January 31, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash w Peas

After a few days off from finding interesting new veggies to try out, I finally selected Vegetable #5 for New Year Resolution #2. The choice today was Butternut Squash!  While I've tried butternut squash soup at restaurants and also in ready-to-eat versions available at the store, I had never cooked the squash itself, in any form. I considered making the soup as my "trial" recipe but didn't want to be that predictable. I opted for an easy oven roasted recipe and it was oh so worth it!

Butternut Squash

Total Prep Time: 20-25 minutes.

  1. 1 butternut squash (peeled and diced into ~1 to 1.5 inch cubes). 
  2. 2 tbsp Pure Maple Syrup.
  3. 1 tbsp Olive oil (or less!). 
  4. 1 to 1.5 tsp Cumin powder
  5. 1 tsp Cayenne pepper (or more if you like it hot!).
  6. 2 to 3 small bay leaves
  7. 1/2 cup fresh frozen peas, thawed in a microwave for about 2-3 minutes.  
  8. Coarse sea salt, to taste
  9. Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450F. In a large bowl, mix all the wet and dry ingredients really well. Add squash and toss well. Set thawed peas aside until the very end. Transfer the squash with spices to a large oven safe dish, so that there is only a single layer of squash. Roast uncovered for ~20-22 min at 450F, turning every 5-8 minutes to allow even cooking. Test squash with a fork after about 15 min. When squash is just done, add in peas, toss well and continue roasting for another 5 min, tossing once again, half-way through. Serve while its still piping hot, with Naan, or over brown rice.

The result is a sweet, melt-in-your-mouth and set it on fire concoction that you're sure to fall in love with. If you're not big on heat, the cayenne can be skipped completely. I ate it tonight with whole wheat Naan from Stone Fire Bakery which makes some great flat breads that are available in most grocery stores, including Walmart and Kroger. I tried the whole wheat version today (warning: The naan is not vegan!).

Nik's Reaction:  He ate most of my Naan and said "Mom, I don't love my peas!" .. Gee thanks, Son! :)

January 30, 2012

Baked Vegetables in White Sauce

Baked veggies in white sauce was a constant at Mom's dinner parties. As kids, when all the other "special" dishes were spicy and/or too fancy for us kids, we always looked forward to baked veggies. This dish is so simple and yet so wholesome. Sometimes, my uncle would add diced chicken to this recipe - making it a lot like a chicken pot pie, without the crust. I've adapted Mom's recipe here, which was rich in dairy, to a more vegan version.
I've also provided the dairy ingredients for those that  might be interested in an Ovo-lacto Vegetarian version.  
Prep Time: ~30 min from start to finish.

  1. 2 cups Mixed vegetables (I used corn, peas, asparagus, green beans & baby carrots)
  2. 1 pack (12oz) Mori-Nu Silken Tofu (firm) Or: Paneer (fresh, un-aged, non-melting Indian cheese) Or: 2 hard boiled Eggs Or: Grilled Chicken - Diced or Crumbled. 
  3. 1/4 cup Soy milk Or: Regular milk
  4. 2 tbsp Whole wheat flour Or: all-purpose white flour. 
  5. 1/8 cup Vegetable broth Or: butter
  6. 1-2 tsp dried or fresh parsley
  7. 1 tsp garlic salt, to taste.\
  8. Freshly ground pepper, to taste. 
  9. Salt and Pepper to taste. 
  10. 1 tbsp Whole wheat bread crumbs Or: Bread crumbs, to sprinkle over the top.
  11. 1-2 tbsp Daiya (mozza style) cheese Or: Mozzarella cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 375F. In a large skillet on medium heat, add vegetable broth (Or butter) and mix in vegetables. If using frozen vegetables, let the vegetables thaw before mixing in the Tofu (Or Paneer or Eggs or Chicken) and all other ingredients (except bread crumbs and cheese). Toss well.  In a small bowl, combine Soy milk (Or milk) and whole wheat (Or all-purpose) flour, making sure that  there are no clots of flour. Turn off the heat and slowly add this runny batter to the vegetables, mixing well.  Once well tossed, the mix should be just a tad runny. If not, add an eighth of a cup of vegetable broth and mix-in with a spatula (mine was a little dry today but tasted great). Transfer portions into oven-safe baking dishes. I like to use small individual sized dishes. Sprinkle bread-crumbs over the top. And top off with Daiya (Or Mozzarella) cheese (optional). I made the kids' batch up as an all-vegan version and sprinkled a good portion of Mozzarella on top (pictured above). I kept mine low-fat and held the cheese (pictured below). Bake at 375F for 16-20 min, until the top looks golden brown. Serve immediately.

