October 30, 2012

Two Lentil Soup

This heart warming Two-Lentil Soup is a concoction I came up with on a rainy Ohio fall day. It is packed with protein goodness, zero fat and greens as well. Also, it has only 1 spice ... roasted ground cumin! Yum! If you like cumin, or even if you don't, do give roasted ground cumin a try. It has a much smoother earthy flavor and a little bit of it goes a long way. 

Two Lentil Soup with Oyster Mushrooms
Prep Time: 15 min (pressure cooker)


  1. 1/3 cup Mung Dal (Green lentils, split and skinned)
  2. 1/3 cup Masoor Dal (Red lentils, split and skinned)
  3. 1 cup Spinach, coarsely torn
  4. 1 cup Oyster mushrooms (optional)
  5. 1 medium red onion, diced
  6. 1 large tomato, diced
  7. 1 tbsp Ginger-Garlic paste
  8. 2-3 cups of water or vegetable broth
  9. 1-2 tsp roasted ground cumin, to taste.
  10. Salt and Pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients in a pressure cooker and cook under high pressure for 8-10 minutes. Release steam immediately. Stir to combine ingredients. Taste check for salt and add more cumin, to taste. Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper, and fresh cilantro (if you have any available). If you don't own a pressure cooker, this can easily be made on the stove top, simmer on medium heat for ~30 min until the beans are well done and blended with the rest of the ingredients. It should not take longer than 30 min as the skinned split lentils typically cook super fast. Serve hot!! 

October 27, 2012

Tacos de Papa, Hash Style

Since T is not a big fan of tofu or fake meats, or oatmeal, or nut milks .. his plant-based breakfast choices are quite limited. He has a bowl of fruit (apples, pears, peaches, strawberries or other berries) for breakfast during the week. So one weekends, I try to provide some variety. I know for a fact that he LOVES tacos ... and I've tried Tacos de Papa before and he loved it. Unfortunately for me .. I get bored with eating the same things again and again. So today, I decided to change it up just a tad ... ;-) !!! .. Tacos de Papa, Hash Style.  

Tacos de Papa, Hash Style
Prep Time: 20 min

  1. 2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
  2. 1-2 tsp dried Onion flakes
  3. 1-2 tsp Garlic powder
  4. 1-2 tsp Cumin powder
  5. 1-2 tsp Taco Seasoning
  6. Salt and Pepper, to taste
  7. 4 Corn Tortillas
In a large bowl, mix potato and all spices together. The moisture from the potatoes will help the spices stick to it which is great because the flavors penetrate the potatoes, but it always means that you need to mix everything really well to get an even distribution of spices.

Preheat a large non-stick or seasoned cast iron skillet on medium heat. Spread potatoes in an even layer on the entire surface. Cover and allow to cook for about 5-7 minutes. Do not disturb during this time at all. After about 5-7 min, use a flat spatula and gently lift the layer of potatoes off the bottom of the skillet.  

The moisture from the potatoes allows the layer to form a skin which prevents it from sticking. Increase heat to high for a couple of minutes to allow the bottom to turn a golden brown color. Flip it over, in one piece if possible, reduce heat to medium, cover and allow the other side to cook in the same way.

Once the hash is nice and crispy, transfer to a cutting board and cut into 8 wedges, or more if needed. Serve with salsa, fresh tomatoes, greens or a whole host of breakfast taco toppings (see list here). We ate it today just by itself with some dried cilantro and Spicy Mango Habanero Salsa.

You can even serve the hash just by itself as a side with Tofu Scramble. Yum!!! 

October 26, 2012

Veggie Fact of the Day

New Veggie #50 - Delicata Squash
Delicata Squash is a winter squash with a very distinct oblong shape and dark green or orange stripes. The inside is pale yellow or cream colored flesh. In some parts of the world, it is also called Peanut Squash because of its distinctive shape. Although it is considered a winter squash according to Wikipedia, it is in the same family as several summer squash (zucchini, pattypan etc). Similar to pumpkin, delicata seeds can be roasted for a tasty crunchy snack. Although the delicata does not have as much beta-carotene as other winter squashes, it is an excellent source of fiber, potassium, manganese, magnesium and Vitamins B and C. 

That's my New Veggie #50 Fact of the Day.

