Monday, November 30, 2015

Superfood Salad; Meatless Monday



The past few weeks have been filled with festivities and feasting what with the Indian festival of Diwali and the American Thanksgiving. We have been overindulging ourselves. There are more holidays to come with Christmas and New Year around the corner!! Holidays mean lots of celebrations and parties which means lots of food!! We all know that the tables are laden with rich food making us consume almost or more than the entire day's worth of calories in one meal!! NO, I am not being the grinch!! Indulgence in rich food once in a while is absolutely fine. There is nothing wrong in it. The point I am trying to make is that we need to balance these rich meals with healthy, low calorie meals. That is not hard at all. With a little planning it can be easily achieved, like this Superfood Salad that is super easy to plan and make, won't break the bank and is filled with all good nutrients from a variety of fruits and vegetables! Try this and let me know your thoughts. It is versatile enough that you can add ingredients of your choice, healthy of course!  I love to have this for dinner and leftover for the next-day lunch!


Psst.. I make extra so that I can take it to lunch the next day!



Servings: 4-6 ( 2 cups per person)


Ingredients:


Baby greens : 3 cups ( a mix of baby spinach, kale and arugula)
Cucumber: 1 medium-sized, deseeded & chopped.
Tomato: 1 medium-sized, chopped.
Avocado: 1 medium, peeled, pitted and diced.
Orange/ tangerine: 1 medium, peeled, deseeded and cut into segments.
Kiwi: 1 medium
Green apple: 1 medium, peeled, cored and diced.
Onion: 1 medium sized, sliced
Shredded carrot: 1/4 cup
Olives: 8, sliced
Pomegranate seeds: 2 tbsp
Feta cheese: 2-3 tbsp

For the vinaigrette ( dressing):

Lemon juice: 4 tbsp
Vinegar: 2 tbsp
Olive oil: 6 tbsp
Salt: 1/2 tsp ( can be adjusted as per individual taste)
Black pepper: 1/2 tsp

Method:


In a small jar add all the ingredients listed under " for the vinaigrette" and shake well. Keep aside.

Take a bowl. Add to it the chopped cucumber, sliced onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped apple, shredded carrots, half of the sliced olives, half of the feta cheese and half of the pomegranate seeds. Reserve the rest for garnishing.  Add the vinaigrette as much as needed and mix well.

To serve:


In a plate/ salad bowl, layer the greens until the entire bottom of the plate/bowl is covered. Now add a cup of the above salad. Top it with orange/tangerine segments, chopped avocado, kiwi slices and more of the feta cheese, pomegranate seeds and olives if you wish.



Serve chilled.

I am linking this post to Throwback Thursday, Angie's FiestaFriday and Saucy Saturdays.The co-hosts for Fiesta Friday are Johanne@French Gardener Dishes and Liz@spades, spatulas & spoons.

Cooking made easy:


The salad above may look and sound very fancy but it really isn't. Most of the ingredients used above are optional. By that what I mean is that you could put any ingredients that you have available in your kitchen. If you add more or less it doesn't make a gigantic difference.

If you feel that layering while serving is too much of a bother, just mix all the ingredients except the greens.

Alternatively, you can mix everything and serve the vinaigrette on the side. If you mix the leaves with the vinaigrette, the salad becomes soggy. I do this when I take leftover salad for lunch the next day! I love it.



I also make a big batch of the vinaigrette and keep it handy for future use.

Tip for healthy living:


We often hear the term " superfood"!! What are considered superfoods?? What exactly is a superfood??
By definition, superfood is food that is considered to be very good for your health and which may even help some medical conditions.  It is also defined as a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being. Some of the common food items that are considered super-food are berries, nuts, seeds, dark green vegetables like spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, citrus fruits, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines. Colorful vegetables like beets, sweet potatoes; many legumes and whole grains are also considered as superfoods. Basically, from the above paragraph, we can clearly see that these are the food items that traditionally our ancestors have always been eating , but from which we have moved away and are now eating more of the processed food. Anything fresh that is not processed and has colors is nutrient-dense and therefore makes it a "superfood"!

The term " superfood" is nothing but a marketing gimmick trying to get the attention of consumers and trying to redirect them towards healthy eating habits. My thing is that " whatever it takes to make people eat more healthy!" 