No Cheese Version!
Nik's Reaction: Ma-ma, can I have more cheese?

Alex's Reaction: A clean plate!

Bryce's Reaction: Can I be done (with an untouched portion on his plate!)? In his defense, he did oblige us by eating 5 bites ;-)  

January 29, 2012

Of home-cooked meals and family ..

Thanks Charu for a lovely meal!

Authentic home cooked Indian food ... aaah! It's a rare luxury since I moved to the United States. My own cooking has evolved to something far less traditional. An impromptu visit to my cousin's place this afternoon led to a lovely vegetarian meal (pictured above) ... !!

The Mixed Vegetable Subzi (cabbage, carrots and green beans) was fresh, crunchy, and just perfectly flavored with mustard seeds and green chilli peppers. Curried Black Eyed Peas, with tomatoes and onions and garam masala melted in my mouth. The Peas Pulao with fresh mint chutney tasted just like mom's. The Yellow Daal (lentils) was good enough to die for - warm and aromatic, flavored with cumin and fresh cilantro leaves. The pièce de résistance however was the fresh Whole Wheat Roti (also called Phulka)!!
Thanks Charu Sawhney for a lovely meal this afternoon (and the leftovers too!!) :-) 

January 28, 2012

Why I'm Vegetarian (Plant Based) ... !

I never starve myself & I eat until I'm full!
So I've been vegetarian/plant-based for almost a full month now. I started my New Year resolve a day early on December 31, 2011. In 28 days (just 4 short weeks) I've lost 10 lbs. That is why I changed my dietary habits. I wanted to lose weight, and I wanted to be healthier. Also, my new dietary habits came highly recommended .. not from just anyone. But from someone who is a very highly regarded as a physician. Not someone who I've just read about in books on on the internet, or someone who I've never met. But this was my own endocrinologist, working at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic. He's been recommending that I go back to my Indian dietary roots, at every visit, for at least 4, maybe 5 years now. He provided recipes, book recommendations, and himself as an example. Him and his wife, decided to go Vegan after reading The China Study - and he suggested I read it. I did, 4 years ago. I went ovo-lacto vegetarian for a whole year, but then got back to eating meat when I found out I was pregnant with li'l Nikhil. I reconverted to vegetarianism (this time without dairy too!) on December 31, 2011. Since then, I've read a few other bestselling books (Skinny Bitch, Eat to Live) and cookbooks (Happy Herbivore, Everyday Happy Herbivore and Appetite for Reduction) and the changes I've seen in the last 28 days make me believe that this lifestyle change is likely to stick :).

Yes, you CAN lose weight by exercising and diet control, even on a meat-based diet. I have some wonderful friends who've done just that. I'm proud of them and of what they've accomplished. It didn't work for me!! I've got Hashimoto's Thyroiditis which is an autoimmune disorder where the thyroid gland is gradually destroyed by antibodies made by my body (yup!! Me!). In essence, it means that my body cannot make enough thyroid hormone - which happens to be the master regulator of almost every physiological process in the human body, including metabolism. It makes it difficult to increase your metabolic rate, and even more difficult to lose weight. I've tried every diet out there! I even had a personal trainer for all 2005. He was a good man .. and nearly killed me with his grueling workouts ... but even then - I didn't lose 10lbs in 4 weeks. What I did lose back then, it didn't take me long to gain it all back. Obviously, I needed a drastic lifestyle change. So, this time I decided to actually listen to my endocrinologist, I decided to read all I could about it, I decided to finally take note of the brilliant example I have, and always have had, right in front of me - My dearest Grandfather Suraj Parkash Sawhney - has been vegetarian for 60+ years, is 95 years of age, and is still going strong!! And at his lovely age, he takes NO medications. None! Zero!, Zilch! And, he has no lifestyle illnesses that are rampant in the Indian middle class - hypertension, heart disease, diabetes. ... So why am I vegetarian? Because my Grandpa showed me - I'm worth it!! 

