September 28, 2012

Masoor Dal

Most people who are new to lentils (dal) don't realize how much variety there is in the legume family. I remember in mom's kitchen, her open pantry shelfs ran the width of the kitchen and in the very back of the main shelf she had 2 gallon jars - at least 20 of them, each filled with different kinds of beans and lentils ... some with whole beans, some split, some with the skin on, and others deskinned.  In fact, the same lentil bean can taste vastly different when it is cooked whole, split or skinned. The best resource I've found on lentils so far, is on Cook's Thesaurus. Masoor Dal, is what is commonly known as red lentils in the western world. The whole bean has a brownish-green skin that adds an earthy flavor to an otherwise soft and rather sweet lentil (when skinned and split). 

Masoor Dal
Prep Time: 30 min

  1. 1 cup pre-soaked Masoor Dal (whole red lentils)
  2. 2 cups water
  3. 2-3 small Tomatoes, diced
  4. 1 small Red Onion, diced
  5. 1 tsp Coriander powder
  6. 1 tsp Cumin powder
  7. 1 tsp Chili powder
  8. 1 tbsp Ginger-Garlic paste
  9. Salt and Pepper to taste
  10. 1 tsp Amchoor (Dried green/young mango powder), to taste
Put all ingredients, except for amchoor, in a pressure cooker and steam under high pressure for 20 min. Let the steam dissipate by itself. Open and check lentils for doneness (should easily get smooshed when pressed between your thumb and finger). If not done, return to high pressure for another 10 minutes. Use the same check for doneness, if cooking in a pan. Once cooked mix in amchoor (or lemon/lime juice for a touch of tartness), garnish with fresh or dried cilantro leaves, and serve over rice, or with roti. I like to prepare this dal  really thick which gives it a really smooth and creamy flavor. My mom always liked it soupier .. use your judgement on what you like .. using more water, or vegetable broth to thin out the preparation.

Squash Fajitas

At our local Mexican restaurant I have ordered the same thing (with only slight modifications) for the last 6 years that I've been in Ohio - Lunch Vegetable Fajitas. I've gone through a period of adding grilled chicken to it. At other times, I've asked for the refried beans to be held, and at others the rice. Almost always, the quantity of vegetables is enough that I ask them to hold the tortillas. During my chicken days, friends and colleagues and even clients, who've been to this restaurant with me, have asked me why I don't just get the 'chicken fajitas' instead of the 'vegetable fajitas with chicken' - the reason was simple - the vegetarian dish came with zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes and mushrooms vs. the chicken fajita, which came only with peppers and onions. Being the veggie fan that I am .. it always made sense to get the dish which had the most veggies for me. 

Squash Fajitas
I tried today to replicate this dish at home and it was quite surprisingly - super easy :)

Prep Time: 10 min

  1. 1 small Zucchini, sliced
  2. 1 small Summer squash, sliced
  3. 1 Yellow Onion, sliced
  4. 1 tsp Garlic powder
  5. 1-2 tsp Cumin powder
  6. 1/8 cup Vegetable broth
  7. Salt & Pepper, to taste
Line a large skillet on medium-high heat with vegetable broth and add garlic and cumin powder. Once the broth comes to a boil, add the vegetables and mix in. Cook on medium-high heat for a couple minutes until the onion becomes translucent and the squash are slightly cooked, and is all but gone. Serve hot with warm tortillas. 

September 25, 2012

Dhania Bhindi (Coriander Okra)

Okra (New Veggie #28) is an all-time favorite vegetable for me. I think most of you who've read my blog know that already. When T got back a bag full of fresh Okra and a packet of store-bought Naan for me yesterday, I knew I had to eat them together. I made a very traditional recipe tonight, with a very slight modification. I took away almost all the oil that is traditionally added to it, and instead used a very tiny amount, before I started cooking to grease my pan. A good non-stick pan .. goes a long way in ensuring  success. 