References:

Food for thought:


The only way to enjoy anything is to earn it first. Ginger Rogers


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fennel Salad ;Diabetes Friendly



I love trying new food items, new food ingredients from different cultures and traditions as long as it is healthy and good for me. I am sure by now all of you are well aware of this as my blog is testimony to this fact. This particular salad that I am bringing to you today as part of the Thanksgiving DFT is one such foodie adventure of mine ! The whole discovery of this recipe makes for interesting dinner conversation. I typically shop at this farmer's  market in my neighborhood that is Jewish. They have good produce at a very reasonable price. Once when I went shopping I saw fennel bulbs with the greens on it for sale for 50 cents each. The bulbs were huge. I looked at it and thought to myself that if there is such a demand for these bulbs, there has to be some recipe that I could use it in! I know that fennel seeds  are good for the digestive system as we Indians use it a lot , then the bulb and leaves also have to have nutritional value to it. I bought a bulb and reached out to my DFT team of bloggers for recipes. They suggested using it in soups and stews. But, for some reason I was not convinced. My quest for a good recipe continued. A couple of days later I went back to the farmer's market to pick up something else and saw fennel again. I also saw a middle-aged Jewish lady buying it. I decided to ask her what she did with it and how to use it. In her broken English, she told me that they make salad with it. I asked her if the leaves had to be separated or the bulb had to be cooked. She patiently told me that no, just chop the whole thing up and use it in the salad. I was shocked to say the least! I asked her what dressing is to be used. She said just add in salt, vinegar, olive oil and salt.



I decided to be brave and give it a try. I did exactly what she told me to: chopped the entire fennel bulb, leaves and all, added salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar and olive oil and mixed it! Believe it or not, it was one of the most refreshing salads I have eaten! I was apprehensive about the strong taste of the fennel, but I was wrong! This is also one of the easiest salads that I have put together. This salad is now a regular in my home. Add this salad to your thanksgiving dinner menu. Read on for tips from Geeta Kakade on how diabetics can effectively deal with holiday meals and holiday eating.








Servings: 2-3 ( about 1 cup per person)


Ingredients:


Fennel bulb: 1 medium-sized one
Apple cider vinegar: 3 tbsp
Extra Virgin Olive oil: 3 tbsp
Salt: a pinch ( can adjust as per individual taste)
Freshly ground black pepper : 1/2 tsp


Method:


Wash the fennel bulb and leaves thoroughly and then pat them dry using a paper towel/ or a kitchen towel.

Chop the leaves and the bulb finely. Take it in a bowl.

In a small jar, take apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Shake well.

Add this dressing to the above bowl and mix thoroughly.



Keep it in the refrigerator until ready to serve.




Serve chilled. I am bringing this to the wonderful Angie's Fiesta Friday #96.

Here are some more recipes from our fellow DFT bloggers that you can use for your Thanksgiving dinner!

Spicy Jalapeño Hummus by Shailja 


Hot and Sour Mixed Veggie Soup by Swati

Cooking made easy:


I now like to use oil and acid in the proportion of 1:1 as opposed to the recommended 3:1 as I don't like to use too much oil. I also make a bigger portion of this vinaigrette and use as needed in the salad. Sometimes, you might want the salad to have a little more punch, then you can use more of the vinaigrette. 

If you don't have apple cider vinegar, you can use regular vinegar.

Footnotes ( tip for healthy living):

Fennel is a perennial herb belonging to the carrot family and is closely related to parsley, dill and coriander. It is extremely therapeutic for the digestive system. It aids digestion, prevents bloating and is known for it's anti-oxidant activities due to the unique phytonutrients it contains.It is also a great source of vitamin C, folate, potassium and dietary fiber. It obviously has no calories and a very low glycemic index.

References:


Article by Geeta Kakade:


'Some ways a diabetic tries to resist food overindulgence at festivals, during the holiday season and at get togethers all year round.' 

Its a challenge...always a challenge. It doesn't matter if you are in your own home or in someone else's home: resisting the lure of food isn't easy. Here are some tips that help me when I'm at a party and I hope will help you. 1. The day you're going our, say for dinner, follow strict dietary guidelines for the other meals during the day. Balancing your sugar will give you a head start and will allow you to have a little 'extra'.
2. Don't skip your exercise on this day...exercise helps regulate hunger pangs.
3. Before you go out, eat a bowl of salad or some fruit...an apple works best for me.
4. Insist on serving yourself, then stop and look at your plate before you eat...both for appetizers and main course. If someone forces you to have something by putting it on your plate, leave it there. I get rid of the stuff on my plate very discreetly. 
5. Remember food will always be there and the healthier you are the more you can continue to enjoy it at future parties. The meal you're at is NOT your last meal.
6. Respond to comments like, "What! That's all you're eating?" with a firm but pleasant comeback. I tell people I'm there for the company and I enjoy myself best if I don't have to lose the next day to 'not feeling well' because I ate too much. 
7. Love sweets like I do? Make adjustments in the meal to accommodate your craving. I find skipping either the naan or the rice helps me at a party.
Okay so you read articles like this all the time and know what's right. What happens when you still fall off the dietary wagon once in a way? No big deal! (as long as its not all the time.) Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on...all we diabetics can do is keep trying to do our best.