Here are some other reasons for becoming a vegetarian that one can could easily find on the internet too:
  • No nutritional deficiencies. There is no nutrient necessary for optimal human functioning which cannot be obtained from plant food. Vitamin B12 cannot be produced by humans. But many vegan foods such as non-dairy milks are fortified with Vitamin B12. Meat is largely deficient in vitamins (except for B vitamins). 
  • Love the environment? Think about conservation of fossil fuels. It takes 22-80 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie in animal protein; and 1 calorie of fossil fuel produces 1 calorie of plant protein. 
  • Love the environment? Think about conservation of water. It takes 3-15 times as much water to produce animal protein as it does plant protein. 
  • Plant foods are low in fat and cholesterol. Animal foods are higher in fat than most plant foods, particularly saturated fats. Plants do not contain cholesterol. And we don't need to supplement with cholesterol. Our bodies make what we need quite efficiently. 
  • Excess protein. We've all heard it .. eat more protein, drink more milk, you need protein to grow. Did you know that the average American eats 400% of the RDA for protein. FOUR HUNDRED PERCENT?? Yeah we need all that protein - to grow in width!? 
  • Meat is fiber deficient. Fiber absorbs unwanted, excess fats; cleans the intestines; provides bulk and aids in peristalsis. Plant food is high in fiber content; meat, poultry and dairy products have none. 
  • Fiber deficient means longer transit time. Wholesome food travels quickly through the "G.I" tract, leaving little time to spoil and incite disease within the body. 
  • Food costs. Vegetarian foods tend to cost less than meat based items. Next time you're at the grocery store compare the cost of a pound of beans, to a pound of chicken. 
  • My health. The correlation between meat consumption and degenerative and lifestyle diseases is well founded and includes ..... Kidney Stones and Gallstones, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Acne, Obesity, Intestinal Toxemia, Heart Disease, Cancer, Osteoporosis …. 
  • My well being. I just feel better since I've stopped eating meat. I don't feel bloated. My clothes are slowly beginning to fit better and I feel good about myself!
& the best reason of all - because I'm worth it!!  

    January 25, 2012

    Veggie Fact of the Day

    Parsnips are a root vegetable, related to carrots. 

    From the information I gathered today, parsnips are richer in vitamins and minerals compared to their cousins. And more importantly they're loaded with potassium (600 mg per 100 g). Carrots have only 50% of that amount (320 mg per 100g). Spinach comes in as a close second behind parsnips (560 mg per 100g).

    Parsnips are not the same as Parsley Root. They look somewhat the same but are very different in taste apparently. I didn't know the difference until I went looking for parsnips earlier today and accidentally picked up parsley root.

    Roasted Parsnips w Capers

    Roasted Parsnips with Capers
    So today was the day for Vegetable #4 for New Year Resolution #2 (to try as many previously untasted items from the produce section). And the lucky winner ... ding ding ding .... Parsnips!

    Prep Time: 25 min or so.

    1) 3-4 fresh parsnips, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks.
    2) 1 tbsp minced garlic
    3) 2 tbsp soy sauce
    4) 1 tsp parsley flakes
    5) 1 tbsp onion flakes
    6) 1/4 to 1/3 cup vegetable broth
    7) 1 tbsp capers
    8) Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

    Preheat oven to 400F. Toss all the ingredients in the  vegetable broth and then toss parsnips in the mix. Spread evenly across a unlined cookie sheet, pouring the broth in over the parsnips. Roast uncovered for 10 min, toss well, and return to the oven for another 5-8 minutes. I removed mine just as the edges were beginning to brown.

