July 28, 2013

Lemon Blueberry Oatmeal

Another oatmeal recipe? Is Rugrat Chow becoming an Oatmeal blog? Rest assured that it isn't so. I'm simply having a summer affair with porridge. I've had a friend of mine tell me the same thing ... it's when you dream of having oatmeal for dinner .. or when you jump out of bed in the morning because you're excited about a new Oatmeal recipe you've found. 

In the past few weeks, I've become a huge fan of The Oatmeal Artist. Her recipes are mostly plant-based and when not, they're easily adaptable. I've bookmarked her page and often check her recipes for ingredients I have on hand. Do give her page a like on Facebook. Lauren posted this recipe yesterday morning after her visit to a farmer's market where she picked up some fresh blueberries. I used frozen berries in mine as I wasn't able to pay the Yoder farm a visit this weekend. Also, I like to use frozen berries in my oats because it helps bring the temperature down into an edible range. You see, I make my oatmeal in a microwave. It's usually scalding hot in 3 minutes. Adding frozen blueberries after removing the oats from the microwave prevents the berries from being reduced to mush and cools down the oatmeal surrounding each berry, one little pocket at a time :)

Lemon Blueberry Oatmeal

Prep Time: 5-7 min

Ingredients (Serves 1):
  1. 1/2 cup Old-Fashioned (Rolled) Oats
  2. 1 cup Almond Milk
  3. 1 ripe banana (sliced and mashed with the oats)
  4. 1 tbsp Chia Seeds
  5. 1 tbsp Slivered Almonds
  6. 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  7. 2 tsp Lemon Juice
  8. 1 tbsp Brown Sugar (optional)
  9. A pinch of Coarse (Kosher or Sea) salt.

Mix oats with sliced banana in a microwave safe bowl. Use a fork to mash the banana with and into the oats so that they make a combined mush (umm appetizing ;)!). Add Chia seeds, almond milk, almonds and brown sugar (if using) to top the banana-oatmeal mix.  Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Once the oats are done, remove from microwave, mix well, Mix in about half the blueberries, salt and 2 tsp lemon juice. I didn't use any sugar on my oatmeal today because a ripe banana is plenty sweet for me. Mix well, transfer to a serving bowl, top off with remaining blueberries. Enjoy!!

The original recipe called for Lemon Extract. I didn't have any handy so I ran a quick Google search on it. Lemon extract is a concentrated lemon flavoring used for baking. It has all the flavor of lemon without the tartness. It is more like the essential oils in lemon zest. A quick replacement for lemon extract would be lemon zest. I didn't have that either but I found several sites with baking tips that said that lemon juice can be substituted in about a 1:2 ratio. So I added 1 tsp of Lemon juice and I couldn't taste anything. I promptly added another 1/2 and then another 1/2 tsp and the results were phenomenal. Not tart at all and the lemon flavoring seemed to bring out a refreshing flavor in the blueberries and made them taste sweeter.  

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving, without Brown Sugar): Calories 428 (Fat Calories 124)
Total Fat 13.8 g; Carbohydrates 72.0 g; Fiber 15.6 g; Sugars 22.1 g; Protein 12.2 g

July 27, 2013

Pistachio Peach Pie Oatmeal

Peach Bounty in the Coder Yard
Our two peach trees are dripping with fruit. We're the kind of careless carefree fruit tree owners that do nothing with the trees and the trees selflessly provide us with this incredible bounty every year. We are truly blessed. We harvested a big basket on Thursday evening and there's still a few more baskets remaining to be harvested that will go to friends, family, coworkers :)

In past years, I've made peach pie, peach cobbler ... pretty much every fattening dessert you can imagine. Last year's harvest was not great due to the weather and we mostly ate our peaches fresh. Today I decided to look into making an Oatmeal recipe since I am into that these days. Here's what I came up with after exploring a few recipes on the internet including this one by The Oatmeal Artist. Since I already had an idea in my head and I pretty much stuck with what I thought would work for this recipe, I'm taking the credit for my concoction this morning :) 

Prep Time: 5-7 min

Ingredients (Serves 1):
  1. 1/2 cup Old-Fashioned (Rolled) Oats
  2. 1 cup Almond Milk
  3. 2 Medium Peaches, diced (almost a cup)
  4. 1 tbsp Chia Seeds
  5. 10-15 Dry Roasted (no salt) Pistachios, crushed/halved
  6. 1 tbsp Brown Sugar (optional)
  7. A pinch of Nutmeg (ground)
  8. A pinch of Cinnamon (ground)
  9. A pinch of Coarse (Sea or Kosher) Salt
Mix oats, almond milk, peaches and chia seeds in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Once the oats are done, remove from microwave, mix well, add nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and brown sugar (if you like it sweet). I didn't use any sugar because the peaches were sweet enough for me.  Mix well, transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle another dash of ground nutmeg on top and garnish with a few slices of peach and roasted pistachios. Enjoy!!