Berry Nutty Delicata Squash

Berry Nutty Delicata Squash
This recipe is based on one I found online on the Eating Well magazine. I omitted all the oil and added Basil and sea salt to suit my tastes. It turned out really well.

Prep Time: 20 min

  1. 1 medium Delicata Squash
  2. 6 Dried Apricots, diced
  3. 1/4 cup Dried Berries (cranberries, blueberries)
  4. 1/4 cup sliced or slivered Almonds
  5. 2-3 tbsp Pure Maple Syrup
  6. 6-8 fresh Basil leaves, chopped.
  7. 1-2 tsp Sea Salt, as a garnish
  8. Pepper, to taste. 
Wash the outside of the squash really well to remove any specks of dirt. Slice off the tips at both ends, cut the squash lengthwise into 2, remove all seeds and pulp with a spoon. 

Cut each half into 2 and then thinly slice each wedge. Place squash in a steamer basket and steam until tender (7-10 min). 

Meanwhile mix berries, almonds, apricots and minced basil in a bowl. Add maple syrup to the bowl and give it a quick toss. Set aside until squash is tender. 

Once the squash is done remove the steamer basket, let it drain (if necessary) for a couple of seconds and then cover the maple glazed berries and almonds with the steaming squash. Toss everything together, sprinkle some sea salt on top, and garnish with freshly cracked black pepper !! 

My Assessment: For being a preparation simply consisting of steamed squash and dried fruit, this dish was a stunner. Steamed Delicata had the texture very similar to sweet potatoes. I like the flavor of sweet and salt together but if you prefer to keep those separate skip the sea salt. I thought it added a certain something to the dish. Overall, a winner!!! I think this dish would be a great addition as a side to a plant-based Thanksgiving dinner!! I had it today as a warm salad but I'm sure its going to get better with age and the leftovers in the fridge will be great as a cold salad too!! Very impressed with this new veggie!! :)

October 22, 2012

Veggie Fact of the Day

Golden Hubbard Squash
Golden Hubbard Squash - From what I see on the internet, there are at least three kinds of hubbard squash .. the Grey, the Green (blue green) and the Golden. They all belong to the same family as pumpkin and some of the other winter squashes and the golden hubbard is a good replacement for pumpkins. 

Nutritionally, hubbard squashes are similar to other members of the squash family, so my new veggie fact of the day is limited :) to the information above.

Herbed Chilli Pepper Hubbard Squash

Since it's my favorite season of the year, I'm on a quest to try as many squash varieties as I can before they all disappear :) !! I haven't been as good as I'd like but I do have three that I'd like to try this week. Today's selection is New Veggie #49 - Golden Hubbard Squash

Prep Time: 15-20 min

  1. 1 small hubbard squash, peeled, diced
  2. 2 tsp Madras Sambar Powder (I use the brand called SGR 777)* 
  3. 2 tsp Red pepper flakes
  4. 1 tsp minced garlic
  5. 2-3 tbsp freshly choppedCilantro leaves
  6. Salt & Pepper to taste
Wash the squash really well to remove any dirt. Cut in half and remove all the seeds and fiber from the hollow center using a spoon or spatula. Cut each half into wedges and peel each one with a paring knife and dice each wedge into 1/2 inch pieces. Line a deep skillet with water, on medium heat, and add garlic. Once the garlic begins to sizzle and release its fragrance, add the squash and remaining ingredients (except cilantro). Mix and cover. Cook for ~10-12 minutes until squash is tender. Uncover, add fresh cilantro, and mix well. Allow any water to evaporate and serve hot as a side. This dish goes really well with naan, or even mixed in with well cooked white basmati rice. 

Herbed Chilli Pepper Hubbard Squash
My Assessment: I liked it. Having read that it was a lot like pumpkin I was a tad surprised as I did not find it to be as sweet as pumpkin and overall, it blended well with this spicy preparation. I purposely did not add any sweet ingredients to this dish (unlike some of my other sweet and spicy squash recipes) and I was glad as this was a very savory dish. 

* Ingredients: chillies, coriander, toor dal, fenugreek, turmeric and asafoetida.