    My Assessment: It was okay for me. Tonight's recipe was a "throw in whatever I can find" kind of trial recipe (e.g. capers!). I liked the flavor, rather mild and just sweet enough to be pleasant. I liked the crunch. But I didn't personally like the capers. I think I might also hold the soy sauce the next time so that the authentic parsnip color and flavor is maintained.

    Nik's Reaction: He gobbled them up. He had already finished his dinner (pizza, and some of my "mutter mushroom" on the side. He saw the dish and jumped right back in his high chair and had 4 big pieces in all. He LOVED it!! Here's a picture of him chomping down on one ...!

    Fresh sliced kiwifruit finished off our meal! Yum!

    January 24, 2012

    Soy Protein (TVP) Tacos

    Nutrela (TVP) Tacos
    Growing up in India, I remember a period of time in the middle of the 80s decade when India experienced a major drought. Fresh vegetables and milk products were rare. However, the country managed to get along just fine with very few food imports because of increased grain & legume production. I don't know much about agriculture - so don't know if it was the drought resistant varieties, or if grains/legumes in general require less water to grow. One crop that flourished during that time was soybean.

    I vividly remember soy milk being more readily available than cow's milk. And the other absolutely wonderful thing that came out of it ... Soy Protein - "Nutrela" became a family name and a synonym for Soy protein, or Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP), as it is called in the US. I remember loving it in granulated, and chunk form. Mom used to make "Nutrela Pilaf" and "Nutrela Curry" and "Nutrela Sabzi" ... we had it so many different ways. Once I moved away from home I somehow forgot about it completely. I saw it in an Indian store about 2 weeks ago and picked up a pack, just for the sake of nostalgia. Then, as I was looking at one my current favorite websites for vegan/vegetarian recipes/advice (Happy Herbivore) - I saw a picture of Chickpea Tacos, and right next to the cp tacos, I saw something that looked a lot like my old favorite. For those of you who don't have the luxury of an Indian food store close by, Nutrela is actually available online at Amazon.com and other brands of TVP can be found in most health-food stores, and also some grocery stores (Kroger, Buehler's, Trader Joe's etc).

    I wrote to Lindsay, the author, and she confirmed that those were "TVP Beef Tacos" included in one of her cookbooks "The Happy Herbivore Cookbook"! The recipe is copyrighted, I'm sure, so I can't post it here. Buy the cookbook. It is totally worth it!! I thought these tacos were an amazing combination of my childhood and current tastes. Why anyone would eat beef tacos, when they can eat these, is absolutely beyond me! :)

    Nik's Reaction: None :( !! We stopped at Barnes & Noble on the way home. He wanted (desperately) to go to the bookstore and was starving when we got home. He ate his very carnivorous meal (grilled chicken tacos) before I even had the onion diced.

    January 23, 2012

    Steamed Edamame!

    Straight out of a bag - a tad too salty!
    Vegetable #3 for New Year Resolution #2 (to try as many previously untasted items from the produce section).


    I'd never tried it before and instead of trying to find a recipe .. Tony and I tried the steam'able version from PictSweet tonight. This pack was a little saltier than I would have liked and I feel a little parched! But my oh my ... it was delicious!!

    Veggie Fact of the Day

    Edamame, or fresh green Soybeans in the pod, is a East-Asian and Hawaiian preparation. The pods are boiled in water and sprinkled with sea salt. The USDA calls edamame a snack with a nutritional punch! Edamame, and all soybean preparations are rich in a protein, fiber and most importantly Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids. A 100g serving of edamame has over 350 mg of omega-3 and close to 1800 mg of omega-6 fatty acids. Similar to other legumes, edamame, with their high isoflavone and phytoestrogen content may help alleviate the symptoms of menopause. Certain legumes contain isoflavones that mimic the female hormone estrogen in the body. While Asian women, who tend to consume significant quantities of legumes, have much higher blood levels of phytoestrogens compared with most American women, it does not mean that men who eat edamame or other legumes have any risk of feminization. The 'Soy myth' has overrun our media and there are several good articles showing the health benefits of edamame and other soybean products such as tofu, tempeh and soy sauce. Here's one such example - Soy and your Health

