Thursday, July 31, 2014

Banana-nut Chocolate- chip Muffins







It is fun to bake when you have a houseful ( in my case an apartment-full)of kids who appreciate, enjoy, relish and can afford to eat all the baked goodies! After all, they require energy to run around! I just love it! I had some bananas that were getting ready to go bad and decided to make banana-nut muffins.I usually make banana-nut bread, but muffins are easier to serve, easier to eat and easy to pack for picnics at the park. I threw in some chocolate chip for the extra temptation and drizzled some more chopped walnuts on top! The result was an irresistible Banana-nut chocolate-chip muffin. The kids loved it! My son didn't have the patience to wait to eat it! He kept saying "no,no,no" wiggling his cute little index finger every time I set out to take a picture! He just wouldn't let me take a good picture!









I was very happy to see them all gone in record time!



Servings: 2 dozen muffins


Ingredients:


Whole wheat flour: 2 cups+ 1 tbsp
Baking soda: 1 tsp
Salt:1/4 tsp
Ground cinnamon: ½ tsp
Ground nutmeg: ¼ tsp
Vanilla extract:1 tsp
Butter:1/2 cup
Brown sugar:3/4 cup
Eggs: 3
Overripe bananas: 2 cups(4 bananas),mashed
Walnuts:½ cup + 1/4 cup,chopped(optional)
Chocolate chips: 1/2cup


Method:


Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Line a muffin tray with cupcake liners and keep aside. If you don't have liners, you could just grease it.

Mix 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts with 1 tbsp flour and keep aside.

Using a electric mixer,beat together the butter, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg  in a medium bowl until creamy.

Add the banana, and eggs, beating until smooth.

Now add the flour in little by little stirring with a wooden spoon.

Mix in the nuts and chocolate chips.



Let it rest at room temperature, uncovered for 10 minutes.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tray.



Now sprinkle little bit of the dry flour mixed chopped walnuts on top of each muffin.

Place the tray on the center rack of the oven and  bake for 15-20 mins at 350 deg F. or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Take the muffin tray out and let it  cool for 10 minutes before removing  them out onto a rack to cool completely.








Enjoy them warm.

Cooking made easy:


Mixing the nuts with the flour prevents it from sinking into the batter.

To make muffins you don't necessarily need an electric mixer . You could just use a simple whisk. It will strengthen the arm muscles.;) Just kidding. The truth is there is not that much of mixing/ beating involved. The only thing that you have to worry about is making sure the butter is at room temperature, mixed with sugar and that the eggs are beaten well. The rest only need to be stirred or mixed gently. Over mixing the batter can make it hard.


Tip for healthy living:


Eating a banana first thing in the morning boosts your metabolism and kick-starts your day. It is a wholesome complete food containing all the essential  vitamins and minerals.Banana is rich in potassium and is a known prebiotic.

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prebiotic_(nutrition)
http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrition-vitamins-11/probiotics
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=7
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/humanbody/truthaboutfood/healthy/prebiotics.shtml


Food for thought:


Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Upma with vegetables( aka Baath)( Cream of wheat cooked with vegetables)







I think UPMA is one of the least liked breakfast items. It generally bland, tasteless and looks like a lump of cooked cream of wheat.. Right??



WRONG! Upma when made properly turns out delicious! It is all in how you make it. There is a very thin line between success and failure of UPMA. It has to be roasted to the right amount, there has to be the right amount to ghee( clarified butter) and the right amount of water. It should not be too dry or too runny. You know it is good when it easily and nicely leaves the pan when sautéing.

There are several ways of making upma. You could make it just with a tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves, urad dal, Chana dal and green chillies. In the end it is garnished with freshly grated coconut.This is usually the least liked version. Others add chopped onions to the above tempering which according to me makes it a little more tastier. Then others add chopped tomatoes in addition to the onions. Me, I add vegetables too and some nuts. This not only makes it tastier, it makes it healthier too.. My version is also called as Baath or Vegetable Baath and is commonly served for breakfast at Mangalorean GSB weddings and brahmopodesham( thread ceremony).