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving, without Brown Sugar): Calories 354 (Fat Calories 125)
Total Fat 13.9 g; Carbohydrates 51.6 g; Fiber 13.5 g; Sugars 14.9 g; Protein 12.1 g

July 21, 2013

Herb & Spice Fact of the Day

Green Cardamom (Elaichi) is a small green triangular (in cross section) seed pod, with a thin and papery outer shell, with the inside containing small, aromatic, dark brown to black seeds. It is the third most expensive spices by weight, out-priced  in market value only by saffron and vanilla. It has a strong, unique, intensely aromatic, resinous and quite surprisingly refreshing fragrance. In India, it is often used as a mouth-freshener or after-mint. In cooking, it is used both in savory dishes as well as desserts and imparts characteristic flavors to both. Interestingly, while it is used primarily in Asian, Middle-Eastern and a few Nordic countries, the current world's largest producer of Cardamom is Guatemala - which produces 25,000 to 29,000 metric tons. India and Sri Lanka produce about half that quantity (together) and perhaps use most of it ;) 

In the US, although few Americans have probably tasted cardamom by itself - I would estimate that a large percentage of Americans have tasted it in the form of Starbucks Spiced Chai where Cardamom is a major ingredient (along with cinnamon, ginger root and cloves). While the ground spice is sold in the US and in other countries, this spice is best stored in pod form which helps preserve the essential aromatic oils. Although the pods may lose their distinctive green color over time, the seeds will retain most of the flavor. 

Medicinally, green cardamom is used as a broad-spectrum anti-microbial and is used to treat a variety of infections of the teeth, mouth, gums, throat etc. It is believed to help in reducing heartburn, chest/lung congestion (hence its use in Chai) and a variety of digestive disorders (intestinal spasms, IBS, gas, constipation etc.). A quick Google search revealed a whole host of essential oils in cardamom - close to 15 listed on Wikipedia alone. Chewing on the seeds or fresh pods has been used in Ayurvedic medicine as an antidote for bad breath and as a way of maintaining oral hygiene and health. Some people believe that Cardamom may even be an aphrodisiac .. I haven't yet tested, or known that property to work ;) 

Herb & Spice Fact of the Day

Photo Courtesy: kashmirkesarkingdom.com
Saffron (Kesar or Safran) is derived from the flowers the Saffron Crocus. The plant bears only up to 4 flowers in a growing season which is why Saffron is perhaps one of the more expensive spices (by weight) on the market. Each flower only has 3 crimson stigmas, each the distal end of an ovary (the female portion of the flower). The stigmas are painstakingly harvested, dried and are used as a seasoning and coloring agent in the Middle East and South East Asia.   Its golden yellow color and distinct flavor imparts depth to dishes from Paella to Biryani and Indian desserts  Iranian saffron is said to the best and most potent quality. They also produce 90% of the world's saffron. 

Photo Courtesy: www.rebellesociety.com
The stamens and anthers, which are the male portion of the flower are odorless and tasteless and often yellow in color. Those are sometimes mixed into true saffron, or sold exclusively by themselves, to unsuspecting customers.  In the US, McCormick Saffron is authentic and expensive (about $18 for 0.06 oz). Indian and middle-eastern grocery stores offer better prices on it. Always remember to look for a deep reddish orange color. If it is pale, but the pack down and move along to another store. It is unlikely that you will have a chance to inhale the aroma of saffron until you get home as containers are usually sealed tight to maintain the essential oils. 

Saffron has a long history in traditional medicine. It is believed to have antocarcinogenic, antimutagenic, antioxidant and immunemodulating properties. Saffron laced teas have traditionally been used to help with seasonal depression during the long winter months. There is anecdotal evidence for all kinds of other benefits - it slows down macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. It is believed to relieve stomach aches - it was often mixed in milk for kids to prevent colic. 

Another interesting benefit I've read about is that Saffron (specifically Crocin, derived from Saffron) helps promotes learning, memory retention, and recall capacity. Based on some early study results, some scientists believe that saffron might be useful in the treatment and management of age related mental impairment. I've not seen the data so I'm unlikely to believe it ;)

Whether you are a skeptic like me, or a believer, you will fall in love with the aroma and flavor of Saffron. Give it a try. 