    Edamame are a nutritional powerhouse. In a half-cup serving of shelled edamame, one gets 11 g of complete protein i.e. containing all of the essential amino acids. It also provides 9 g of fiber and 10% of the RDA for Vitamin C and iron, 8% of the RDA for Vitamin A and 4% of the RDA for calcium. It also serves as a source of vitamin K and Folic Acid (Vitamin B9). So eat up!!! Its yummy!

    January 22, 2012

    Super Quick & Easy Roasted Zucchini

    Zuccini is perhaps my all time favorite vegetable. Okay, I'm lying! Okra, prepared by Mom, is #1. But Zuccini is a very close second. Here's a quick and easy roasted zucchini recipe, that's out of this world. We had this tonight, but it disappeared so quickly, I hardly had time to take a picture! The one below is courtesy of another blogger "from whence the sweet bird sang". Mine looked a lot like this. I'll remember to take a picture the next time :)

    Prep Time: 15-20 min

    1) 2-4 Zucchini squash, the smallest and thinnest ones you can find in the store; washed, dried and cut into 8 wedges each, lengthwise. I like the smaller ones as the seeds are super small, and it makes the meaty part that much tastier.
    2) 1-2 tbsp McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning - which in my opinion tastes so much better on veggies.

    Spray cooking spray lightly on cookie sheet. Heat oven to 400F, or use the broiler on High (works better for me). Place zucchini wedges, skin side down, on cookie sheet and sprinkle liberally with seasoning. Broil on high for 10 min (maybe less), tossing once, about halfway through. I like mine with a little bit of a crunch, so I remove the cookie sheet from the oven as the edges start to brown up.  Yumm!

    Nik's Reaction: "oooh french fries" ... little does he know ;)

    Roasted Acorn Squash

    So here's new Vegetable #2 for New Year Resolution #2 (to try as many previously untasted items from the produce section). Acorn Squash! Yes, I've never tasted one before.

    I'm from India :) !! It's not an excuse ... I really don't think these exist back home, and if they do, Mom sure wasn't chomping at the bit to cook 'em for us.  I found a recipe at http://www.yummly.com (Roasted and Glazed Acorn Squash) and adapted it to a vegan version and our tastes. I'm planning on trying it for dinner tonight and will post pictures after its done!

    Prep Time: 30 min, or so.

    1) 1 Acorn Squash (should be hard to touch, skin free of blemishes)
    2) 2 tbsp "Earth Balance" buttery spread or butter.
    3) 2-3 tbsp maple syrup
    4) 1 tsp sea salt
    5) 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
    6) 1 tsp ground cumin
    7) 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

    Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the squash into 2 halves (vertically), scoop out the seeds and then cut it lengthwise into 6-8 wedges. Place wedges skin side down on an oven safe baking dish. To prevent the squash from sticking to the bottom, either grease the bottom with cooking spray, or line it with parchment paper. Melt butter in a microwave, mix in maple syrup and mix in cumin and cayenne pepper. Brush this mix onto the squash. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast in the oven for about 20 min, tossing once in between. Check with a

    Um Um Good!
    Post-Prep Comments: Here's a picture of how yummy the squash looked after it was done. It was delicious!! I didn't think the butter added anything to the dish overall, so I've removed it from the recipe. I liked the flavor and texture a lot which was more like a sweet potato than a squash. I will try using less maple syrup the next time I make it too and will probably play with the spices too.