Geeta Kakade, Diabetes Support Group.




Food for thought:


Never complain and never explain. Benjamin Disraeli

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cranberry Rice; Meatless Monday


Thanksgiving is the only time of the year when we get cranberries. I didn't know what cranberries were until I came to this country. Then I only knew of cranberry juice, which I love and cranberry sauce that comes in a can. Until last year, I had never brought home cranberries as I didn't know what to do with them. Everything changed last year. I made cranberry pecan bread, cranberry chutney, cranberry wild rice pilaf and it all turned out good. This year I am expanding my horizons even further. I made this cranberry rice which was delicious. I tried it with the organic Mekong brown rice from Lotus foods and it came out delicious! I really like their brown rice! It cooks within 30 minutes to a perfect consistency. The texture is great and not chewy. I, who would not eat brown rice before, now look forward to it! No,Lotus Foods is NOT paying me to say this or to write this post. This is entirely my opinion. You have to give it a try to know for yourself if what I say is true. Last time I made Thai Salmon basil fried rice using their organic brown rice and it turned out delicious! I wanted to check if that recipe was what was making it taste so good by using a recipe that was vegan and with no sauces in it. I made this cranberry rice using very few ingredients and with the primary flavor coming from the cranberries. It is a very simple and quick recipe which gives you a delicious meal! 





Servings: 3 ( 1 cup per person)


Ingredients:


Lotus brand organic brown rice : 1 cup
Water: 1 3/4 cup
*Cranberries purée: 1/4 cup
Cooking oil: 1 tbsp ( I used coconut oil)
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
Curry leaves: 1 sprig ( optional)
Urad dal(Split matpe beans): 1 tsp
Chana dal ( split chick peas): 1 tbsp
Peanut halves: 2 tbsp ( optional if allergic to nuts)
Green chillies: 2, chopped fine( can be adjusted based on individual spice level)
Ginger: 1 inch, minced
Asofoetida ( hing) powder: a pinch
Sugar: a pinch
Salt: as per taste

Method:


* to make cranberry purée, heat 1 cup fresh cranberries with 1 tbsp water until soft around 7-10 minutes. Cool it. Blend when cooled.

In a saucepan, bring 1  3/4 cups water to a boil. Add the brown rice to it and bring it to a boil. Then reduce the flame to low , cover and cook for 30 mins. When the 30 mins are up, fluff the rice with a fork, keep it covered for another 15 mins.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a sauté pan . Add mustard seeds. 

Once the mustard seeds splutter, add curry leaves, urad dal, Chana dal,green chillies, ginger, hing and peanut halves one after the other. 

Sauté for a couple of minutes until the lentil and peanuts turn slightly golden in color.

Add the cranberry purée, salt and sugar and sauté for 2 more minutes.




Now add the cooked brown rice and mix gently but thoroughly.




Garnish with freshly grated coconut and/or coriander leaves ( cilantro). This last step is optional. 




Serve hot. I am bringing this to the wonderful Angie's Fiesta Friday #96.

Cooking made easy:


I always look for ways to make my weeknight dinners more efficient. One of my tricks is to make cranberry rice using Cranberry Chutney. I make a big batch of cranberry chutney and use it instead of the cranberry pulp in the above recipe. You can find the recipe for cranberry chutney here.

Tip for healthy living:


Cranberries is a superfood that is a powerhouse of antioxidants. They are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. They are a rich source of vitamin C and dietary fiber. It is known to prevent and help treat urinary tract infection.

References:

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/cranberries-year-round-superfood
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269142.php
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=145

Food for thought:


All great achievements require time. Maya Angelou

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving Meal:Nine Healthy options




Thanksgiving is next week. It is an American Holiday that is celebrated Nationwide. Everything comes to a standstill.Families come together for this special occasion from near and far. There is lot of food and merry-making. This kind of begins the holiday season here in the US which continues until New Year. All the rules of eating healthy is forgotten during the Holiday Season. But it does not have to be so... Amidst all the rich foods, you could sneak in some healthy ones to so as to balance your plate. With a little thought and planning, you can plan your meals to be a little more healthier by swapping some ingredients, offering smaller and /or healthier desserts. Here are some easy, healthy options for you to choose from. Just click on the title of the recipe and the link will take you to the recipe in it's entirety. I am bringing this to Throwback Thursday, Angie's Fiesta Friday & Saucy Saturdays. Loretta @ Safari of the Mind and Petra @ Food Eat Love are co-hosting the Fiesta.