Dhania Bhindi
Prep Time: 20-30 min

  1. 20-30 pieces of Okra, washed, dried completely and halved lengthwise. 
  2. 2-4 tsp Coriander powder
  3. 1-2 tsp Chili powder
  4. 1-2 tsp Amchoor (dried young mango powder), to taste (or lemon juice)
  5. Salt to taste 
The best way to ensure that the least amount of Okra mucilage is released during preparation and cooking of this dish is to ensure that each pod is 100% dry before its cut. I washed it last night, dried each piece with a towel and left the okra sitting on the counter in a dry dish. This evening, I trimmed both ends of each pod and cut each one lengthwise, into 2 halves. Add a couple of drops of cooking oil to a good non-stick. Use a paper towel and wipe that drop of oil all over the surface of the skillet to grease it. Once done, most of the oil you put in the skillet will actually end up on the towel, with only a thin film across the skillet. Turn the stove to medium high, add okra and coriander and chili powders, and a dash of salt to the okra and mix well. Cover the skillet with a lid and cook on medium until the okra is tender (about 15-20 min). If needed, and if the okra begins to stick to the skillet, add a sprinkle of water and re-cover. The more water you add, the more slimy it is likely to get, so the best approach is to leave it as dry as possible. Once done, sprinkle amchoor or lemon juice on top and enjoy with roti or naan. 

Okra Buying Tips: If buying from the bulk produce section, always hand-pick (cherry picking is allowed in most stores), the smallest, most tender pods. One way of checking freshness is to try and break the tip off a couple of pods - if it snaps off easily, the okra are fresh and in prime condition. If the tip bends, but doesn't break off, the pods are way past their prime and are best left in the store ... !! 

September 24, 2012

HH Butternut Squash Soup

... its fall ... my favorite time of the year. All my life, my favorite color has been orange. 'Fanta' Orange was my favorite shade growing up. & then ... it became Burnt Orange ... Hook 'em, Horns!!! 

Today's recipe is very Orange. New Veggie #5 - Butternut Squash is the main and only ingredient in this  super easy 3-Ingredient Soup from Happy Herbivore. Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds or slivered roasted almonds and some freshly cracked black pepper. umm umm good!

HH Butternut Squash Soup
My Assessment: Cooking healthy can't get easier than this. Um mm good! Hello Fall!! 

September 23, 2012

Oven Poached Star Fruit & Apples

Fresh Star Fruit (Kamrakh; कमरख) is sold on street corners, and by street vendors during the summer, pretty much all over India. I've only probably had it a half a dozen times in my life. I remember it being a crisp tart fruit which was eaten most often with Chaat Masala, which add a savory, chili peppery zing to the fruit. I saw some at the store yesterday and decided to pick a couple up. I figured if I didn't end up using it in a prepared dish, I'd still be able to enjoy it as we did in India.  A Google search revealed recipes for drinks, chutneys, salsas and upside down cakes. I wasn't in the mood for the first few and wasn't in the mood to improvise and modify an omnivore cake recipe to my style (no eggs, no oil). So, after a few unsuccessful searches on the internet, I improvised and decided on an oven poached version with flavors borrowed from Indian desserts.

Oven Poached Star Fruit & Apples
Prep Time: 30 min

  1. 1 Star Fruit (edges peeled, thinly sliced & seeds removed)
  2. 1 Honey Crisp Apple (peeled, thinly sliced & seeds removed)
  3. 2-3 tbsp Raw Sugar
  4. A Dash of Allspice
  5. A couple dashes of Ground Cardamom
  6. 2 tbsp Slivered Almonds
  7. A splash of Almond Milk
Preheat oven to 400F. Spread the apples in a thin layer in an "ungreased" (lidded) casserole dish. Cover apples with a layer of sliced star fruit. 

Sprinkle raw sugar, allspice, cardamom and slivered almonds and almond milk. 

Bake, covered, for about 20 minutes. Consider it done when the lovely aroma of cardamom begins to waft out of the oven and fill the house!! 

Remove from the oven, let stand for a few minutes and serve warm. For an absolutely new experiment, this came out really good. The almond milk at the bottom of the pan was poured into each serving. I thought the little sprinkle of almond milk gave the fruit, and the dish, just a little bit of creaminess. The Star fruit and the apples both retained just a touch of crispness. The cardamom flavors evoked a sense of nostalgia :) 

Veggie Fact of the Day

New Veggie #45 - Star Fruit
The Star Fruit, also known as Carambola, and my New Veggie #45, is native to the Indian Sub-continent and the islands of the Indian ocean. It is now cultivated in multiple parts of the world and is also locally grown in parts of the United States. 

The fruit gets its shape from its unique shape - it resembles a perfect 5-point star when cut across its length. The texture is firm and crisp (like a pear or an apple) and the taste is quite tart when the fruit is green, with a gradual sweetening as it ripens to a yellow color. 

Star fruits are low in calories, and sugar and has no fat. A medium sized star fruit has almost 50% of the RDA of Vitamin V and it is also rich in Vitamins B3 (Niacin) and B9 (Folic Acid) and is loaded with copper and potassium. It is most often eaten raw. It is loaded with polyphenolic antioxidants and is even said to help fight the intense heat of the Indian summer with its cooling benefits.