Servings: 4


Ingredients:


Sooji ( wheat semolina) : 1 cup
Peas and carrots: 1 cup, cooked.
Ghee( clarified butter): 2 tbsp
Cooking oil: 2tbsp
Mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves: 1 sprig
Urad dal: 1/2 tsp
Chana dal: 1/2 tsp
Cashew halves:1 tbsp( optional)
Onion: 1 medium, diced small
Green chillies: 2, slit lengthwise
Ginger-garlic paste: 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder(haldi): 1/4 tsp
Garam masala powder: 1/8 tsp
Sugar: 1/4 tsp
Cilantro leaves: 1 tbsp( for garnishing)
Salt: to taste
Water: 2 cups

Method:


Boil 2 cups water in a saucepan/ kettle.

Heat oil and ghee in a kadai/wok/sauté pan. Add mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds splutter, add the urad dal, chana dal and cashew halves. Sauté for few seconds. 



Add the split green chillies, curry leaves, ginger-garlic paste and chopped onions. Sauté until onions turn transparent.Add the turmeric powder and sauté for 5 seconds.


Add the tomatoes and saute until it wilts slightly.


Now add the sooji and saute for 3-4 mins on low until the sooji looks a little blossomed(bigger). You know it's done when you can appreciate the individual grains of semolina. 



Now add the cooked peas and carrots, salt, sugar, garam masala and 2 cups hot water. Add the water little by little, mixing well in between.


 Cover and cook on very low flame for 3-4 mins, stirring in between. You know the upma is done when it easily leaves the pan upon stirring.




Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.





Serve hot with some mixture, yogurt, chips or by itself.




Enjoy!

Cooking made easy:


Always cook this dish on medium-to-low flame.

Traditionally only ghee is used to make this dish.  I used a combination of oil and ghee so that it is a little more healthier. If too little ghee/oil is used, this dish turns out too dry.

Tip for healthy living:


Regular exercise plays a great role in keeping your body healthy. Try to move all your joints through it's range at least once a day. This will keep your joints flexible. Try to get in at least 45-60minutes of aerobic activity everyday. This keeps your cardiovascular system healthy. Examples of aerobic activity are walking, biking, swimming and jogging.

References:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Meatless Monday Cucumber Corn Salad





Making salads with cucumber is one of my favorites. It makes a great accompaniment to various rice dishes like pulao, biryani, puliyogre( tamarind rice), lemon rice etc. Cucumber is also very versatile. You could chop it, dice it, grate it, peel it .. The options are many. It easily compliments most other veggies use in a salad. My intent when I took the lone cucumber out from the refrigerator was to make a regular cucumber onion salad. Then I came across half a pack of corn in the freezer which I wanted to get rid of. I decided to use it in the salad. The end result was delicious, crisp salad. My son did not have the patience to wait for me to take a picture! :)



Servings: 3


Ingredients:


Cucumber: 1 medium, washed and diced.
Whole Corn kernels : 1 cup (fresh, canned, frozen)
Onion: 1 small, chopped.
Spring onion/ green onion: 2, chopped
Lemon juice: 1 tbsp
Lemon zest: 1 tsp
Extra virgin olive oil: 3 tbsp
Cilantro: 1 tbsp, chopped
Salt: 1/4- 1/2 tsp
Pepper: 1/2 tsp

Method:


In a salad bowl, add all the above ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Serve chilled with rice dishes or flatbread .

Enjoy!

Cooking made easy:


If you are using canned corn in the above dish, make sure you rinse the corn, drain it and then use it.

If you are using frozen corn, make sure you thaw it, steam it for 1 minute in the microwave, drain it and let it cool to room temperature before adding it to the salad.

Other vegetables like diced carrots, small cauliflower florets can be used in the above dish.

Tip for healthy living:


According to Ayurveda,cucumber has a cooling effect on the body when eaten.

Cucumber also helps get rid of dark circles around the eyes.Place one circular cucumber slice on each eye and rest for 1 hour. You will wake up feeling refreshed. Do this for a few days and you will see the dark circles reduce significantly.

References:
http://visual.ly/7-wonderful-benefits-cucumber-healthy-skin
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/16-superb-health-benefits-of-cucumber.html
http://www.naturalnews.com/036769_cucumbers_health_benefits_rehydration.html


Food for thought:


We may be personally defeated, but our principles never! William Lloyd Garrison

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mushroom Chilli



It is Friday! Friday means party.. time to party at Angie's Fiesta Friday. Today, I bring something spicy and yummy to the party...Mushroom Chilli. I hope everyone likes it.If you have not been to Angie's Fiesta Friday, I strongly suggest that you come once. You will be hooked!