October 19, 2012

Quinoa Chili

Every year on the last weekend before Halloween we visit with T's mom .. at the Indian Lake Campgrounds for The Annual Halloween Campout. Every year, the menu includes Chili, Beef & Vegetable Soup, Shredded Chicken sandwiches and cupcakes and desserts galore ... of course along with all the candy that you could possibly want to eat. Since both T and I are plant-based this year, I decided to bring along a plant-based Chili. I asked folks on our 'New Herbies' page on facebook what their most favorite Chili recipe was and I got a few suggestions ... and this one (Savvy Vegetarian) seemed the most interesting. Since we have to leave early tomorrow to get to the campgrounds, I decided to make it tonight on the stove top, although the website provides the crock-pot version as well. After making it as described, I decided that it didn't meet our expectations at all. My husband is a new herbie and I needed to live up to his expectations of "real" chili. The recipe below is my uber-modified version. The biggest change is 0% Added Fat

Quinoa Chili
Prep Time: 60 min, with prep time included.

Ingredients (12 servings):
  1. 1 Medium Red Onion, diced
  2. 3 Stalks of Celery, diced
  3. 1 Jalapeño, deseeded, diced
  4. 2 tbsp minced Garlic
  5. 1 Green Bell Pepper, diced
  6. 1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
  7. 2 cups Quinoa, rinsed and drained.
  8. 1 can (15oz) Black Beans, rinsed and drained
  9. 1 can (15 oz) Pinto Beans, rinsed and drained
  10. 2 cans (15 oz) Dark Red Kidney Beans, rinsed and drained
  11. 1 can (15 oz) Hunt's Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes, with Garlic
  12. 3 cans (8 oz) Tomato Sauce, unsalted
  13. 8 cups Water or Vegetable Broth
  14. 3-4 tsp Cumin powder
  15. 6-8 tsp Coriander powder
  16. 3-4 tsp Italian seasoning
  17. 2-4 tsp Taco seasoning
  18. 2 tsp dried Basil
  19. 1-2 tsp dried Cilantro
  20. 2 tsp Paprika (add more, to taste)
  21. 3 tsp Chipotle Pepper (add more, to taste)
  22. 2 large Bay leaves
  23. 2 tbsp Light Molasses
  24. 4 tbsp Soy Sauce, or Bragg's Liquid Aminos
  25. Salt and Pepper, to taste
  26. Fresh Cilantro leaves, for garnish
In a large pot, add diced onions, celery, jalapeño and garlic and 1 cup of vegetable broth. Cook until both onion and celery are translucent. Add diced bell peppers, and cook for another 5 minutes. Then add remaining ingredients and all the spices except for the 'hot' spices which should be added once the quinoa is cooked and even then mix in the chili peppers slowly and taste test frequently. Add water or broth as needed once the quinoa is cooked to get to the right consistency for chili. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and freshly cracked black pepper. 

Quinoa Chili
Our Assessment: Tony LOVED it!!! He's a 'real' chili guy and he LOVED IT!!!! I am so excited. He wants me to add this version (with my modifications) to our regular rotation and guess what? Winter is here ... we'll be eating a lot of it.  The pot is now sitting in the fridge. Tomorrow, I plan to transfer it to my crock pot first thing in the morning. I'll check consistency again, and add broth if needed. Let's hope someone in our Omni family, besides us, is willing to try it. It is truly yummy!!

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 464 (Fat Calories 27)
Total Fat 3.0 g; Cholesterol 0 g; Carbohydrates 85.3 g; Dietary Fiber 18.3 g; Sugars 8.1 g; Protein 26.3 g

October 17, 2012

Punjabi Khichdi

Khichdi (Kh-itch-dee) is a very mildly flavored, soupy preparation of lentils and rice. Common in pretty much the entire Indian sub-continent, variations of the same basic theme are found across India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka ... it is considered a comfort food. Traditional preparations are gentle on the stomach but offer a special blend of spices and herbs that are gentle enough on folks suffering from 'Delhi-Belly' ... or gastric troubles. Even within the same region and cuisine, there are often variations of it, depending upon the particular variety of lentils used and in some instances milder, easy to digest veggies, such as peas and carrots and cauliflower, may also be used. 