September 20, 2012

Roasted Belgian Endives

So here's New Veggie #44 - Belgian Endives. I've been noticing them in the store for a few weeks and finally decided to pick some up. I got on Google and mostly I found a lot of cold salad and appetizer recipes, but then I googled it again with 'Roasted' - surely, someone must eat these after they're cooked and viola .. I found this Three Tastes with a recipe that looked adaptable to my no-oil, no meat preferences.  

Roasted Belgian Endive
Prep Time: 30 min

  1. 3-4 Belgian Endives, halved or quartered, depending upon the size
  2. 1 tbsp whole wheat bread bread crumbs
  3. 2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast (or Parmesan cheese, if you eat dairy)
  4. 1 tbsp freeze dried Basil
  5. 3-4 leaves of fresh Basil
  6. 1/4 cup Vegetable Broth
Pre-heat oven to 375F. Mix bread crumbs, nutritional yeast, basil in a small bowl. Drop half a teaspoon of olive oil in a casserole/baking dish and use a paper towel to grease the whole dish and basically wipe off any excess oil leaving only a very slight layer of oil on the dish. Layer the endives, cut size up in a baking dish and sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper.

Pour vegetable broth in a slow stream over the endives, making sure to get a little bit on each piece. Most of the broth will pool at the bottom of the dish, which is fine. Add a thick layer of the dry ingredient mix on the endives. Cover with foil and bake for 15 min. After 15 min, remove foil, and broil on low, uncovered for another 15 min. The breadcrumbs become golden and crispy and the endives start to caramelize at the edges. Garnish with fresh basil and serve. I served these with hot sauce. 

My Assessment: This is the first time I've tried using nutritional yeast in a baked dish and it brings a lovely cheesy flavor to the dish. I really liked the endives too. I didn't think they were bitter, maybe because they had started to caramelize. Furthermore, the roasting process didn't make them limp and soggy, but they retained their crispness ... !! I'd definitely try these again! 

* This is a no-added-salt recipe. The nutritional yeast had so much flavor that I didn't add, or feel the need for, any salt at all. 

Veggie Fact of the Day

New Veggie #44 - Belgian Endive
Belgian Endives belong to the chicory family, the same as radicchio (New Veggie #15). Each endive consists of a bulb of white torpedo like leaves, with yellowish-green tips. 

The smaller the endive, the tenderer the leaves. Flavor-wise, the white leaves are supposed to have a slightly bitter taste, which is supposed to mellow to a sweeter flavor once baked or roasted. Hence, my decision to roast these instead of trying to eat them raw. 

Belgian endives are supposed to be an excellent source of beta-carotene, potassium, selenium, manganese, copper and iron and vitamins A, B1 (Thiamin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic acid), B6 (Pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid) and C. It is also rich in Inulin which is supposed to be helpful in reducing blood glucose and LDL cholesterol in diabetic and obese patients. An interesting fact about Belgian Endive? It is grown completely underground, or indoors, in the absence of sunlight which prevents the leaves from turning green and opening up. Look for white bunches .. the whiter the leaf, the less bitter the taste. 

September 19, 2012

Punjabi Baigan Aloo (Eggplant & Potatoes)

I grew up eating this dish and to me it is comfort food at its best. For as long as I can remember, this dish has been associated with someone's name - Ammaji's (Grandma's) Baigan Aloo, Badima's (Aunt's) Baigan Aloo, Mummy's Baigan Aloo ... it's a Sawhney family recipe. It has got only 6 ingredients, it cooks in 10 minutes in a pressure cooker and it is as wholesome as you can possibly get. It also uses New Veggie #42 - Eggplant (बैगन, Baigan).  Punjabi refers to a region of India and Pakistan, which is where my family originated. For those that are new to Indian culture and cuisine, here's an interesting fact - each Indian state has its own culture, cuisine, even its own language.   

Ammaji's Baigan Aloo
Prep Time: 15-20 min

  1. 1 medium Eggplant, cut into 1-2" chunks (with peels).  
  2. 2 large potatoes, cut into 1-2" chunks (with or without peels). 
  3. 3 small tomatoes, diced
  4. 2-3 tsp Cumin
  5. 1 tsp Turmeric
  6. 1-2 tsp Chili Powder
Add all the ingredients, and salt to taste, to a pressure cooker. Add 1/8 cup water, or vegetable broth to ensure that there is enough liquid in the cooker. Remember that eggplant is about 95% water, so it will release a lot of liquid as it cooks. For an electric cooker, steam under high pressure for 10 min. For a stove-top cooker, cook until full pressure is reached (1 whistle), reduce heat, cook for 5 minutes and turn off. Let the steam dissipate by itself (if you don't own a pressure cooker, you can make this even in a stock pot, cover and cook until potatoes are tender and eggplant has almost disintegrated, check regularly to make sure that there is enough liquid at all times to avoid burning). Open, mix well (the eggplant will basically cook down and make the dish the consistency of thin gravy). Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and freshly chopped coriander leaves. This dish is traditionally eaten over rice, but is great for sopping up with warm bread as well. Mmm Mmm Good!!