Kesar Badaam Oatmeal Kheer

I admit, I've been on an oatmeal kick lately. Its not a bad kick to be on. Oats are one of the healthiest grains for the heart. Oats have Avenanthramides - polyphenolic antioxidants that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-itching and anti-proliferative activity, and according to Dr. Esselstyn, oats also help stimulate the health of endothelial cells in our arteries. I've written about Oats before and posted this link for a blog post about Oats and Avenanthramides. Oats are supposed to help protect against coronary heart disease, colon cancer, skin irritation and so much more. So fix yourself a good size bowl of oats and enjoy ... they're not just for horses, you know :)

Kesar Badaam Oatmeal Kheer 
This dish was inspired by my longing for Kheer, a traditional Indian milk-based dessert - served for centuries .. and long before Western desserts like Ice creams and cakes took over the Indian Dessert menu. It is traditionally made with long-grain white Basmati rice and today I converted the traditional recipe to a WFPBNO, heart healthy, fiber-rich version. Also, the use of Flax seed meal as a thickening agent makes this version rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. And the other benefit of using flax seed meal as a thickening agent, along with oats, is that I didn't have to slave over this kheer for 3 or 4 hours like my mom still does when making kheer for a special occasion. Mine was ready in under 7 minutes from start to finish. 

Prep Time: 5-7 min

Ingredients (Serves 1):
  1. 2/3 cup Old Fashioned (Rolled) Oats
  2. 1.25 cups Almond Milk
  3. 1 tbsp Raisins
  4. 1/2 tbsp Ground Flax Seed Meal
  5. 1 tbsp Slivered Almonds (Badaam)
  6. 1 tbsp Raw Cashews, crushed (optional)
  7. 1/4 tsp Ground Green Cardamom (Elaichi)
  8. 1/16 tsp (about a pinch and a half) Saffron (Kesar
  9. 1 tbsp Maple Syrup, or more to taste (Brown Sugar or Honey are great too!).
Mix Oats, almond milk, raisins, brown sugar (if using) and ground flax seed meal in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 90 seconds. It will appear really thin and runny at this stage but fear not as it will thicken considerably in the next few minutes. Remove from the oven once the first 90 seconds are done, mix well. At this point, add about half the saffron, cashews and slivered almonds, mix well and again microwave on high for about 90 seconds. Carefully remove from microwave as the bowl will likely be really hot. Do a quick taste test for sweetness (adding  honey or maple syrup now if using one of those). Add ground green cardamom now and mix well. Let sit for a few seconds to allow it to get thicker, if needed. Transfer to a bowl, garnish with remaining almonds, cashews and saffron. Serve :)

Kesar Badaam Oatmeal Kheer
Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 423 (Fat Calories 138)
Total Fat 15.4 g; Carbohydrates 63.1 g; Fiber 9.0 g; Sugars 19.3 g; Protein 11.6 g

July 20, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Latte Oatmeal

Another weekend .. another dirth of fresh fruits and ... another quest for the perfect oatmeal recipe with pantry ingredients. And guess what? Another visit with The Oatmeal Artist!!! She's got some amazing ideas and she works with Old fashioned (Rolled) Oats which I'm come to prefer over Steel-cut simply because of the timing involved in cooking SC Oats. I still use the latter on occasion (and I love the texture of SC oats) but for my daily breakfast, I've reverted to the ease of Old fashioned Oats. 

This recipe was a winner on sight!! I love fall and I love all fall foods!! And pumpkin spice lattes were my own personal indulgence during those last few months of the year. But I'm also one of those weirdos that loves pumpkin spice so much - I eat it all year!! Like Lauren says in her post - those drinks from gourmet coffee shops are loaded with calories - mostly from fats and sugars. My adaptation has fats as well but they're good fats derived from nuts (almonds) & seeds (flax and chia), so its a lot more healthier and a lot more nutritious. Also, I've found (after I went plant-based) that the Pumpkin Spice mix (at least the one used by Starbucks) has dairy in it. So even if I wanted to get a Soy Pumpkin Spice Latte - it would still have dairy in it!! Obviously, when I saw Lauren's version of the same awesome PSL - in a bowl - I knew I had to try it!!

Adapted from: Pumpkin Spice Latte Oatmeal, The Oatmeal Artist

Prep Time: 5 min

Ingredients (Serves 1):
  1. 1/2 cup Old-Fashioned (Rolled) Oats
  2. 2/3 cup Brewed coffee (I used a Folgers Classic K-cup)
  3. 1/3 cup Almond Milk (Unsweetened Vanilla) 
  4. 1/4 cup Canned Pumpkin puree
  5. 1/2 tbsp Flax Seed Meal
  6. 1 tbsp Chia Seeds
  7. 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
  8. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  9. 1 tbsp Maple syrup (to taste)
  10. A pinch of Sea salt
  11. 8-10 Raw Almonds, crushed. 

Mix Coffee, Oats, Pumpkin puree, almond milk, flax seed meal and chia seeds in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Remove bowl carefully as it will be quite hot, add pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract, a pinch of sea salt, maple syrup (to taste) and mix well. Do a quick taste test for sweetness (I added 1 tsp of syrup as the original recipe called for and I needed about three times that amount to make it perfect for my tastes). Transfer to a bowl, add another splash of milk, top off with crushed almonds and enjoy your little taste of heaven!!  

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 391 (Fat Calories 141)
Total Fat 15.7 g; Carbohydrates 54.2 g; Fiber 14.1 g; Sugars 14.7 g; Protein 12.8 g

July 19, 2013

Bulgur on Soupy Asian Veggies

I did a Veggie Fact of the Day post yesterday to talk about my New Veggie #71 - Bulgur. I've had the Indian version of bulgur all my life (it's more golden, vs. the dark brown color I found here in the US). In India, it is usually made as a thick sweet porridge that is typically eaten for breakfast, but I always liked it best after it had been chilled in the fridge for a few hours. Here in the US, bulgur is more commonly used as a side dish and as a savory cereal, and that's how I decided to try it this time. It is an excellent low-glycemic white rice replacement and since Tony doesn't enjoy brown rice, I'm always looking for other whole grains that can be used instead. 

Bulgur on Soupy Asian Veggies
Prep Time: 20 min

Ingredients (Serves 4):
  1. 1 cup dry Bulgur
  2. 2 cups Home-made Vegetable Broth (or water)
  3. Salt, to taste
Ingredients (Serves 4) for Soupy Asian Vegetables:
  1. 15 oz No-Salt Diced Tomatoes (canned)
  2. 1 x 12 oz frozen Edamame
  3. 1/2 cup Frozen Green Beans
  4. 8-10 White Mushrooms, sliced
  5. 1 tbsp Ginger-Garlic Paste 
  6. 1 tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
  7. 1 tbsp Brown Miso
  8. 3 tbsp Low-Sodium Soy Sauce
  9. 1 cup Water
  10. Salt, to taste
Pressure cook bulgur and vegetable broth, under high pressure, for 8-10 minutes, in an electric pressure cooker. Or for the same time in a stove-top. If you don't own a pressure cooker, bring the bulgur and vegetable broth to a boil, reduce heat to a slow simmer, partially cover the pan and let simmer until all excess liquid has evaporated and the bulgur tastes nice chewy :) For the Soupy Asian Vegetables, mix everything in one pan, bring to a boil and then allow to simmer until bulgur is done. I'm not sure whether or not bulgur is traditionally eaten in the Far East. I just used it here as a substitute to rice. I really enjoyed the texture of bulgur (as did Tony), so it is definitely going on our rotation. 

Nutrition Facts (Per 1/4 cup Serving of Bulgur*): Calories 150 (Fat Calories 4)
Total Fat 0.3 g; Carbohydrates 32.0 g; Fiber 4.0 g; Sugars 0.0 g; Protein 4.0 g

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving*): Calories 188 (Fat Calories 42)
Total Fat 4.7 g; Carbohydrates 17.3 g; Fiber 9.4 g; Sugars 4.5 g; Protein 13.7 g

* Nutrition facts are provided for the water option as vegetable broth calorie content can vary a lot.

Tips for Leftovers:

  1.  One of the suggestions I've gotten, but not tried yet, is to use bulgur as a replacement for TVP in tacos and other dishes. Will definitely be giving that one a try!! 

Aloo MIrchi Subzi

Some days are just meant to be 'Roti & Subzi Days'!! That's comfort food to an Indian. Some fresh chapatis and one curried vegetable. On this Tuesday evening, that is all I was in the mood for. I had some Russet potatoes, some red and green bell peppers and so it was a night for Aloo (Potatoes) and Mirchi (Sweet Peppers). 

Aloo Mirchi Subzi
Prep Time: 20-25 min

Ingredients (Serves 4):
  1. 2 Russet Potatoes, peeled, and cut into 1/2" cubes (about 2 cups)
  2. 1 Medium Red Onion (diced, about 1/2 cup)
  3. 1 Large Green Bell Pepper (diced, about 1 cup)
  4. 1 large Red Bell Pepper (diced, about 1 cup)
  5. 2 tbsp Ground Cilantro seeds
  6. 1/4 tsp Turmeric
  7. 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
  8. 1 tsp Deggi Chili Powder
  9. 2-3 tbsp fresh, chopped Cilantro leaves. 
  10. Salt, to taste
Line a pot on medium heat with water and add onion. Saute for a couple of minutes until translucent and add diced potatoes. Saute for a good 10 minutes on medium heat until the potatoes are almost done (fork tender). Add all the dry spices, toss well and then add diced peppers. Mix everything well. Sprinkle chopped cilantro leaves on top, reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook for about 5 minutes until the peppers start to wilt. For this dish, in the end you want the potatoes to be almost a little over-cooked (but you don't let them become completely mushy). And you want the peppers to be cooked and tender, but you want them to retain just a bit of a crunch!! Serve hot, as a side dish with whatever else you're having, or enjoy this dish as your entree with Naan or fresh rotis! Yum! 

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 152 (Fat Calories 5)
Total Fat 0.6 g; Carbohydrates 33.8 g; Fiber 6.0 g; Sugars 4.7 g; Protein 4.0 g

Tips for Leftovers:

  1. Spread a thin layer of hummus on 2 slices of bread, load up with subzi, bring the sandwich together and grill on a George Foreman, or sandwich maker until crisp. Serve hot with tomato ketchup, or even better, with fresh mint chutney!
  2. Roll out a fresh roti (uncooked), load up one half (of the central portion) with subzi, fold over and seal the ends with wet fingers (almost like a large ravioli, or dumpling). Crimp the edges with your fingers, place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake in an oven (375 F) for 20 minutes (or until crisp), for fresh home-made, non-fried, Samosas

July 18, 2013

Veggie Fact of the Day

Bulgur is a cereal made from the groats of several different wheat species, although most often it is made from durum wheat. Although the name is of Turkish origin, along with the Middle East, Bulgur is also used in European and and South Asian cuisine.  In Indian cuisine, bulgur is called Dalia. 

In the US, bulgur for human consumption is typically parboiled and dried before sale. It retains almost all of its bran and for that reason it is identified as a whole grain. Cracked Bulgur is not the same as Cracked Wheat (which is not parboiled and takes much longer to cook). Internationally, Turkey in the largest producer of Bulgur and within the US, California, Montana, Oklahoma and Kansas are the states producing the largest quantities. 

The flavor of bulgur is light and nutty, similar to steel cut oats, but a little more earthy. Its texture is a little chewy like other whole grains. It can be used as a pilaf, added to soups and salads and as a starchy grain (which retains its integrity) in hearty soups. In the United States is often used as a side dish, much like pasta or rice, but across the world it is used in pretty much in every form. In India, it is made into a sweet breakfast cereal by boiling in milk and sugar. In the middle east, it is used in tabbouleh and other similar salads. 

Compared to white rice, bulgur has way more fiber and protein, and a lower glycemic index to boot. One cup of cooked bulgur contains more than 8 grams of fiber. The lower glycemic index is due to its high content of slow-digesting, complex carbs. Each cup contains under 34 grams of carbs, around 6 grams of protein and less than a 1/2 gram of fat and 0g of cholesterol (like almost every other plant food!). Major minerals include a moderate amount of potassium compared to other grains which have almost none (124 mg/cup), iron (1700 mg/cup) and zinc (1 mg/cup). Although 1 mg doesn't seem like much zinc, you'd be surprised to know that the RDA for Zinc is 11 mg. And lastly, bulgur is loaded with Vitamin B6 (Niacin), which each cup containing a whopping 2 grams of niacin. And all this, for only around 150 calories/cup!

Fun Fact of the Day: During World War II, Bulgur was used for two purposes - as a staple to feed the troops and as a sand blasting agent to clean airplane parts. Weird!! 

July 14, 2013

One Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

In the past several weeks, I've come across several posts across several different plant-based groups and Pinterest boards raving about this One Pot Wonder Tomato Basil Pasta. The pictures were amazing as was the overall recipe. On this lazy Sunday morning it seemed like the perfect day to try out this recipe. I searched online for the original post so that I could appropriately credit the original author .. and here's how my version turned out!! 

One Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

Prep Time: 20 min

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  1. 8 oz Linguine (I used a rice-based gluten-free pasta)
  2. 1 can Diced Tomatoes, with liquid
  3. 1 large Sweet White Onion, julienned
  4. 1 tbsp Minced Garlic
  5. 2 tsp Dried Oregano
  6. 2 large Springs of fresh Basil, whole leaves
  7. 4.5 cups of Home-made Vegetable Broth
  8. 1 tsp salt, to taste
  9. 1 lb fresh Baby Spinach
Throw all the ingredients into a large pasta pot, including the uncooked pasta. I kept the spinach out because I didn't want the leaves to turn to mush. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 10-13 minutes until the pasta is cooked. There is no need to drain the pasta. The starch from the pasta is what gives this dish is characteristic warm soupiness. Don't leave the Basil out if you've worried about it losing its essential oils and flavors. Cooking it all in one pot mixes up all the flavors and gives it a awesome flavor which will be a wonderful thing to look forward to in the cold winter months. I added the Spinach once everything else was cooked and then covered everything and let it sit for another 5 minutes (to allow the spinach to wilt). Then I tossed everything together before serving in deep pasta dishes, with a generous sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper. 

Modifications from the original recipe: 
  1. I did not use red pepper flakes as my 4y old was going to eat it
  2. I added a pound of baby spinach
  3. 1 did not use any oil (the original recipe called for 2 tbsp).
Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 229 (Fat Calories 18)
Total Fat 2.0 g; Carbohydrates 43.8 g; Fiber 4.9 g; Sugars 4.7 g; Protein 11.3 g

July 13, 2013

Orange Raisin Oatmeal

This morning, I was out of all fruits except a half a bag of mandarin oranges. After looking around for a few minutes at other breakfast options, I decided to come up with a new recipe using the mandarn oranges and my regular breakfast of Rolled or Steel-Cut Oats. This one was a winner!!! 

Orange Raisin Oatmeal
Prep Time: 10 min

Ingredients (Serves 1):
  1. 2/3 cup Rolled (Old-Fashioned) Oats
  2. 2/3 cup Water
  3. 1/3 cup Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  4. 1 tbsp Raisins
  5. 1 tbsp Slivered Almonds
  6. 1 tbsp Chia Seeds
  7. 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  8. 1 tbsp Maple Syrup (optional)
  9. a dash of Ground Nutmeg
Soak oats, raisins and Chia seeds in 2/3 cup of water and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, squeeze the juice of 4-5 Mandarin oranges (I needed 4 to make 1/3 cup) into a separate bowl. Once the oats are done, remove from microwave, mix well, add slivered almonds, vanilla extract, maple syrup (optional) and then mix in the 1/3 cup Orange juice. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle a dash of ground nutmeg on top and garnish with a few sections, or a full slice. Enjoy!! 

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving, w Maple Syrup): Calories 432 (Fat Calories 102)
Total Fat 11.3 g; Carbohydrates 73.3 g; Fiber 11.6 g; Sugars 18.6 g; Protein 12.3 g

Sweet Onion Pilaf

One of the things I grew up eating almost on a daily basis was White Basmati Rice. My dad was a big rice eater and all sorts of pilafs (pulaos) were a part of daily life. This particular dish, called Pyaz ka Pulao  in India, was one of his favorites. He considered himself to be somewhat of a rice connoisseur and always said that for a dish to be considered the best - every grain of rice had to be just perfectly cooked to the point that it was done .. but not overdone as to stick to the next grain. It should fluff up under a fork :) !!! The pilaf I made earlier this week lived up to that test!!! 

Sweet Onion Pilaf with Green Beans
Prep Time: 20-25 min

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  1. 1 cup White Basmati (Long grain) Rice
  2. 1 Small White Onion
  3. 2 cups Water
  4. 6 cloves 
  5. 1 x 1" stick of cinnamon
  6. 6 Green Cardamoms
  7. 10-14 Peppercorns
  8. 2 tsp Cumin Seeds
  9. 2 tsp Deggi Chilli powder
  10. 3 Small Bay Leaves 
  11. Salt (to taste)
Dice or julienne the onion, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and saute in a medium sized sauce pan until it is deeply caramelized. A non-stick pan, and occasional splashes of water help with this process. Once the onion is deep golden brown in color add all the dry spices and saute for another 30 seconds. Immediately add water and rice and mix well. You'll immediately notice that the caramelized onions will release their golden color into the water. That's a good thing :) !! Bring mixture to a full boil, and then reduce heat to medium low, and cover the pan partially to prevent rapid evaporation. Once rice is cooked (the grains will cook to about twice their original length!), cover and let site for a couple more minutes. Any water that remains at this time (should be very little) should get absorbed by the rice in the next couple of  minutes. Serve hot as a side, or use as a base for your entree. Enjoy!! 

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 185 (Fat Calories 14)
Total Fat 1.6 g; Carbohydrates 40.1 g; Fiber 3.9 g; Sugars 0.8 g; Protein 4.0 g

July 10, 2013

Mediterranean Chili

When I got home work today .. I just wasn't feeling it. I wasn't in the mood for eating leftovers .. and I wasn't really in the mood to cook ... that is until I came across a packet of Falafel Mix in my pantry. Even then ... I wasn't in the mood to sit around waiting for it to bake etc. As I was standing in my pantry holding the box wondering whether or not I should take the plunge, I saw the recipe on the back of the box. Yahoo!!! Vegetarian Chili!!! 

Mediterranean Chili
Prep Time: 40-60 min

Adapted from: A box of Ziyad Falafel Mix

Ingredients (Serves 6):
  1. 1 x 12 oz box Falafel mix
  2. 1 cup cold water
  3. 3 x 14.5 oz cans of Chopped/Diced tomatoes
  4. 2 x 15.5 oz cans of Chickpeas 
  5. 2-3 tbsp Texas Chili Seasoning
  6. 8-10 leaves fresh Basil
  7. 8-10 leaves fresh Sage
  8. Salt, to taste
  9. Hot Sauce, to taste
I followed the directions on the box, with a few variations. Combine contents of the box of falafel mix (about 1.5 cups of dry mix) with 1 cup cold water. Mix well and allow the mix to rest at room temperature for 20 min. The ingredients include ground chick peas, ground fava beans, spice blend, minced onion, garlic, baking soda, salt and sesame seeds. It has no added fat. Preheat a non-stick stock pot to medium heat and add the water-falafel mix to the pan. Using a wooden spoon, dry saute the mix over medium heat, breaking up the mixture into crumbles. This part worked really well for me. I was able to get a nice crumbly mix in about 20 min of dry sauteing. Once the mix is dry and crumbly, add canned tomatoes (with liquid), salt, chili seasoning and chickpeas. Mix well. At this point the box said to reduce heat and to cook the chili until everything was thoroughly heated. To me the whole dish at this point looked really dry. Since I wasn't planning on using any of the traditional toppings (sour cream, cheese etc.) which would add moisture, I decided to add some water to make it a little more moist. Consequently, my crumbles became a thick gravy. Lesson learnt (that's why they didn't ask for water to be added to this dish!). Once I added water, I lowered the heat and allowed the chili to simmer on medium-low for about 10 min. Once the dish was bubbling nicely, I turned off the heat, added some fresh herbs (Basil and Sage) and allowed it to sit (covered) for 5 minutes. I served my not-so-crumbly chili with Couscous (also prepared with minced herbs, no added fat), and my favorite hot sauce

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 269 (Fat Calories 74)
Total Fat 8.3 g; Carbohydrates 40.5 g; Fiber 7.6 g; Sugars 2.7 g; Protein 12.2 g 

July 7, 2013

Salted Brownie Baked Oatmeal

So I'm on an oatmeal kick this weekend and I've found just the site to help me through it .. The Oatmeal Artist. A whole blog just dedicated to oatmeal. I tried one of her recipes yesterday (Poached Pear Oats) and so in my quest to find another great recipe I went back to her site this morning!! 

Salted Brownie Baked Oatmeal
Adapted from: Salted Brownie Baked Oatmeal, The Oatmeal Artist

Prep Time: 40 min

Ingredients (Serves 1):
  1. 1/2 cup Old-Fashioned (Rolled) Oats
  2. 1/3 cup Apple Sauce
  3. 1/3 cup Unsweetened Almond milk
  4. 1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
  5. 4 tsp Cocoa Powder
  6. 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  7. 1 tbsp Dark Molasses
  8. 1 tbsp Pecans/Almonds/Cashews
  9. One large pinch of coarse Kosher/Sea Salt
Preheat oven to 350 F.  I used a Pyrex 'Ramekin style' Soup dish since I wasn't sure how much this mix was going to rise. I should have just used a single serving ramekin dish as the rise was not super high, just enough to form a nicely rounded crust. I sprayed the dish with non-stick spray and then used a dry paper towel to wipe off all the excess, leaving a thin film all around the dish. Mix wet ingredients in a large bowl and then add the dry ingredients. Mix well. The original recipe did not call for any sweeteners and although I don't like my oatmeal to be super sweet, I do like some sweetness, especially in chocolate based dishes. I added an extra tbsp of molasses. And I added a tbsp of crushed pecans to add some crunch to this dish. Transfer contents of the bowl to the greased dish, sprinkle with a pinch of coarse salt. I wasn't sure if the original recipe called for covered, or uncovered baking, so I just baked it uncovered. I started with 20 min at 350 F and since it was still too runny, I baked it for another 10 min. I might have taken extra time as my dish was more deep than wide. The original recipe calls for 18-25 min. 

My Assessment: I liked it. But it felt more like I was eating dessert for breakfast. I've never been that person who eats chocolate for breakfast so I was skeptical to begin with, but tried it nevertheless. I think I will definitely have this again, but more as a dessert than as a breakfast cereal. 

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 323 (Fat Calories 91)
Total Fat 10.1 g; Carbohydrates 57.4 g; Fiber 8.1 g; Sugars 19.8 g; Protein 7.4 g

Update: July 28, 2013: I baked this tonight as a combined dinner/dessert since we were both feeling lazy this Sunday evening. I made a double batch, split into 2 shallow ramekin style dishes. Once baked, I layered each one with fresh sliced strawberries for an even more appetizing look. 

Even Tony, the self-professed Oatmeal hater cleaned up his dish. Call anything a brownie ;) and he'll eat it!! The fresh strawberries (about 1/3 of a cup/dish) only add 15 additional calories but make for a very decadent dessert, that is filling enough to be a supper. 

July 6, 2013

Poached Pear Oatmeal

As many of you know already, I consume a lot of oats .. can't swallow instant oats and use those only for baked cookie and dessert recipes. Instead I rely completely on Old-Fashioned (Rolled) and Irish Steel Cut Oats for my breakfast, and sometimes dessert (sheepish!) needs. Over the past several months I've perfected a recipe which I absolutely love and enjoy every morning - Everyday Oats is what I eat most mornings on my way to work, in the car, out of a cup. It works for me :)

Of late though, at least on weekends, either due to a lack of bananas at home (an essential ingredient of my standard recipe), or because I'm feeling adventurous, I've been scouting around for new and interesting recipes. Here's one I found this morning that turned out really great!! 

Poached Pear Oats
Prep Time: 20 min

Ingredients (Serves 1):
  1. 1 D'Anjou Pear 
  2. 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  3. 1/2 cup Rolled Oats
  4. 1.25 cup Almond Milk
  5. 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  6. 1 tbsp Chia Seeds
  7. 1 tbsp Raisins
  8. Pinch of Sea salt
  9. 1 tbsp Pure Maple Syrup
I used D'anjou (the original recipe calls for Bartlett) for this recipe since that is what I had at home. I chose not to peal the pears and diced them smaller than the original recipe. I call my version Poached Pears because I had the hardest time getting the golden look that is in the original recipe and ended up using almond milk and water as my poaching liquids. This helped me get the pears cooked nice and golden brown in about 15 min.  This might have been because I used a cast iron pan. In the end, my pears took on a much darker golden hue than the original recipe. Bring pan to medium heat and add pears, allow the pears to become golden brown adding splashes of poaching liquid (water or almond milk) from time to time to help release the sugars caramelized at the bottom of the pan. The pears are done when they're nicely caramelized and fork-tender. Whilst the pears are cooking, soak oats in almond milk, add Chia seeds and raisins and heat oats on high in a microwave for about 3 minutes. Add 1/4 tsp Pumpkin pie spice, stir and set aside. The original recipe called for 'cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger' - i.e. pumpkin pie spice. Once the pears are golden brown (or dark gold like mine), remove from pan and toss in a bowl with the remainder of the pumpkin pie spice (1/4 tsp).  Mix about 2/3 of the pears with the oats, toss well and transfer to a serving bowl. Top off with remaining pears, sprinkle a few raisins and a dash of sea salt. Drizzle maple syrup on top for a touch of sweetness and enjoy!!! 

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving): Calories 408 (Fat Calories 68)
Total Fat 7.6 g; Carbohydrates 77.7 g; Fiber 12.1 g; Sugars 35.0 g; Protein 9.2 g

Spinach and Tofu Panini

HH Tofu Scramble
Tofu Panini
I made HH Tofu Scramble for breakfast this week and had a bunch of leftovers. I usually modify the basic recipe by adding tomatoes, black beans and a ton of cilantro. I didn't have any black beans yesterday and I used some extra Nutritional Yeast to make the preparation extra-cheesy. Since I'm the only one in my house that'll eat tofu (imagine that!), I had to either re-purpose the leftovers or eat the same thing all over again. I opted for re-purposing .... as ooey gooey cheesy Paninis. 

Prep Time: 5 min

Ingredients (Serves 1):
  1. 1/2 recipe tofu scramble
  2. 2 slices of bread
  3. ~1/2 cup of Spinach
Spread a thin layer of leftover tofu scramble on one slice of bread and top off with the spinach leaves. Spread remaining tofu scramble on the other slice of bread and combine both sides. Toast 2-3 minutes in a panini maker, or as I did, in a George Foreman Grill, until both sides are crispy and golden brown. I did not use any butter or oil on the bread or in the tofu scramble. The moisture of the tofu scramble and the spinach makes this sandwich moist enough for it to brown really well on the grill. Enjoy!!

Nutritional Facts for this recipe are the same as those listed on the HH website noted above. A half cup of baby spinach has about 5 calories and calories for bread are variable so please check packaging.