Ammaji's Kitchdi
Prep Time: 10-12 min

  1. 1/2 cup Split Mung Dal (Split Green lentils, with skins)
  2. 1/2 cup Brown rice (traditional preparations use white rice)
  3. 3.5 - 4 cups water
  4. 1/8 tsp Asafoetida
  5. 1-2 tsp Cumin seeds
  6. 1 tsp fresh or dried Cilantro leaves
  7. 2-4 Dried Curry leaves (optional)
  8. 1 tsp minced ginger (optional)
  9. 1 tsp Garam Masala (optional)
  10. salt and pepper to taste.
Add all ingredients to a pressure cooker and cook under high pressure for 10 minutes. Allow to sit for a few minutes, or release pressure immediately. If you don't have a pressure cooker, use a deep stock pot and cook until the dal is almost all turned to mush and the rice is super tender. The overall consistency should be that of a very wet oatmeal, or cream of wheat. Mix well, garnish with freshly cracked black pepper, and serve hot. Traditionally this dish is eaten with plain home-made yogurt, or spicy Indian pickles. Some people swear by the flavor of a dollop of butter on each plate ... I've never been a big fan and I don't use oils anymore so I didn't even bother with it today. 

Assessment: I already know I love this dish. But T loved it today :) Score!!!! 

Herb & Spice Fact of the Day

Asafoetida is a dried latex gum (gum oleoresin) extracted from the roots of plants in the Ferula family. It has a rather strong, somewhat unpleasant and pungent odor and is an acquired taste (for sure). 

These plants are cultivated and used mainly in the Indian sub-continent. Once cooked, Asafoetida has a smooth leeky flavor. Its primary use is as a digestive aid (hence the reason why this recipe is gentle on the stomach). It is known to reduce the growth of some kinds of gut microflora thereby reducing flatulence. In fact, a concentrated solution of asafoetida in water is often rubbed on the bellies of newborns and infants to reduce symptoms of flatulence and colic. In the practice of Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine, Asafoetida is held in high regard as it has been shown to be effective against a variety of ailments - bacterial and infections, stomach ailments, digestion, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, epilepsy etc. In the western world, asafoetida is used on fishing baits for catfish and pike.

October 11, 2012

10 min Red Beans & Rice

So I often make my version of comfort food ... Rajma (Red Beans & Rice) the Indian way and it takes a while. Some days are meant for a quick and easy - plug it, set it, leave it recipe. This is that 10 min version of Red Beans & Rice :) I love this version because its a ONE-POT meal .. and those are the best kind! 

Red Beans & Rice
Prep Time: 15 min from start to finish


  1. 2 cans of Red Kidney Beans or Pinto Beans (or one of each!)
  2. 1 can of Diced Tomatoes
  3. 1 medium Onion, minced in a food processor
  4. 1 cup Brown Rice
  5. 1 tbsp Ginger-Garlic Paste
  6. 2 tsp Cumin
  7. 2 tsp Garam Masala
  8. Salt to taste
Add everything to the pressure cooker with 1.5 cups of water and cook under high pressure for 10 min. The cook time is essentially for the brown rice because everything else is pre-cooked. If you're using a stove-top, allow it to reach full pressure, reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 min. Release steam immediately. Mix with a wooden spatula, garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and serve.

You could also make this in a slow cooker (if you're using canned beans), else the beans will need to be pre-cooked. Or you could make this on the stove-top - adjust water to 2 cups (as some of it will evaporate in a pot), and cook until rice is tender. 

October 10, 2012

Oil-Free Loaded Tostadas

So we're a family of Mexican food lovers ... all the boys including 3-year old li'l Nik Coder love tortilla chips with salsa and when asked, each one of us, will prefer to eat at a Mexican restaurant than any place else. Tacos are on our regular dinner rotation and everyone enjoys them immensely. Over the last several months, Tony has moved from making beef tacos to using ground turkey and recently even grilled chicken (the kids all still eat meat).

Since I went plant-based 9 months ago, I've tried TVP tacos, chick pea tacos, portabella mushroom tacos, squash fajita burritos and even just bean burritos. While I've always been a soft taco kinda gal ... the boys all seem to prefer crispy shells. Tony is especially fond of tostadas .. although it always bothered me to see him deep frying flour tortillas (not a very healthy option I must add!!). Now that Tony is going plant-based with me (yayy!) ... and his repertoire of plant-based foods is still somewhat limited, we've been trying to explore new foods and today was the day to try some new taco toppings. As I was getting dinner ready, he mentioned tostadas ... just in passing .. and I remembered reading this blog post a few weeks ago (I can't recall where) which talked about making baked tostadas and taco shells. And so ... taco night quickly transformed into Loaded Tostada night :)

Oil-Free Loaded Tostada
It was so superbly satisfying for me to able to serve Tostadas without even a trace of oil. All in all tonight's dinner took about 20 minutes to prepare (I multi-task well and used a combination of appliances - pressure cooker, microwave, oven and the stove). This was one of the more enjoyable dinners we've had in a long time.  Preheat oven to 375 F. Drape store-bought corn tortillas/soft tacos over an inverted muffin pan and bake for 6-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes (to allow them to crisp up a tad more) and serve warm. ... super simple and not fried or dripping oil!!  