I love mushrooms.Apart from several important nutrients like niacin, riboflavin, potassium and vitamin D, mushrooms are also rich in selenium which is an antioxidant . I like Chinese food but since I rarely eat out, I make most of them at home and in a much more healthier manner.Mushroom chilli is a favorite in my household. It is simple, quick and easy to make and absolutely delicious!


Servings: 4


Ingredients:


Mushrooms : One 8 oz package of Cremini or Baby bella,sliced 0.5 cms thick.
Onions: 1 medium,  diced medium
Garlic: 4 cloves,cut julienne
Ginger: 1 inch, cut julienne
Green chilli: 3,chopped fine
Bell pepper:1 large,diced medium( can use any color)
Soy sauce:2-3 tbsp
Vinegar: 1 tbsp
Corn flour/ corn starch:1 tbsp
Spring onions: 3,chopped fine
Olive Oil:2 tbsp
Sugar: pinch
Salt: to taste

Method:


Mix corn starch and soy sauce and keep aside.

Heat a wok on high heat,add oil. When oil  is hot, add garlic , then ginger. Sauté for 30 secs, then add chopped onions, sauté for 1-2 mins. 

Now add green chillies, bell pepper and then mushrooms. Saute for 2 minutes.

Now add salt, sugar and the cornstarch-soy sauce mixture and mix well. Let it cook for another 3-4 mins. 

Add vinegar and mix well.

Garnish with chopped spring onions.

Serve hot with jasmine rice!

Cooking made easy:


Avoid using wooden cutting boards to chop onion or garlic. The smell of the onion/ garlic never goes away from the cutting board.

Always wash the knife immediately after chopping onions or garlic. Not doing so will dull the blade of the knife.

Tip for healthy living:


One of the best ways to exfoliate your skin regularly is dry scrubbing.
Use a dry brush and thoroughly brush your skin before bathing. This not only gets rid of the dead skin, it apparently also increases the blood flow to the skin and also is purported to get rid of impurities from the body.
The end result is apparently radiant looking skin. Of course avoid dry brushing the delicate skin of the face.
References:
http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/1811708/
http://m.wikihow.com/Dry-Brush-Your-Skin
http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-7955/why-you-should-start-dry-body-brushing-today.html
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/02/24/dry-skin-brushing.aspx


Food for thought:


FEAR has two meanings: ' Forget Everything And Run' or Face Everything And Rise'. The choice is yours. Zig Ziglar

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Vern ( Sprouted Moong Bean Rasam/Saaru/ Soup)




Whenever I make muga ghashi at home, I somehow always end up making "vern"."Vern"( pronounced like fern with a "v"), is nothing but rasam/ saaru made by grinding cooked moong beans with coconut and chillies. For those who are unfamiliar with saaru, "saaru " is something liquidy like soup that is traditiobally served as an accompaniment to rice in Southern India. It is actually served over plain rice so that the rice does not have to be eaten dry. There are several varieties of saaru and this is just one of them. I am very fond of Vern and hence save some of the cooked moong beans and peel when I cook it for the muga ghashi and make this flavorful soup.

Servings: 6


Ingredients:


Cooked moong beans: 1/2 cup
Cooked moong bean peel: 1/2 cup
Grated fresh coconut: 1/2 cup
Red chilli: 2
Tamarind: marble sized if using dry, 1/2 tsp if using pulp.
Jeera( Cumin seeds): 1/4 tsp
Raw rice: 1 tbsp
Haldi( turmeric powder): 1/2 tsp
Green chillies: 2-3, slit lengthwise
Salt: 1 tsp
Water: 1/2 cup + 3 cups

For tempering:

Coconut oil: 1 tsp
Jeera ( Cumin seeds): 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves: 1 sprig

Method:


Grind together freshly grated coconut, tamarind, red chilli,turmeric and 1/4 cup water to a fine paste. When almost done add the cumin seeds and raw rice and grind. When that is done, add in the moong beans , peel and 1/4 cup water and grind to a fine paste.




Pour this paste into a cooking pot. To this add slit green chillies and salt and bring it to a boil. When it comes to a boil, switch off the flame and prepare for tempering.