This was also one of my dad's favorite dishes. We lost him a year ago today ... this one's for you, Daddy!! 

September 17, 2012

Veggie Fact of the Day

Photo Courtesy: Holistically Haute
Sweet Potatoes are the 6th principle food crop in the world with 90% of it being grown in various parts of Asia. Yet, Vardaman, MS claims to be the Sweet Potato Capital of the World :) !! 

Sweet potato remains have been found in South America that date back to 8000 BC. The edible part of the sweet potato is a tuberous root, much like white potatoes, to which it is only distantly related. 

The tuber is rich in carbohydrates, dietary fiber (when eaten with the skin on), and vitamins B6, C and E. The rich orange color of the flesh is due, much like carrots, to a high level of beta-carotene .. a Vitamin A equivalent - and they contain five times the RDA for Vitamin A in one sweet potato. They are also a rich source of copper, manganese, potassium and iron. Sweet potatoes have recently been reclassified as an 'antidiabetic food' i.e. can be consumed by diabetics despite the sugar content.

Sweet potatoes are often called Yams, although mistakenly so, as they are two different vegetables. Sweet potatoes are root tubers and have been used by man since prehistoric times. They are a fall staple and are often found on Thanksgiving tables. Interestingly, sweet potatoes aren't always orange colored but sometimes can be a brilliant purple color, due to anthocyanins. Another interesting fact about sweet potatoes, is that it is important to have some fat with sweet potatoes in order to get the full benefits of beta-carotene, as fat increases its uptake.

Veggie Fact of the Day

Eggplants belong to the same family as the tomato, tobacco and potato - Solanaceae (night shades). It was first domesticated in India although several varieties now exist across the globe each varying in size and shape. Interestingly, similar to a water melon, an eggplant is almost 95% water. Raw eggplant can sometimes taste bitter and that can be resolved by salting and rinsing the fruit in water. China is the top eggplant producer in the world, followed closely by India, Egypt, Turkey and Japan. Nutritionally, eggplants are rich in Vitamin C, potassium and calcium and are very low in carbohydrates.

Miso Roasted Eggplant & Sweet Potato

I asked my Facebook friends recently to recommend new veggies to add to my list and a couple of folks asked me about Eggplant and Sweet Potatoes. Both of these are pretty routine visitors to my dinner plate. But since I've cheated with some other regular visitors, I decided to bring these two on to the list as well. I often eat Sweet Potatoes - mostly roasted in the oven and eat them plain or I often make E2 Sweet Potato Fries. For eggplant, my go-to recipe has always been an Indian staple - Baigan Bharta, or occasionally Roasted Eggplant Slices. Today, Eggplant becomes New Veggie #42 and Sweet Potato become New Veggie #43.

Miso Glazed Sweet Potatoes
Prep Time: 30 min

  1. 1 Eggplant, cut into 8 wedges
  2. 2 Sweet Potatoes, cut into 8 wedges
  3. 2 tbsp Miso
  4. 1 tbsp Ginger-Garlic Paste
  5. 4 tbsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
  6. Pepper, to taste
  7. 2-3 leaves of Basil, chopped. 
Mix miso, soy sauce, ginger-garlic paste and pepper in a bowl to make a thick paste. Brush onto wedges of eggplant and sweet potatoes and broil in the oven on high, or on the grill 8-10 min on each side, until done. Sprinkle with a little sprinkle of salt, if needed  (I didn't add any salt because the Miso and Soy sauce had enough to make it taste just right for me!). Garnish with fresh basil and serve as a side, or eat it all as your entree ;) like me! 

Miso Glazed Eggplant
My Assessment: I didn't use any oil, to even spray the grill, so the eggplant didn't fare well on it (got stuck). Overall, this recipe worked so-so for the eggplant and was decent with the sweetness of the potatoes. I loved the Miso glaze ... it was amazing. ... next time, I'll try it with regular potatoes. 