Here's how I went about preparing each of the toppings -

Southwestern Quinoa - I use an electric pressure cooker for making Quinoa, and follow Chef AJ's technique. 1 cup Quinoa + 1.5 cup water - Cook under high pressure for 2 min, let stand for 10 min and release the steam immediately for fluffy perfectly cooked quinoa - every time. Today, I simply added 2 tsp of Taco seasoning mix to give it the southwestern kick. Or you can make Quinoa is a sauce pan too (simply use 2 cups of water for every cup of Quinoa). 

Sautéed Mushrooms - Slice 1 cup mushrooms and sauté in a skillet lined with water (or vegetable broth), with 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp soy sauce and salt (to taste) until mushrooms are tender and all the water has evaporated. 

Sautéed Corn - Thaw 1 cup frozen corn and sauté in a skillet lined with water (or vegetable broth), with 1-2 tsp Taco seasoning until all the water has evaporated. 

Refried Black Beans - Drain 1 can of plain black beans, add 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 2-3 tbsp mild salsa and microwave on high (uncovered) for 5 min. Remove, mix well with a spatula making sure to smush some of the beans while doing so. Microwave on high for another 2-3 minutes, uncovered. Or you can also do the same thing in a skillet. 

Serve with fresh salsa, freshly diced tomatoes, black or green olives, avocado and lettuce (we didn't have any today). Um mm good! 

My Assessment: I am a convert. I can most definitely say that these were so much better than soft tacos. The crispy shell adds so much more to the overall gustatory pleasure of tacos :) ... I hate to admit it ... but Tony was right all along! Tostadas are so much better than soft tacos. One more lesson I learnt from Tony today (after my tostadas were already loaded), spread the beans first then add the rest of the toppings - that helps all the other toppings stay on so much better!! Enjoy!

October 9, 2012

Veggie Fact of the Day

Our New Veggie Fact of the Day today will be short and sweet because these lovely beans are essentially Green Beans in French clothing. Haricot verts is French for green beans. Compared to their American counterparts, haricots are longer and thinner. 

In some parts of the world they're known as the Squeaky Bean due to the noise they make against the teeth while someone is chewing them.

Garlicky Haricot Verts

A friend of mine recently suggested Haricot Verts to me as a possible addition to my new veggie list and today they attained New Veggie #48 status.  

Garlicky Haricot Verts
Prep Time: 10 min

  1. 1 lb fresh Haricots, whole, rinsed
  2. 1/8 cup Vegetable broth
  3. 1 tbsp minced Garlic
  4. 2 tbsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
  5. 1 tbsp Vegetarian Oyster Sauce
  6. Salt & Pepper, to taste

Line a skillet with 1/8 cut water or vegetable broth and add soy sauce and garlic. Once the garlic is fragrant, add haricots, give it a quick toss and cover. Reduce heat to medium and cook until tender. Then add oyster sauce, give it another quick toss and cook uncovered until all the liquid has evaporated. Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper, and add salt to taste, if needed. 

My Assessment: I liked these a lot, as did Tony and Alex ... Nik not so much today. Between the 3 of us we finished every last bean. The garlic added a ton of flavor and the Oyster sauce added a touch of sweetness. They were great. Alongside these french beans, Tony and I enjoyed a  poor man's dinner  ... Mixed Vegetable Ramen - which is basically, a pack of Ramen noodles, cooked without the seasoning that came with the packet, but with a ton of veggies and some soy sauce and whatever Asian seasoning/sauce we feel like (today I used Thai Peanut Sauce). 

October 6, 2012

Dijon Roasted Carnival Squash

In my quest to try new veggies this year, I think my favorite season so far is Fall. My husband however, is convinced that I'm going to eat all the decorations - since I'm trying as many new kinds of squash. Today's variety is Carnival Squash - New Veggie #47

Dijon Roasted Carnival Squash
Prep Time: 50 min, including roasting.

  1. 1 Carnival Squash 
  2. 2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  3. 1 tbsp Maple Syrup
  4. 1 tbsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
  5. 1 tsp Thyme leaves
Preheat oven to 350 F. Wash and dry the outside of the squash. Using a sharp knife, cut the squash into 2 halves from the stem to the bottom. Remove the seeds and other fleshy material from the hollow part. Place cut side down in an oven-safe dish, with a thin layer of water and roast until a pin inserted into the thickest part glides in smoothly. The one I had today (about 5 inches in diameter) took ~35 min. 

In a small bowl, mix Dijon mustard, maple syrup and soy sauce. Once the Squash is tender, turn face up, brush liberally with the prepared sauce and return to the oven for 15 min. Once during this time, remove the squash and spread the sauce all around again. 

Bake until dry. Let sit for 5 minutes, and then slice into wedges. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves and freshly cracked pepper. Serve with some extra sauce to drizzle on top if the squash feels too dry.

My Assessment: Um Um GOOD!! The Dijon mustard added just a little bit of pungent spiciness which is toned down by the sweetness of the maple syrup. I used the soy sauce mainly for the color and I could not taste it at all in this recipe. I'll try this again for sure!

Veggie Fact of the Day

Carnival squash is a winter squash with a low flesh fiber content, making it a highly regarded table squash. Carnival squash are typically available in small sizes and have a deeply variegated pattern of fall oranges and greens on its thick skin. The cavity contains thousands of seeds with a lot of fibrous material. The fleshy interior is usually pale to deep orange in color. 

Similar to its cousin the butternut squash, the carnivals squash has a buttery sweet flavor when roasted. As a family, winter squashes are low in calories, rich in complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber. They are a great source of Vitamins A, B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 (Folic acid). They are also a great source of omega-3-fatty acids, tryptophan and minerals such as Iron, copper, potassium and manganese. The rich orange color is as always, a signature of beta-carotene, which is a precursor of Vitamin A. Eat away! These yummy guys are full of amazing health benefits.

October 2, 2012

15-min Barley & Vegetable Soup - Take 2

Recently, Tony decided to go herbie with me :) for 90 days. Since his repertoire of veggies and grains is still rather limited, I've been attempting to try some of the things he might enjoy for his dinners and left-over lunches. He's told me often enough that he likes Barley and that he likes it in soup, so I decided to make another version of my 15-min Barley & Vegetable Soup by withholding some of the non-traditional items that I use in my original version (no TVP or lentils today). I added black beans to add back the protein that I lost by removing TVP and lentils and since those are T's favorite bean ... we were all set for a wonderful heart-warming dinner :)

Barley & Vegetable Soup - Take 2
Prep Time: 15 min

  1. 5-6 cups Vegetable broth, or water
  2. 3/4 cup Barley 
  3. 3 stalks of celery, diced
  4. 2 carrots, diced
  5. 1 bunch of Spinach, stems removed
  6. 1 15oz can of Black beans, drained
  7. 2 Portabella mushrooms, diced
  8. 2 tsp dried Basil
  9. 2-3 tsp Minced Garlic, to taste
  10. 1 heaping tbsp Yellow Miso
  11. 1 tbsp Ketchup
  12. Salt and Pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients, with the exception of the last 3 in a pressure cooker and cook for 5 minutes under high pressure. I used "quick" barley since I am trying to get it eaten before I open my bag of regular barley, With regular barley, I'm guessing a 10-15 min high pressure would be enough. I'll have to update that when I've had a chance to try it out. Once the steam is released, open the cooker, add and mix in the miso & ketchup and salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste ... enjoy!! 

October 1, 2012

Hot & Sweet Pumpkin Spice

Fall is perhaps my favorite time of year. I'll say that often over the next few weeks :) after which it will be an endless season of annoyance (I hate winter!). As for fall, I love the food, the festivities and of course, the rustle of falling leaves as they blow in the wind. Most of all I love the color. To me a crisp fall day has more beautiful colors than any flower-filled spring.

Hot & Sweet Pumpkin Spice
While I love pumpkin spice and all things made with pumpkin spice, I must admit (rather shamefully) that I have never cooked pumpkin myself. Growing up it wasn't my favorite vegetable. I never understood the concept of a 'sweet' vegetable - I always told my mom that sweet vegetables (carrots, turnips, pumpkins) weren't meant to be made into curries and stews .... aah! ... the ignorance of youth!! Today, the lovely pumpkin becomes New Veggie #46. Even though I named this concoction 'pumpkin spice' - it is quite different from the standard American version.

Prep Time: 20 min

  1. 1 Pie Pumpkin (~3lbs)
  2. 1 small Red Onion
  3. 1 tsp minced Garlic
  4. 1/2 cup Vegetable broth
  5. 2 tsp Mustard seeds, or 2 tsp Indian Five Spice mix* 
  6. 1 cup frozen Peas
  7. 2 tsp of Cayenne Pepper
  8. 2 tbsp Maple Syrup (or brown sugar) 
  9. Salt to taste
Wash all dirt from the outside of the pumpkin and remove any blemished skin with a sharp paring knife. Then cut the pumpkin in half down the stem and remove seeds and pulp from the cavity (set aside seeds to roast separately as a snack). 

Cut wedges out of each half and cut into 1" pieces.  Leaving the skin on provides extra nutrition and also ensures that once cooked, the pumpkin pieces retain some of their shape. Else, everything it will cook down into a pulp. 

Line a stock pot with  vegetable broth and add garlic and mustard seeds (or 5 spice mix if available). Bring it all to a boil and add the onion and cook until the onion becomes translucent. 

Add diced pumpkin and mix well together. Cover and cook until pumpkin is tender and almost mushy. Make sure that there is enough water in the pan so that the pumpkin remains nicely moist.  The extra moisture makes sure that the skin cooks well and doesn't become hard during cooking, which makes it quite unpleasant in the end. 

When the pumpkin is almost done, add thawed peas and mix well so that the peas are coated in the thick sauce surrounding the pumpkin. Cover and cook until both the peas and the pumpkin are nice and soft under a spoon. 

Finally, add the cayenne pepper and maple syrup (or brown sugar), to taste until the dish has a nice sweet flavor with a lasting zip ;) at the end. Enjoy over brown rice!!

* Indian Five Spice Mix - Combine equal quantities of nigella (black onion), mustard, fenugreek, fennel and cumin seeds and use as needed. If you're missing one or two, its not a big deal. I've often used only one or two alone.

My Assessment: Yumm!! This dish reminded me of younger days. It makes for a great sweet and spicy  one-pot dinner - but the cayenne pepper makes sure that it is not for the weak of heart ;)

Veggie Fact of the Day

In India, a pumpkin is called a Kaddoo (Hindi: कद्दू)!! I was pretty chubby and medium height through most of high school and was often called by this name. Oh well .. I survived high school and still love pumpkins :) so it couldn't have been that bad afterall ... !! Pumpkins belong to the squash family (Cucurbitaceae) and the term pumpkin is a common name for a variety of plants in this family. In general, to be called a pumpkin, the fruit has to have a thick orange, or yellow shell, which is edible. Once cut, the fruit is mostly hollow with a thick fleshy outer shell which is typically the same color as the shell ... with shades between orange to yellow. Seeds are present by the thousands within each cavity. Pumpkins are a great source of beta-carotene and are absolutely loaded with Vitamin A with a 100g serving of pumpkin having greater than 200% of the RDA. Pumpkins are rich in dietary fiber and anti-oxidants such as vitamins A, C and E as well as many natural polyphenols such as the aforementioned beta-carotene, lutein, cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin. Dietary experts often recommend that pumpkin be included as a regular part of the diet for patients looking to control their weight as well as cholesterol levels. Zeaxanthin has been reported to be helpful in protecting against age-related macular degeneration in the elderly. Pumpkins are also a good source of Vitamin B1 (thiamine), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 (Folic acid). Pumpkin seeds are a good source of dietary fiber and are high in minerals such as iron, selenium and zinc and are an excellent source of the amino acid Tryptophan. Although pumpkin seeds are lacking in cholesterol, they are pretty high in fat (~14g of fat/oz). When cooked without added fats, pumpkin seeds more than make up for their fat content by providing a lot of good stuff alongside the fat. Chomp away.