    Nik's Reaction: NONE!  He refused to even look at it ...!! :)

    Veggie Fact of the Day

    New Veggie #2
    Acorn Squash is a winter squash belonging to the same family of squash as pumpkins and zucchini. It has a round acorn-like shape and the outer skin is typically dark green in color, with splashes of orange, although fully golden (or orange) and white varieties can be found in the fall. It is available year-round, although it is more readily available during the fall and winter months.

    Once cut open, it has deep orange colored sweet flesh, which is somewhat drier than other squash. It makes for an excellent addition at Thanksgiving dinners across the United States.  Nutritionally. the acorn squash is similar to other orange winter squashes. From about a 1 cup serving, you get only 2 calories from fat but it is loaded with fiber (about 9 grams). It is a rich source of vitamins C, B1 (Thiamin), B6 (pryidoxine), B9 (folic acid), B5 (pantothenic acid) and also vitamin A which is mostly in the form of beta-carotene. Minerals include magnesium, manganese plus a substantial amount of potassium.

    January 21, 2012

    Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

    This is a perfect soup for anytime of the year but it tastes even better on a chilly evening. The basic recipe is something I picked up from my long-time friend John Giammona, and I've modified what I remember as his recipe, to a vegetarian, plant-based version. 

    Prep Time: 20-30 min with frozen and canned veggies.

    1) 1 lb frozen pepper and onion fajita mix (Green and Sweet Peppers and White Onion, diced).
    2) 1 tbsp minced garlic (~2 cloves)
    3) 2-3 tbsp ground cumin (or 2 tbsp cumin seeds).
    4) 1 can of crushed/diced tomatoes (a large tomato, diced).
    5) 2 cups of canned vegetable broth*
    6) 1 jalapeno (sliced, optional).
    7) salt and pepper to taste
    8) 1 cup whole kernel corn (canned or fresh frozen) or hominy.
    9) Tortilla chips (plain) (optional)
    10) 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced (optional)
    11) 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

    Line a large stock pot with water or vegetable broth and add in the vegetables (peppers and onions) and cumin and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Once the cumin releases its aroma, add the tomatoes, jalapeno, and vegetable broth and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat to low and simmer on the back burner for 20 min. Stir in the corn or hominy and boil for another 5 min. I used a can of golden hominy (corn kernels without their germ, and their hull or bran). Corn is much healthier but hominy works in a pinch! If you want a blended soup, blend everything with a stick blender before adding the corn. Also add other Southwestern additions like black beans to this soup to make it heartier. 

    Serve in deep bowls over crumbled tortilla chips, or scoop it out with a chip. Garnish with fresh cilantro and avocados. For the kids, you can also garnish with a little grated cheese. I like my soup chunky with a lot of chips. Remember, both the chips and avocado are optional and the brothy soup tastes great even without the extra garnishes.

    Mom had an old fashioned food mill!
    * This is how my mom made vegetable broth - In a pressure cooker, or deep stock pot, add lots of chopped/sliced/diced vegetables (cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, peas, corn and whatever else you can think find). Add 3-4 cups of water (a pressure cooker will probably use half that water). Steam the veggies for 10-15 min in a pressure cooker. Probably 30 min in a stock pot. Allow it to cool and then pass the mix through a food mill, or blend it in a food processor and strain. Add the juice of one lemon/lime and refrigerate immediately. It keeps well for 24-48 hours.  

    ** And this is how I make Vegetarian home-made broth at home with my own fruit and vegetable scraps. 

    January 20, 2012

    Mushroom & Onion Rice Pilaf, w Fresh Mango

    Prep Time: 20-25 minutes

    1) 1 cup Basmati (long grain) rice. I used white rice on this day, but this recipe works great with brown rice too. Washed well and pre-soaked for 20 min (optional).
    2) Whole spices (2-3 bay leaves, 2-5 cloves, 5-8 black peppercorns, 1-3 green cardomoms (cracked), 1-2 black cardamoms (cracked), 1" piece of cinnamon bark, 1 tbsp cumin seeds)
    3) 1 large red onion, sliced vertically, so that each layer separates into long slender pieces.
    4) 6-10 large while button mushrooms, thinly sliced.
    5) 1-2 tsp garam masala (blend of all the above whole spices, sun-dried and finely ground).
    6) 1 tbsp cooking oil (vegetable, canola, olive)
    7) salt and pepper to taste