September 16, 2012

Basic Vegetarian Gumbo

.. the aromas of good ol' Creole cooking always make me smile. Andouille sausage was probably one of favorite meats before I went plant based. I don't miss the meat, but I do sometimes miss the flavors. A good hearty Gumbo is a good way to remember those flavors all over again. A lot of vegan/vegetarian gumbo recipes that are available online use vegan sausage and while I am sure that would taste good, those products are also extremely greasy and processed. Instead of sausage, I tried TVP chunks, with Cajun seasoning and .. my current best friend in a bottle - LIQUID SMOKE :) !!!  

Vegetarian Gumbo
Prep Time: 30 min

  1. 4 or 5 cups vegetable broth
  2. 1 medium to large Red Onion, diced
  3. 3 stalks of Celery, diced
  4. 1 tbsp minced Garlic
  5. 2 cups of Spinach, stems removed
  6. 1 cup white button mushrooms, quartered
  7. 1 cup Baby Carrots
  8. 1 12-oz bag of Frozen Diced Okra
  9. 1/2 cup TVP Chunks
  10. 2 tbsp Liquid Smoke
  11. 2-3 tbsp Corn Starch, as needed. 
  12. 1-2 tbsp Creole/Cajun Seasoning, to taste
  13. 2 tsp of fresh Thyme leaves
  14. Salt and Pepper, to taste
In a deep stock pot on medium heat, bring 4 cups of vegetable broth to a rolling boil. You can use water instead, but vegetable broth tends to add a lot more flavor. As the broth boils, add ingredients one by one, making sure that the liquid continues to boil during this process. Add onions and garlic, then okra, then spinach, mushrooms and baby carrots. Lastly rinse the TVP chunks in running water and add those as well. Reduce heat to a simmer, and boil for another 10 minutes or so. I used spinach today instead of green bell peppers which are more traditional to Gumbo, so feel free to use those instead. After about 10 minutes of simmering the soup, mix cornstarch in tap water and add in small amounts until the consistency thickens (but don't let it congeal). Add liquid smoke and cajun seasoning, mix well, seasoning with thyme and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve over brown rice. 

My Assessment: From what I've read, you need to boil the gumbo for at least an hour to get rid of the sliminess of the okra. From what I know of okra, it tends to get slimier as you cook it more. I only boiled this soup for about 25 minutes, including the time after I added corn starch. I don't mind the slightly sticky flavor of it, but if you do, try boiling it longer. Overall, I really liked this recipe. No added fat, very low on salt and very high on a lot of flavor. I love Creole seasoning :) 

September 15, 2012

HH Butter Bean Cookies

I've never bean a big fan of chocolate chip cookies. I am more of a short bread cookie kind of person. Occasionally, I would eat an oatmeal raisin cookies. Having grown up in India, I still prefer traditional Indian desserts over anything else. I live in a remote rural part of Ohio and I'm probably 1 of 5 Indians in the county. Needless to say, good Indian desserts are hard to come by. So once I went plant-based I never really bothered with any of the cookie or dessert recipes. 

Lately, I've seen a lot of posts on facebook about these Butter Bean Cookies from Happy Herbivore. I tried the recipe tonight ... to the tee, except that I added about 1.5x the amount of chocolate chip cookies and once done, I sprinkled a little bit of raw sugar on top of each piece to give it a glow :)!!!

These were great. Even my omni boys liked them and ate 'em like regular cookies. Score!!!! 

The coolest part about this recipe - no added fats, no processed sugar, no oil at all and best of all ... packed with 2g protein per cookie !! Score!!!

Also, Butter Beans made it to my list as New Veggie #41.

September 14, 2012

TVP Korma

Korma is a traditional dish originating in South/Central Asia. It is usually a rich sauce made with butter and heavy cream. A korma can be made with a variety of ingredients - lamb or goat meat, chicken, paneer, or even mixed vegetables. While I have always enjoyed the rich flavors of Korma, I definitely do not miss the heaviness with which it settles in the stomach. So here's a 'no-added-fat' version of this classic dish. 

TVP Korma

Prep Time: 30-35 min

  1. 2 cups TVP (Nutrela) Chunks
  2. 1 medium Red Onion, diced finely
  3. 1 large Tomato, diced finely (I used a can of Hunt's Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes)
  4. 1 tbsp Ginger-Garlic paste
  5. 1 cup fresh or frozen Peas
  6. 1/3 cup Raw Cashews
  7. 1/3 cup Almond Milk
  8. 1 cup Vegetable Broth
  9. 3-4 tsp Garam Masala
  10. Salt and Pepper, to taste
Directions: One of the biggest revelations :) following my conversion to a plant-based lifestyle was that I do not need to use oil for cooking. It has changed my entire perspective on cooking. I now use vegetable broth, nut milk and just plain old water to saute and pan fry my ingredients. As an Indian, I grew up with caramelized onions and caramelized tomatoes ... and I was taught that you need to use oil for caramelizing these ingredients that are vital in Indian cuisine. Here's a quick tutorial on caramelizing tomatoes as well as onions - with water or broth. 