Tempering:


Heat 1 tsp coconut oil in a small sauté pan, add the jeera first and then the mustard seeds. When all the mustard seeds crackle, add the curry leaves and switch off the flame. Add this to the above pot.






Serve  hot with rice.








Enjoy!

Cooking made easy:


Always immediately clean the knife with soap and water after you chop onion/garlic or potatoes. Not doing so will blunt your knife edge faster.

Tip for healthy living:


Regularly massaging your scalp with warm oil can help prevent hair fall. In fact it is supposed to promote hair growth. Make sure you leave the oil in for at least 30 minutes before you wash your hair. Massaging the scalp improves the blood circulation to the scalp. It also supposedly helps relieve headaches.Applying oil to the hair helps condition them and prevents it from being dry which in turn may prevent split-ends.


Food for thought:


Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise.Seek what they sought. Matsuo Basho

Monday, July 21, 2014

Meatless Monday Creamy Garbanzo bean (Chickpea) Salad





Summer =Salads! Period. That's for me. I love to eat salads throughout the year but especially during summer as I don't really feel like eating anything too hot. I like something cool. Also during summer we are outdoors most of the time, especially during the weekends. We don't like to eat out much and therefore pack a picnic for our outings! This of course includes a salad. And so I am making a myriad of salads during the summer! Summer and going out also means going to barbecues.. This weekend we had a barbecue at a dear friend's beech house. The kids had a blast! I made a creamy chickpea salad for the occasion and saved a bowl for me for today's lunch. This is another one of my crowd-pleasers!I came across this recipe a year ago and as often, I have tweaked it a little.You can find the original recipe here. Do try it, you will surely like it! ( unless you don't like chickpeas at all to begin with ;). This is how I made it:



Servings: 4


Ingredients:


Chick peas( garbanzo beans): 1 15oz. can, rinsed and drained thoroughly.
Cucumber: 1 small, diced.
Tomato: 1 medium, deseeded and diced.
Onion: 1 medium, chopped fine( I used yellow onion, any onion can be used).
Green bell pepper:1 medium, deseeded and diced.
Apricots: 2 small, deseeded and diced.
Black olives: 1/4 cup, sliced
Cranberries: 1 tbsp
Parsley: 1/8th cup, chopped fine.
Feta cheese: 2 oz, crumbled.

For the marinade:
Greek yogurt: 1/4 cup
Lemon juice: 1 tbsp
Apple cider vinegar: 1 tbsp
Honey:1 tsp
Sea salt: as per taste
Black pepper: 1/2 tsp, freshly ground.

Method:


Add all the ingredients( except those listed under "for the marinade") into a salad bowl.

Take all the ingredients listed under "for the marinade" in a small glass jar and shake well.

Add the marinade to the salad bowl and mix well.



Garnish with some parsley sprigs, olives and cranberries.






Keep it chilled until ready to serve!



Enjoy!

Cooking made easy:


Salads like this are great for a party or gathering as they can be made ahead of time( like the night before).Just mix all the ingredients of the salad and prepare the marinade, but keep them separately.
On the day of the party, just before the guests arrive, you can mix the marinade with the salad and it is ready to be served.

Tip for healthy living:


Yogurt has been traditionally used as a salad dressing in India. Yogurt is a great probiotic and hence helps in maintaining good GI health. Probiotics are food groups that promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. These good bacteria not only aid digestion and thereby prevent digestive issues like bloating and constipation, they also help promote good immunity in the body. Greek yogurt is higher in protein content than regular yogurt.Hence, a small cup of yogurt daily will contribute in a big way to better health.

References:
http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/update0905c.shtml
http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/6-healing-benefits-of-probiotics
http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/what-are-probiotics


Food for thought:


Show respect even to people who don't deserve it; not as a reflection of their character,but as a reflection of yours. Dave Willis

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Watermelon Cake









I have eaten a myriad variety of cakes during my lifetime... But Watermelon Cake??? Never before! I bet you have not either!I have to confess, out of all the cakes I have so far eaten, this is one cake I would eat again and again and again.. I bet you would too... That too without feeling guilty!


I came across this wonderful cake on Facebook when it was shared with me by one of my friends who knows I avoid gluten and eat healthy most of the time.I immediately fell in love with the idea of this cake! How clever of whoever originally thought of it! You can find the original recipe here.