    Mushroom Pilaf
    In a deep stock pot, heat cooking oil and add onions. Cook onion until well caramelized (almost dark brown but not burnt). As the onion approaches done-ness, add the whole spices and then quench the heat completely with 2 cups of cold water. Bring the water to a full rolling boil. This will release a beautiful golden color from the caramelized onions which will color your pilaf a rich gold-brown color too. If you don't like yellow food for some reason, cook onion until translucent and quench heat with water. This will keep the water a pale grey color.

    A hit?? 100% !!
    Once the water is at a rolling boil, add mushrooms, and rice and mix well. Bring to a boil again, reduce heat to medium low and cover partially. The rice should be done in about 7-12 min. Once the rice is done, sprinkle garam masala on top and replace the lid. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. This is called "Dum" in India. Literally translated, it means 'strength'. It allows the food to deepen its aromas and for the garam masala to release its lovely aroma.

    I served the rice by itself, with a side of fresh ripe mangoes. Li'l Nikhil LOVED his dinner. He ate an entire mango and a bowl full of pilaf!

    This recipe is a vegan version. In India, folks often use 'Cucumber Raita' as an accompaniment to this dish. Its a simple recipe. Blend a jar of plain yogurt, add salt and pepper to taste, and mix in a freshly grated cucumber. It can also be topped off with ground, roasted cumin, and some chilli powder, for a little extra flavor!! I've never tried making raita with soy yogurt but I don't see why it would taste any different.

    Dal Tamatar (Lentils w Tomatoes)

    Prep Time: 20-30 min with a pressure cooker.

    1) 1 cup toor dal (yellow lentils), well washed, and pre-soaked for 20 min (optional) in 1 cup hot water.
    2) 1 tsp turmeric powder
    3) 1 tsp cumin
    4) 1 large tomato (coarsely diced)
    5) 1 tsp olive oil
    6) salt and pepper to taste

    Ingredients for the side of Corn & Carrots:
    1) 1 cup  frozen crinkle cut carrots
    2) 1/2 cup fresh frozen sweet corn
    3) 2 tbsp raisins
    4) 1 tsp mustard seeds
    5) 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
    6) 1 tsp olive oil
    7) salt and pepper to taste

    Lentils with a side of corn n' carrots
    Heat up 1 tsp olive oil in a pressure cooker (uncovered) over medium heat. Add cumin, salt and turmeric. Allow spices to cook for a couple of minutes and then add the dal-water mixture. Cover, allow pressure to build and cook under pressure for ~10-12 min. Depending upon the size of your cooker and stove conditions, you may need to adjust this (fully cooked toor dal should melt in your mouth and not require chewing). Allow the steam to dissipate and then add tomato and allow to simmer on the back burner for 5-7 min. Serve over steamed white or brown basmati (long grain) rice for the best home-made taste.

    Two-fisting Dal :)
    For Corn & Carrots, in a medium sauteing pan, heat olive oil and when hot, add mustard seeds. As the seeds sizzle and begin to pop, add the ginger-garlic paste and then mix in the rest of the ingredients. Toss well.

    Nikhil LOVES his dal and also loves Carrots & Corn. Great choice for a 2-year old. :) 

    January 16, 2012

    Mutter Mushroom

    Prep Time: 20 minutes

    1) 1 small red onion, finely diced
    2) 1 small Roma tomato, finely diced
    3) 1-2 tsp minced garlic
    4) 1 cup fresh frozen peas
    5) 6-8 medium button mushrooms, halved or quartered
    6) 1 tsp cumin seeds
    7) 1 tsp coriander powder
    8) 1 tsp garam masala
    9) salt and pepper to taste

    Peas & 'Shrooms!
    Line a skillet with an eighth of a cup of water. On medium heat, add onions. Cook down water and as onions begin to caramelize, add spices and mix in well. As the aromas are released, add tomatoes, mix well and add another eighth of a cup of water. Cook for a few minutes and then mix in peas and mushrooms. Cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes adding more water as needed. The final dish should be very moist, but not runny.