Line a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat with water and add diced onions. Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt and mix well. Keep a measuring cup with water handy. Once the water comes to a boil, the onions should turn transparent. Keep stirring and allow the water to evaporate. As the onions dry up, some might stick to the bottom of the pan, which is fine. Add a splash of water, which will allow the  caramelized onions at the bottom of the pan to soften up again. Repeat the process until the onions are are rich red color.   

Once onions are done, add the tomatoes, and another pinch of salt. And repeat the same process with the tomatoes as with the onions. Cook until the tomatoes are cooked down and the onions and tomatoes together make a thick red paste.   

Voila!! Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes without Oil!!! Add Garam Masala, Peas and another splash of water. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile boil a pot of water and hydrate the TVP chunks by soaking for 5-7 min. Drain and run cold water over the colander. 

As the chunks cool off, take handfuls and squeeze out as much excess water as possible and set aside. 

Once the peas are soft, add drained TVP chunks to the pan, and 1 cup of Vegetable broth. Mix well, cover and continue to simmer for another 5-7 minutes.  Put the raw cashews in a coffee grinder and pulse a few times to get a fine granular powder.  Add cashews and almond milk to the skillet, mix well, simmer for a minute and its ready to serve!!  

Garnish with some fresh herbs, and freshly cracked black pepper. I served it over steamed brown rice.  

LOVED TVP Korma tonight ... !!!
My Assessment: While this dish does not have any added oils, it does have a higher fat content compared to any of my other recipes because of the cashews. It might be possible to achieve the same level of creaminess with Mori-Nu tofu, or nutritional yeast. I'll have to try that soon!!  The TVP chunks had a meaty texture to them. For folks that don't enjoy TVP, this recipe can be made with any kind of meat, or a bunch of mixed vegetables - corn, peas, carrots, potatoes and cauliflower would make for a lovely combination. 

September 13, 2012

Maple-Sage Glazed Turnips

Believe it or not, it has been over a month since I tried a previously untried, or less tried, vegetable from the produce section. As I wait for fall to come upon us with eager anticipation (all those lovely squash .. um!) .. I  have been having some difficulty findings an interesting new veggie to try. All I've been seeing in stores was BEETS ... and well, I'd rather not! Although I have been very adventurous and have tried quite a few new and obscure (to me!) vegetables, I'm still not ready for beets. So I settled on making Turnips - my New Veggie #40

Maple-Sage Glazed Turnips
I have eaten turnips before, as a child. It isn't my fondest memory and I wasn't chomping at the bit to try them again. But .. I had tried Rutabaga (#34) not too long ago and really liked it. Everything I've read told me that Rutabaga and Turnips are close in taste .. hence the decision to give Turnips a second ... umm 20th chance :)

In the Indian sub-continent, the most popular recipe is probably mashed turnips with fresh cilantro, turmeric and jaggery. It is often diced and added to meaty stews in place of potatoes as well.  I didn't want to try the same old (and to be very blah!) recipe for turnips. A quick Google search revealed this gem on The recipe was perfect for me as it already had no added fat.

Prep Time: 20 min

  1. 5 small turnips
  2. 1/4 Cup Vegetable Broth
  3. 3 tbsp Pure Maple Syrup
  4. 3-4 tbsp Fresh Chopped Sage 
  5. Red Pepper flakes, to taste
  6. Salt & Pepper, to taste
Trim and peel turnips and cut each into 8 wedges or quarters.

Line a skillet on medium heat with vegetable broth and  mix in maple syrup and a half teaspoon of salt. Add turnips and chopped sage (save a small amount for a garnish). 

Once the liquid comes to a boil, give everything a quick mix, reduce heat to medium low and cover. Cook covered, until turnips are tender (mine took about 8-9 minutes). Uncover and cook until the liquid evaporates and the turnips are glazed. 

Transfer to a serving bowl once done. Garnish with the remainder of the chopped sage, freshly cracked black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Add a sprinkle of sea salt, if needed. 

My Assessment: These turned out great. I will definitely be making turnips again :) And the best part about this dish was the crunchy bits of glazed sage that I picked off the skillet!! Yum!