Black bean chili garlic spinach








Spiced Butternut Squash Soup



Caribbean Black Bean Corn Mango Salad

 



Fruit Bouquet


Creamy spinach with mushrooms

 


Supergreen Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette



Butternut squash upkari/stir-fry

Nutella-Strawberry Cheesecake Bites


Mushroom Bruschetta




Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ratatouille & Roasted Cauliflower Quinoa Rice ; DFT


DFT is back just in time at the onset of winters, comfort food and Thanksgiving celebrations!! This month, Team DFT is bringing you meal platters that are healthy and delicious to also celebrate International Diabetes Month!


Creating Recipes with a Cause! I am a proud DFT blogger. To learn about DFT, Read this Linkview more DFT recipes, Click here!

As part of this team, I am bringing you a complete  plate that contains a balanced meal comprising of Ratatouille and Roasted Cauliflower Quinoa Rice and a Salad.






Have you heard of Ratatouille ?? Yes, the movie right?? Everybody is familiar with that movie. The message of the movie is very true: anybody can cook. Did you know that Ratatouille is also the name of a dish?? It is actually a French dish made with summer vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers and lots of tomatoes!! I made it with fall vegetables. I used a variety of squashes to make this. It is a super-simple, super-easy dish that is very flavorful and filling. You can pair it with a slice of crusty bread or top it on a cup of rice for lunch/dinner. It is akin to a hearty vegetable stew or the Indian mixed vegetable sambhar without the spices. The thyme and basil make Ratatouille a very flavorful dish. I had fresh basil from the roof-top garden from my work place and therefore was happy to use it. I used dried thyme that I recently got from a middle-eastern market. It is also a one-pot dish which means less pots to wash!


mm



 Ratatouille 


Servings: 6-8 ( 2 cups per person)


Ingredients:


Zucchini ( green squash): 1, medium
Sphagetti squash ( yellow squash): 1, medium.
Persian squash: 1 medium
Eggplant ( brinjal): 1 small
Carrots: 2, medium
Green Bell pepper ( capsicum): 1, chopped.
Tomatoes: 3-4 big, chopped
Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Onion: 2 big, chopped
Garlic: 4-6 cloves, minced
Thyme: 1 tbsp, chopped if using fresh thyme; 1 tsp if using dried
Basil: 1/4 cup +1 tbsp, freshly chopped
Bay leaf: 1 medium sized
Freshly ground black pepper: 1 tsp ( can be adjusted based on individual spice level)
Water: 1 cup ( you can add more water if you desire a thin sauce).
Salt: to taste
Sugar: a pinch

Method:


Chop all the squashes into 1 inch x1/2 inch pieces and keep aside.




Peel the carrot and cut it into 1 inch long pieces. 

Do the same with eggplant. Take lukewarm water in a pot. Add 1/4 tsp salt to it. Add the chopped eggplant to it. Keep aside.

In a big pot, heat olive oil. Add chopped onions and garlic. Sauté until the onions start to sweat. 


Add the chopped carrots. Sauté for 3-4 mins until the carrots are slightly tender.  

Squeeze the eggplant slices out of the water and add it to the pot. Cover the pot and cook for 5 mins. 





Now add the chopped tomatoes. Let is cooked until partially cooked. 

Add in the bay leaf,thyme and 1/4 cup basil leaves.

Next, add all the chopped squashes one after the other. 




Add salt, sugar, freshly ground black pepper and mix well. 

Add 1 cup water. You can add more water if you desire more sauce. All the squashes tend to leave water and I didn't want my dish too watery. 




Cover the pot and let it simmer for 45 mins, stirring infrequently.



Just before serving, garnish with the remaining chopped basil leaves.



Serve hot with the rice dish.