    Serve with whole wheat bread or over brown rice.

    January 15, 2012

    Spiced Spaghetti Squash

    New Year ... New Resolutions!! 

    Resolution #1 is to go strictly vegetarian. No meat. No Cheese. No Dairy. All to the extent possible .. so I guess I'm not totally vegan.

    Resolution #2 is to try as many previously untasted items from the produce section as I can. The first one that made the list - Spaghetti squash. This is a slight modification of a recipe I found at http://www.eatdrinkbetter.com (Moroccan Spiced Spaghetti Squash). I think it could very well be called  "Indian Spiced" given the blend of spices used.

    Preparation Time: 10 min with pre-roasted squash.

    Buying and Roasting the Squash: When buying, pick a squash that feels heavier than its size should. Make sure that it feels hard overall, and there are no soft bumps or blemishes. To prepare for roasting, I made sure to remove all stickers and bar codes. Rinse the outside. With a sturdy fork or knife poke several holes in the skin. Place in an oven safe bowl and bake in a preheated oven at 375F for about an hour (its done when a knife glides into the flesh). Remove, let cool and cut into 2 halves with a sturdy knife. Remove seeds and discard. The flesh should fall off the skin and separate into spaghetti strands. Let cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

    1. Spaghetti squash (1 to 1.5 lbs, roasted, seeded, separated into strands). If pre-roasted, pre-warmed.
    2. 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed.
    3. garlic, 3 cloves, finely diced (~ 1 tbsp)
    4. olive oil spray (~1 tsp)
    5. 1 tbsp cumin seeds (or powder)
    6. 1 tbsp coriander powder
    7. 2 tbsp raisins
    8. salt and pepper to taste.
    9. 2 tsp fresh cilantro, for garnishing (optional)
    10. Near East Couscous (roasted garlic and olive oil), 1 packet.

    Spaghetti Squash with couscous.
    Spray a large skillet with olive oil spray. On medium heat, saute garlic and when fragrant, add remaining spices, chickpeas and raisins and about an eighth of a cup of water (water quenches the heat and prevents the spices from burning). Mix well.  Allow the water to evaporate. Turn of heat and toss this mixture with the pre-roasted spaghetti squash, taking care not to smoosh the squash strands. A small fork worked great.

    I served it with and over couscous prepared according to the package insert (but without oil).

    Verdict: TOTALLY ABSOLUTELY LOVED it!! Not so much a hit with my li'l rugrat ;) but if it works for mommy, he'll eat it sooner or later!!

    Veggie Fact of the Day

    New Veggie #1 
    Spaghetti Squash is an oval shaped yellow winter squash. Its fleshy part separates into spaghetti-like strands when you roasted. It is an excellent low-calorie substitute for pasta for those that are controlling their carbohydrate intake, increasing their fiber intake and generally watching weight. 

    On the exterior this squash almost resembles a melon but has a firm, almost woody shell. The flavor is mild and somewhat nutty. In the field, they grow, like other squash, on long vines. When buying, pick a squash that feels heavier than its size. Make sure that it feels hard overall, and there are no soft bumps or blemishes. To prepare for roasting, remove all stickers and bar codes. Rinse the outside and towel dry. With a sturdy knife poke several holes in the skin. Place in an oven safe bowl and bake in a preheated oven at 375 F for about an hour (its done when a knife glides into the flesh). Remove, let cool and cut into 2 halves with a sturdy knife. Remove seeds and discard. The flesh should fall off the skin and separate into spaghetti strands. Let cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

    Nutritionally, Spaghetti squash has a high water content and is not as dense in vitamins and minerals as other winter squash. It is a good source of calcium, Vitamins A and C and a great source of fiber (8% of RDV). It has virtually no fat and has modest amounts of carotenoids, unlike other orange squashes.