Veggie Fact of the Day

New Veggie#40 - Turnips
Turnips are a root vegetable belonging to the same family as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. They are a low calorie and rich source of Potassium and Vitamin C. It is a small white skinned bulbous root with the parts closest to the soil surface colored purple or red (due to sunlight). Mine look slightly brown after sitting in the fridge for a couple of days, but typically the skin is smooth and crisply white. The flesh on the interior is all white. Turnips greens are also eaten in some countries and they taste like mustard greens. The greens are also rich in Vitamins A, B9 (folic acid), C and K and also lutein. Turnips have been cultivated for over 4000 years and are believed to have originated in Central Asia. Even today, turnips hold a special place in Turkish and middle eastern recipes.

September 9, 2012

Seitan Tikka Masala, with Kale

As I've frequently alluded to before, my dear husband only eats 2 items off the menu in Indian restaurants. Dal Makhani and Chicken Tikka Masala. While I've tried a tofu version of tikka masala, I decided a while back that Seitan - New Veggie #36, would be an excellent substitute for chicken. So finally I decided to try it today.  

Seitan Tikka Masala
Prep Time: 20 min

  1. 8oz cubed Seitan
  2. 1 bunch Kale, stems removed, coarsely torn
  3. 1 can (6 oz) Hunt's Tomato paste
  4. ~2 cups Vegetable broth
  5. 2-3 tsp Ginger Garlic paste
  6. 2 tsp Cumin powder
  7. 2 tsp Coriander powder
  8. 1 tsp Chili Powder
  9. 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
  10. 2-3 tsp Garam Masala
  11. 1/2 to 3/4 cup nondairy milk
  12. Salt and Pepper, to taste
Seitan Tikka Masala
(pressure cooker version)
Before drying in a skillet for 5-7 min 
In a deep stock pot, add about half a cup of vegetable broth and kale. Bring to a boil and cover for 5 minutes to allow the kale to wilt. Drain kale using a colander and set aside. Save the vegetable broth. Line a skillet (on medium heat) with saved vegetable broth from wilting kale. Bring to a boil and add ginger-garlic paste. As the aromas are released, add all the dry spices and tomato paste. Mix well, adding vegetable broth as needed, to make a thick sauce. Let it simmer for a few minutes before adding nondairy milk; mix well to make the consistency uniform. Lastly, add kale and Seitan cubes and simmer for 5-7  minutes. Garnish with freshly cracked pepper and fresh/dried cilantro. Serve over brown rice. 

Pressure Cooker Directions: Add everything (except the nondairy milk) to the cooker and steam under pressure for 10 min; immediately release steam. Mix well; add non-dairy milk, garnish and serve. If the pressure cooker version is a little soupy (see picture), you may need to dry it in a skillet for a few minutes before adding milk. Both taste just as good; one looks more like the restaurant version of tikka masala :) 

My Assessment: I liked it. T did not try it. I made it in a pressure cooker today and ate a serving for dinner before drying the rest in a skillet for lunches. I don't think Seitan works as a 'great' substitute for chicken  .. because its a so spongy in texture, but overall, even with the kale, I think the dish was very reminiscent of Chicken Tikka Masala :)

Plant-Based Vacationing ..

We just got back from a lovely vacation in OBX, North Carolina ... 8 days filled with sun, sand and the  lovely smell and sounds of the ocean and most importantly, a vacation filled with plant based foods and eating healthy throughout (except 1 meal where I cheated ... it was date night, people!). Actually, I made a conscious decision that night to eat what I did. 

We were renting a house for the week with a fully equipped kitchen so the first order of the day was packing the non-perishables which I already had at home in bulk and would probably be either unavailable on the islands, or if available, would be rather heftily priced. Here's what I packed for my meals. My husband, our kids and my in-laws who were accompanying us on vacation are all omnivores so these item were primarily for my meals. 

Grains: Quinoa, Brown Rice, Red Lentils, TVP - in Quart sized ziploc bags. 1 bag each;
Spices: Taco seasoning, Garam Masala, Granulated Onion and Garlic, Pepper mill, Freeze Dried Cilantro,   Italian seasoning, McCormick's Steak seasoning, Table and Sea Salt - packed the store bought containers;
Pantry Items: Mori-Nu Tofu (2 packs), Dates (10-12 in a zip loc bag), Low Sodium Soy Sauce, Thai Peanut sauce, Swanson's Vegetable Flavor Boost (1 pack), Ketchup & Mustard.
Other Kitchen Essentials: Stick blender, Chef's knife. 

For the 1.5 day trip down from Ohio, I had the following in our cooler - sliced pears, sliced peaches, celery and carrot sticks in small sandwich bags, and a large tupperware filled with roasted red pepper hummus. I put the tupperware in its own gallon sized bag to prevent any water from the cooler from getting in. We also had a jar with pretzel sticks and some chips and other snacks for the kids. My husband, one of my stepsons and I ate the peaches for breakfast; and we all ate the pears over the course of the day. When we got to the hotel that night, the cooler was emptied and all the remaining items went in the fridge. We stopped at Bob Evans for lunch and I ordered a baked potato with some Salsa and as a special treat, ordered some breaded garlic mushrooms, without the ranch dressing that comes with it. We all shared the mushrooms so it wasn't so bad :) We stopped in Durham for the night and since everyone was tired from the 10 hour long drive, we decided to go to a Jimmy John's in the same block as the hotel. I got the vegetarian sub without the mayo or the cheese and asked for extra avocado. It wasn't the best sub but it was great after a long day of driving in a car with 3 kids :) !!! We ate the 'free' breakfast at the hotel the next morning; I had a banana, a slice of bread with jelly and a small blueberry muffin (not the best option!) and we were off down the road soon after. 

Other than 2 nights, and 1 lunch, we ate all of our meals at home. Here's some of the meals I prepared :)

Breakfast: I started every day with a green smoothie.  

Lunch: .. this was usually the 'on the go' meal of the day. Everyone ate when they were hungry and whatever they wanted to eat. 
  1. Fresh sliced veggies (celery, carrots, and cucumbers) with hummus. 
  2. Peach and Hummus wrap (whole wheat tortilla smeared with hummus and wrapped around thinly sliced peaches! An odd combination, but was really tasty).
  3. Peanut butter toast
  4. ... and lots of dinner leftovers :)
HH Sweet Potato Dal
Dinner: .. my MIL prepared a 'home cooked' dinner for all the omni boys each night. And she and I usually ate whatever 'plant based' dinners I prepared. She is more of a veggie eater and doesn't get to each too many different foods so it was really cool to introduce her to some of the more unusual foods I eat (according to her!).
  1. Vegetable Biryani with sweet peppers and mushrooms, with a side of Grilled Zucchini and Yellow Squash (on the grill, with McCormick's Steak Seasoning)
  2. Quinoa and Black bean wraps (this was a super easy meal, the black beans only had taco seasoning on them, and the Quinoa was made in plan vegetable broth). 
  3. HH Sweet Potato dal, with peppers instead of spinach, over rice. 
  4. HH TVP Tacos, with more grilled zucchini. 
  5. Mixed Vegetable Quick Stir Fry over rice. 
We spent most of our days at home and close to the beach. We were on the road and site seeing on 2 days. The first day, we ate at a Pizza hut buffet in Nags Head so the kids could load up :) and I ate from salad bar and ordered a personal pan pizza - veggies, no cheese. Another time, we ate lunch at the Creekside Cafe, on Okracoke island. I got an awesome Grilled Veggie Wrap, no cheese. It was super low on oil as well and was totally worth it. This was a nice 'hole in the wall' kind of place ... laid back and relaxed. 

Mad Crabber - Steamed Veggies over Brown Rice
T and I went out on 2 nights for dinner by ourselves while the in-laws watched the kids. I was really good the first night. We went to the Mad Crabber Restaurant for dinner. I was quite impressed with the service and loved how friendly and accommodating the staff was. I informed them that I was plant based and the waiter recommended the Steamed Veggies over Brown Rice. The dish typically comes with ranch dressing but he was happy to switch it out for me with a side of Thai Peanut sauce. Yum!  I did slip up on this night and as we were walking down the road, my husband wanted to stop at DQ and get an ice cream. I gave in to temptation, got a small cone, and then regretted my decision after a few bites. I threw the rest away. 

The last night we were out, I was bad :) again. I made the conscious decision to eat steamed crab legs. I did order a baked sweet potato with it. I wanted to have a nice time on our last night on the islands. And in retrospect, it wasn't anything great. Yes, steamed crab legs was my most favorite meal when I was an omnivore ... but its not something that evoked the same taste or experience this time. Live and learn ... !!! I loved all the plant-based meals I ate during the week but the 2 times that I slipped up, I felt guilty - like I was cheating with my own health and well being. 

In the end .. we had a great vacation. and I only gained 2 lbs, which are already off after a week of being back to reality ... now that's what I call an excellent vacation!!