Roasted Cauliflower Quinoa Rice






Quinoa is a gluten-free, protein-rich superfood that has gained much popularity in recent years. It is now available even in India. However, often, people find it hard to incorporate it into their daily diets due to various reasons that include unfamiliarity with the grain, not liking the taste, not knowing how to cook it, not being able to cook it using Indian recipes and the most important being not being able to substitute it for rice. This was rather hard for me too ! I am a die-hard rice eater. If I don't have rice in at least one of my daily meals, I feel I haven't eaten!! Sounds weird, right??  I love quinoa in my salads and regularly make Quinoa black-bean salad, Quinoa Avocado salad at home which everyone else at home enjoys, but my kids don't eat it. I wanted my kids to start eating quinoa too, so I came up with this brilliant idea of mixing quinoa with regular rice in pulao ( pilaf) and fried rice. I started with 1:2 ratio of quinoa and rice and now I do 1:1 and the kids eat it. This also works for adults. I definitely like it this way and I relish it and I don't miss my rice. This trick reduces my carbohydrate intake while increasing the protein intake. Try this method, I am sure you too will forget that you are eating quinoa!




Servings: 5-6 ( 1 cup per person)


Ingredients:


Uncooked quinoa: 1/2 cup
Water: 1 cup
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Cooked rice: 2 cups
Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Onion: 1 big, chopped
Green chillies: 2, medium ( optional)
Bay leaf: 1 medium-sized
Cauliflower florets: 2 cups
Ginger garlic paste: 1 tsp
Dried Cranberries : 1 tsp
Sugar: a pinch
Salt: to taste
Freshly ground black pepper: 1/4 tsp ( adjust to individual level of desired spice level)

Method:


Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the washed quinoa and a pinch of salt to the water, reduce the flame to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the flame, fluff the quinoa with a fork, cover and keep it for another 10 mins or until ready to use.

In a kadai/ sauté pan,  heat one tbsp of olive oil.

Add the chopped onions, bay leaf, green chillies and sauté until the onions begin to sweat. 

Add in the washed and drained cauliflower florets. Sauté until the cauliflower florets are tender. 



Add in the sugar, salt, black pepper powder, cranberries and mix well. Sauté until the entire mix turns slightly golden in color. Make sure you don't let it get burnt. 




Now add in the cooked rice and cooked quinoa and mix well. 




Serve hot. 


Mixed Salad







Now for the salad, I really just put together some ingredients that I had on hand and used a vinaigrette as a dressing. This is pretty much the Indian Kachumber ( salad). I mixed together cucumber, onion, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese and used a lemon-vinegar-oilive oil-salt-pepper dressing. I also separately served some freshly sliced avocado slices. It was an afterthought. You can mix it in your salad as well.


Servings: 4 ( 1 cup per person)


Ingredients:


Cucumber: 1 medium-sized, de-seeded & chopped.
Tomato: 1 medium-sized, chopped.
Onion: 1 medium sized, chopped
Shredded carrot: 1/4 cup
Olives: 6, sliced
Feta cheese: 1 tbsp
Lemon juice: 2 tbsp
Vinegar: 1 tbsp
Olive oil: 3 tbsp
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Black pepper: 1/4 tsp


Method:


Add all the above ingredients to a bowl. Mix well. 




Serve chilled with rice and ratatouille.


I am bringing this to Throwback Thursday, Angie's Fiesta Friday & Saucy Saturdays. Loretta @ Safari of the Mind and Petra @ Food Eat Love are co-hosting the Fiesta.

Cooking made easy:


Any fall vegetables can be used for the Ratatouille. You can add more or skip some vegetables based on what you have. If you don't have fresh tomatoes, you  can add a can of crushed tomatoes instead of fresh ones. Ratatouille can also be cooked in a slow cooker or crockpot.

For the roasted cauliflower quinoa rice, you can use leftover rice. You can make the quinoa before hand and keep it in the fridge to be used a day or two later. You can increase or decrease the proportion of quinoa used based on your individual preference.

For the salad, you can use any combination of salad ingredients.


Footnotes (Food for thought):



All the vegetables used in ratatouille are rich with essential vitamins and minerals. Did you know that each color of the vegetable is representative of the predominant vitamin that it supplies?? For example: orange colored vegetables are rich in beta carotene. Hence it helps to include a variety of colors in your plate.

Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower are known for their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Quinoa is a nutrient- rich superfood that is not only protein-rich, but is so rich in dietary fiber.

All the vegetables used add bulk to the meal, thereby causing satiety, preventing over-eating and also preventing constipation. 

References:

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/colors-vegetables-nutrients-2311.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa
http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4994/7-Benefits-of-Quinoa-The-Supergrain-of-the-Future.html
http://www.livescience.com/50400-quinoa-nutrition-facts.html
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/02/22/cauliflower-health-benefits.aspx
http://www.webmd.com/diet/cauliflower-health-boost


Disclaimer

I am not a nutritionist or dietician. My knowledge and information is based on my research and reading from different resources. Please consult your doctor or dietician before making any changes to your diet.


Other DFT contributors  and their links!





Food for thought:


Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe