 tsp
Freshly grated coconut: 1/2 cup ( you could put upto one cup if you wish)
Salt: 1tsp ( adjust according to your taste)
Water: 1/2+1/2 cup

Method:

With your fingers, break the ridge gourd peel and check for thread like fibers. Remove and discard them. Wash and Clean the tender peel and keep aside.


\\


In a sauté pan, heat oil/ghee, splutter  mustard seeds. Then add curry leaves,jeera, pepper corns and green chillies. Sauté for a minute.





Now add the cleaned and washed ridge gourd peel and fry it for 4-5 mins on low flame.Add 1/2 cup water and let it cook for 5-8 mins.



Turn the flame off and let it cool down.Now add freshly grated coconut, asofoetida, tamarind, jaggery, salt and grind in a blender to a smooth paste. Add the other 1/2 cup water while grinding as needed.






Serve with rice/ dosa/idlis or even in a sandwich.

Can be stored in an airtight container for upto 1 week.


Cooking made easy:


While making the above chutney, I sometimes add the green chillies and coconut while sautéing the ridge gourd peel . Then I let it cool down and grind it with other ingredients. This increases the shelf-life of the chutney.

Keeping a chutney  handy makes breakfast and dinner easy.

Tip for healthy living:


Both Jeera ( Cumin) and black pepper aid in digestion.
Cumin is helpful in counteracting nausea and morning sickness.It is also purported to have anti-diabetic, anti-epileptic, anti-tumor, anti-microbial and immunologic activities in the human body. Cumin is also a source of magnesium & iron.

References:
http://www.namahjournal.com/doc/Actual/Jeeraka-or-cumin-and-caraway-%28-cuminum-cyminum-and-carum-carvi-%29-Vol-18-iss-3.html
http://phcogj.com/105530pj2011251
http://www.livestrong.com/article/415653-ground-cumin-health-benefits/#page=4


Food for thought:

Never say NEVER. ( Unknown)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ghosale Upkari ( Ridge Gourd Stir-Fry).


Ghosale ( Ridge Gourd) is another one of my father-in-law's favorite vegetables. My mother-in-law teases my father-in-law with a small poem that she has made connecting the days of the week and his favorite vegetable to be cooked that day!


Ghosale aka Ridge gourd is also known as Luffa or Chinese okra. It has different names in different parts of India. It is known as Herekayi in Kannada, Adavi Beera in Telugu, Peechinga in Malyalam, Dodka in Marathi and Turai in Northern India and so on. You can find more herehttp://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luffa
This is another one of the vegetables that is gentle on the digestive system and can be safely eaten when one is sick or is on any kind of elimination diet. It also is known to have several medicinal values.



The stir fry is easy and quick to make and requires very few ingredients. This too is one of my favorites for weeknight dinners.

Servings: 4 


Ingredients:


Ghosale ( Ridge gourd) :2 medium sized.
Mustard: 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds ( jeera): 1/4 tsp
Green chillies: 1-2 (as per your spice level) ( I use one when I am making it for my little ones.)
Coconut oil: 1 tsp. ( you can use any cooking oil of your preference, I use coconut oil in mine).
Jaggery(molasses)/ sugar:1 tsp
Salt to taste.
Freshly grated coconut: 1 tbsp ( optional).


Method:


With a paring knife/ peeler,peel the ridges off the Ridge gourd.





Cut the ridge gourd (poddale) lengthwise twice.Then slice thinly horizontally so that you have 2 cms long thin slices and keep aside.



Slit the green chillies and keep aside.


Heat a sauté pan/ wok on medium heat,add 1 tsp coconut oil. Now add the mustard seeds. 

Once the mustard seeds splutter, add the cumin seeds, then the slit green chillies.

Now add the sliced ghosale( ridge gourd) and sauté.Add a little bit of salt and 1tsp sugar. 



Reduce the flame to low, cover the pan and cook until the vegetable is soft enough to eat. Generally takes about 15 minutes.




Garnish with freshly grated coconut. Serve with rice / bread.

Cooking made easy:


Make sure you cook on low flame as you want the vegetable to cook in it's own juices. Increasing the flame, makes the fluid evaporate quickly thereby increasing the chances of burning your vegetable.

Vegetables in the US tend to have higher water content and hence do not require additional water to be added while cooking. But if you find the pan getting too hot or you are in danger of burning the vegetable
then you can sprinkle some water and let it cook to your desired level of softness. It should not be mushy.

In India, for the above recipe, you can add 1/2 to 1 cup of water as needed. You can also cook it in a pressure pan. If you are doing so, add 3/4 cup of water, cover and let it cook on medium flame with the pressure cooker weight on, until you hear 2 whistles from the cooker. Turn the flame off and weight for the cooker to cook down completely before opening the lid. This is the pressure cooker method for most vegetables to be cooked in India.