Summertime, my home has a constant flow of guests. Currently, my sister-in-law is visiting us with her two kids. My 5-year old daughter and 8-year old niece had tons of fun making this cake, of course with help from me ( hence the cake is a little askew, the decoration on the cake trying to push free.. But, hey, I am not complaining...it kept them occupied for almost an hour! Believe it or not, the cake was gone within 20 minutes of making it and everyone took seconds too.. 


Without further ado, I bring to you the recipe for the guilt- free Watermelon Cake. I am taking this cake to Angie's Fiesta Friday who's co-hosts this week again are Hilda @ Along the grapevine and Julianna @ Foodie on Board.We have so much fun at Fiesta Friday!

Servings: 6( I made a 6-inch cake)


Ingredients:


For the cake:
Watermelon: 1 medium sized
Sliced almonds: 1 cup
Craisins: 1/4 cup
Strawberries: 4-6 nos
Blueberries: 1/2 cup 
Red cherries:5 nos
Rainier cherry: 1

For the frosting:Whipping cream: 2 cups
Sugar: 2 tbsp

Method:


The frosting: Place a metal bowl and whisk in the freezer for atleast 15 minutes.


Make sure that the whipping cream is also cold( not frozen).

Add 2 tbsp sugar to the cold bowl. Add the cream in and using an electric beater/ whisk whip it for 1 1/2-2 mins or until stiff peaks start appearing.

Place it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

The cake:

Slice off the ends of the watermelon so that you end up with an equal sized  symmetrical central cylinder.

Slice  the outer peel of the cylinder.



Place the central cylinder on a serving plate.

Pat the watermelon dry with paper towels so as to get rid of the excess moisture.

Now ice the watermelon with the whipped cream frosting.



Decorate the sides of the cakes with sliced almonds and the top with fresh berries as shown in the picture. You could decorate it any which way you want. I have lined the bottom of the cake with a ring of Craisins.








Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve.




Once the cake is sliced, serve immediately as the watermelon tends to leave water and the frosting starts melting as shown in the above picture.



Enjoy this beautiful guilt-free cake!

Cooking made easy:


You could pick any fruits to decorate the above cake. Use your imagination!

For a nut-free cake you could substitute nuts with granola or some other cereal like corn-flakes.You could also decorate the sides with Craisins.

The pieces leftover from cutting the watermelon could be used to make watermelon juice or smoothie. So refreshing!

Tip for healthy living:


I always emphasize on filling 3/4 ths of your meal plate with fruits and vegetables. While that is important it is also important to buy good fruits and vegetables that are locally and/or organically grown. Locally grown produce is fresher and leaves fewer carbon footprints. Eating organic food is important to avoid accumulation and the effects of pesticides and chemical fertilizers in our bodies.

So what is organic produce?? Organic produce is produce that has been grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and minimal pesticide use. One automatically thinks: organic produce is expensive!  Not all produce needs to be organic. It is essential to know which produce could be eaten without it being grown organically and is still safe and which fruits and vegetables have the highest chemical content in them and hence is better consumed when organically grown.

A simple rule of thumb is that any produce that needs to be peeled to be consumed, need NOT be organic. This is because the peel is where most of the pesticide accumulation is seen. Here the knowledge of the "dirty dozen" and the " clean fifteen" comes in handy. The dirty dozen are the fruits an vegetables that have been found to have the highest accumulation of pesticides and hence is better to consume the ones grown organically. Similarly the clean fifteen are the produce that have the least chemical residue in them and we don't have to worry about buying them organic.

The full Dirty list: Apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes.

The Clean list: Avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.
Mind you, FDA has repeatedly stated that all chemical residue that is found in produce in the United States is within the "safe limits". Here is an interesting titbit: FDA keeps raising the "acceptable chemical limit" every year! That should tell you something!

References:

http://www.fda.gov/iceci/compliancemanuals/compliancepolicyguidancemanual/ucm123236.htm
http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/_mobile/recipes/healthy/dirty-dozen-foods#slide-1
http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5246989
http://blogs.seattletimes.com/allyoucaneat/2014/04/29/which-dirty-dozen-fruits-and-vegetables-made-the-2014-list/

Food for thought:


With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. Eleanor Roosevelt