Cooking the vegetable in it's own juices also has the advantage that we don't lose much nutrients.


Tip for healthy living:


"Activity, activity, activity ", this is the mantra for healthy living. When you are physically active, you automatically burn calories. This is especially true for the elderly and retired people. When you work you automatically move, walk and get out of the house. Whereas after retirement, most people don't find the necessity to get out of the house. This significantly limits the amount of physical activity. You have to find reasons to get out of the house atleast once a day. Find stuff to do around the house.This will get your joints moving. The more active you are, the better you will be.


Food for thought:


To err is human; to forgive is divine.( Alexander Pope).


Friday, February 21, 2014

One month of blogging!



Yay! Today makes a month since I started this blog. 

First and foremost let me express my heartfelt gratitude to all of you, especially my family and friends who have encouraged and supported me with this blog. Secondly, I would like to express my admiration of all those wonderful bloggers out there who dedicate all their time to blogging!Cooking is the easy part. It takes a lot of time and effort  to write down the recipes, take pictures, edit and post them. So many of the bloggers do such a great job of presenting their material; eloquently written text, eye catching pictures, step-by-step recipes; hats off to you all! Keep up the good work! For me, so far writing this blog has been a learning process. I, who didn't even know what a blog was, had a lot of learning to do. From  selecting a name, selecting a platform, the pros & cons of each one of them; getting a "this name is unavailable" message for 3 days straight... Ugh! It was frustrating! Then came the template selection, font, having to deal with widgets and gadgets, getting familiar with design.. It is still a work in progress..... especially since I know absolutely nothing about computers, software, web design etc. Next came the pictures.. I can cook, but I have no clue about photography . I don't have a single artistic bone in my entire body ! I also had to figure out how to watermark my pictures! I didn't know A,B,C of watermarking. Not only did I have to learn that , I had to find and figure out a software that worked for me (free of course since blogs don't bring you money)!

All that being said,I am still here. Let's see how far I can go. I do need your constant feedback and encouragement.

 If you have tried something and like it, do leave a comment and let me know. You can also email me pictures of what you tried and I will put it up here. If you have any suggestions for improvement or any requests, do tell me and I will do my best to apply it. My sister suggested that I should elaborate on the "Tip for healthy living" section. I will try my best to do that and provide references that are more reliable and valid.

Once again, thanks for visiting my blog. Have fun cooking, eating and  living healthy ! 

Cheers,

Suchitra



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quick Egg Curry



When I used to live in a shared apartment , one of my flat mates, Aleyamma was from Kerala. I had the good privilege of learning some of the dishes from the Malayali cuisine through her.One of my favorites was the egg curry that she used to make.It is simple, easy to make and requires very few ingredients.Here is the recipe for Aleyamma's "motta curry" as she used to call it.



Servings: 4


Ingredients:


Eggs: 4 boiled and peeled.
Coconut oil: 1 tbsp
Mustard: 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves: 1 sprig
Garlic: 4 cloves,chopped fine
Ginger: 1 inch, chopped fine
Onion: 1 medium, chopped fine
Haldi( turmeric) powder: 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder(cayenne pepper): 1 tsp
Garam masala: 1/4 tsp 
Water:1/4 cup
Coconut milk: 1/2-1 cup ( as per your taste).( I used canned coconut milk).
Salt to taste
Cilantro/ coriander leaves

Method:


Heat oil in a wok/ sauté pan on medium heat.Temper mustard. Once it splutters, add curry leaves, garlic.Sauté for few seconds.

Then add ginger, sauté for few seconds. Now add the chopped onions. Sauté until the onions turn golden brown. 

Now add haldi( turmeric powder), chilli powder, garam masala and sauté for a minute.

Add 1/4 cup water. 

Add the coconut milk and simmer for 2-3 mins. 

Slice the eggs into two and drop it in the above sauce. 

Garnish with coriander leaves.





Serve hot with rice/ idlis / bread.

Cooking made easy:


The ideal method of boiling eggs to perfection is to drop them into boiling water, let it boil for 10 minutes. Then turn off the stove, cover the pot with a lid for another 10 mins. Promptly cool it in a bowl of cold water and peel it.

Tip for healthy living:


A lot people tend to eat egg whites alone, throwing the yolk away. They do this believing that the yolk in the eggs will lead to increased cholesterol and heart disease.Egg yolk is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and is beneficial to the body.Most of the nutrients in the egg is concentrated in the yolk.The yolk is rich in minerals like calcium and magnesium and important vitamins like RIboflavin, folate,vitamin B6, B12, vitamin A & E.Harvard School of Public Health states that eating one egg per day will not increase the risk of heart disease in healthy individuals.Of course, people with established heart disease and diabetes have to try and be cautious with egg yolk consumption.

References:
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/eggs/
http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/Egg_Yolk.html
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/guilty-foods-are-surprisingly-good-you
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=92

Food for thought:


Necessity is the mother of all inventions. ( Plato)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Garlic Sautéed Beets With Leaves.





I have to have some greens everyday.  While I was familiar with the greens available in India , and often cooked it,here availability is a issue as these are only available in Indian grocery stores.During winter,my trips to the Indian store are rather infrequent. This got me on an adventure experimenting with the greens available in the vicinity.We have a  farmer's market nearby which I often frequent and came across fresh beets with its leaves. 



Back home we use the beets alone and throw the leaves. I decided to try and use the leaves. It came out yum. 

Here's the recipe:


Servings: 4


Ingredients:


Beets with its leaves: 4 nos
Coconut oil: 1 tbsp
Garlic: 4 cloves, chopped and lightly crushed
Dried Red chillis: 4 nos
Salt to taste

Method:


Soak the beets with leaves in cold water for 5 minutes. This allows the sand / mud settle at the bottom. Separate the leaves and stem from the beets. Now chop the beet leaves and keep aside. Peel the beets,dice them and keep aside.



Heat oil in a sauté pan/ wok on medium heat. Add crushed chopped garlic, sauté  until you smell the aroma of garlic. 

Add red chillies/ chilli pepper flakes.Add the diced beets and the chopped stems, lower the flame, cover and cook for 5 -7 mins. 

Now add the chopped leaves, salt  and cook on low flame until done without covering, approximately for another 10-15 minutes.



Serve hot with rice/ bread/ baked chicken/ baked fish.

Cooking made easy:


The above recipe can also be made with other greens like spinach, broccoli rabe. The only additional ingredient to be added is 1/2 tsp jaggery/sugar. This combats the bitterness of the greens. Beets being naturally sweet, does not require additional sugar/jaggery to be added.

Tip for healthy living:


Beets are great for good health. They are supposed to support anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and detoxification effects in the body.Beet is a liver-protective food and apparently helps reduce blood-pressure.Beet is a favorite part of raw-food diet and beet juice is very popular.
References:
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=49
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/benefits-beet-juice


Food for thought:


An idle mind is a Devil's workshop.(H.G.Bohn)

Beans Upkari (String Beans Stir-fry)



For some period of my life, I lived with my uncle Nammi mam and Lata aunty. They have a cook whom we fondly call "Namma",who cooks excellent Konkani meals. Anything she makes tastes delicious. She can infuse deliciousness into the simplest of dishes. One of the dishes she made is green beans upkari. The beans are chopped fine and cooked to a crisp finish. They look like bright green emeralds and taste great. Her dish calls for more oil. Being health conscious, mine has little oil and at times I also garnish it with freshly grated coconut. I absolutely love the taste of freshly grated coconut and find reasons to put it in my dishes :).This is a great side-dish for weeknight dinner.Here's the recipe:

Servings: 4


Ingredients:


Fresh green beans( string beans) : 1 lb (450 grams). Chopped into 0.5 cms length pieces.
Coconut oil: 1 tbsp( can use 1/2 tbsp for even more healthier version.) ( Any cooking oil can be used, I prefer to cook in coconut/ olive oil).
Mustard seeds: 1/4tsp
Dried Red chillies: 2 nos
Freshly grated coconut: 1 tbsp ( optional)
Salt to taste

Method:


Heat a sauté pan/ wok on medium heat. Add oil and mustard seeds. 

Once they splutter, add the red chillies and the chopped green beans. Add salt. 

Reduce the flame, cover and cook until done, approximately 15 minutes, sautéing in between.

Note: If cooking in India, you can add 1/2 cup water while cooking. Vegetables in the US tend to have higher water content, hence additional water is not required while cooking. If in India( or you are in a rush),the above dish can be made in a pressure pan. After adding the water, let it come to a boil, now cover the cooker lid, let it cook until you get 2 whistles. Open the cooker lid only after the hissing stops completely.

Garnish with grated coconut( optional)



Serve hot with rice.

Cooking made easy:


The above dish can be made with several other vegetables like potatoes, Chinese potatoes, okra, long beans (alsande) to name a few.It is quick, easy to make and healthy.

Tip for healthy living:


In recent years, there was a huge uproar that coconut, coconut oil should be limited in your diet as it is a saturated fat and would increase the cholesterol in the body and clog your arteries. Many people either switched to "healthy" oils like canola or corn. I have always believed that the way our ancestors lived was a healthier way. They lived closer o nature, and had healthier eating habits. So I wondered could all our previous generations who cooked exclusively in coconut oil be all wrong? In fact, my mother exclusively eats food that has been cooked only in coconut oil . Any other oil upsets her stomach and makes her sick. We now understand that the whole"coconut oil is bad for you" was a myth propagated by the big companies who wanted to promote canola and corn oil industries. In fact canola and corn production is a big industry! Today, health proponents are strongly promoting the use of coconut oil and sing praises of the health benefits of coconut . People are even encouraged to eat dry coconut pulp as a snack! 

Coconut oil apparently has medium chain fatty acids that are healthy and whose breakdown helps the liver burn energy in an efficient manner.It also acts as an anti-oxidant in the body.

References: 
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/surprising-health-benefits-coconut-oil
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/coconut-oil-and-health
http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/



Food for thought:


What goes around, comes around.(unknown)


Monday, February 17, 2014

Ambuli ( Green Mango) Chutney




Our yard had several mango trees and hence when they were full of raw mangoes, this chutney was often made at home. The taste of this chutney takes me back to my childhood days. Now whenever I visit the Indian store and find green mangoes, I surely bring them and make this chutney.


Ingredients:


Green mango: 1 medium sized
Freshly grated coconut: 1 cup
Green chillies : 3-4medium sized ( depending on the hotness of the chilli).
Fresh garlic:2 small cloves
Salt : 3/4 tsp
Water: 1/4 cup

Method:


Peel the green mango, separate and chop the pulp and keep aside.


In a blender add coconut, green chillies, garlic cloves,little waster and salt and blend to a fine paste. Now add the chopped raw mangoes and blend well.



Serve with rice/chapati/dosa/idli.




Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Note:

Please make sure that the mango is raw and sour.The pulp should look white in color.The pulp of the mango should not be sweet or yellow in color as this will change the taste of the chutney entirely!


Cooking made easy:


Chutneys like this can be made during weekends and serve as a great ready accompaniment to weeknight dinners.

Tip for healthy living:


Try to use glass/ceramic/porcelain containers instead of plastic containers for storing sour chutneys as they may react with the chemicals in the plastic .

Food for thought:

Speak clearly if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall. ( Oliver Wendell Holmes)


Sunday, February 16, 2014

SWEET 'n' SOUR FISH



I am an avid connoisseur of Asian cuisine . I not only like to eat it but also like to try and make it at home. One of my colleagues and close friend is a Filipino. Her sister is also a foodie and is into cooking healthy too. This recipe I learnt from my dear friend Jean & her sister Betty. It was an instant hit in my household. It's quick and easy to make.

Servings: 4


Ingredients :


Fish  fillets:  4 palm sized. ( I used Salmon. Tilapia or any bland dish can be used)

For marination:

Lemon juice: 1/2 lemon
Pepper: 1/2 tsp
Salt: 1/2 tsp

For the sauce:

Garlic: 1 tbsp chopped fine
Onion:1 medium sized ,  diced
Ginger:  2 inches, chopped julienne.
Bell pepper ( red and green): 1 cup diced into 1 inch squares.
Carrot: 1 medium , cut into strips
Cooking oil: 1tbsp for the sauce + 2 tbsp to fry fish
Water: 2 cups +1/2 cup
Tomato paste:3 tbsp
Brown sugar: ½ cup
Vinegar: ½ cup
1 tablespoon  cornstarch


Method:


The fish:

Clean the fish and marinate it with lemon juice salt & pepper.Keep it in the fridge for atleast 20mins.

Heat 1-2 tbps oil in a skillet/ frying pan and pan fry the fish till it flakes approximately 4-5 mins on each side. When done, keep it aside in a serving dish.

 The Sauce:

In a clean pan/ wok,  heat 1 tbsp oil. 

Then on high heat,sauté garlic, onion, carrots, ginger, and bell pepper ( red and green) a minute each. 

Add 2 cups of water and simmer for 5 mins.

Put in tomato paste, sugar, and vinegar then mix  thoroughly. 

Dilute cornstarch in ½ cup water and add it in. This will thicken the sauce.

Putting it together:

Pour the sauce on top of the fish

Serve hot with Jasmine rice.



Cooking made easy:

I did not have bell peppers with me, hence I have not used it in this dish. While cooking, try to make use of what is available in your fridge/pantry. Sometimes, some ingredients( if unimportant) can be substituted/ skipped if unavailable at the time you are cooking.This is not true all the time.

 This dish can be made with chicken too. Use boneless chicken breast. Cut it into bite size pieces and fry it.

Tip for healthy living:


Salmon is a very rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. It is also considered a super-food. Try and  eat wild salmon. Eating 2-3 servings per week of omega-3 fatty acid rich fish like salmon may help keep our heart healthy.

References:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-omega-3-health-benefits
http://www.readersdigest.ca/food/healthy-food/health-benefits-salmon
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=104

Food for thought:


Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.(Og Mandino).