Category: Miscellaneous


Even those who have only a passing familiarity with Indian food usually know mattar paneer, a delectable Punjabi dish that is one of the most popular orders in Indian restaurants. Despite its simple format, the perfect balance of the savory (spices) and the sweet (peas) elevates mattar paneer to the level of supremely successful comfort food.

Quite naturally, I HEART MP. However, as someone trying to make healthy food choices, I have a beef with it — It is heavy and calorific, thanks to the cottage cheese. So, I took a cue from my mother-in-law an started swapping the cheese with tofu and the result has been fabulous! Also, as a new mom with limited time on my hands,  I stir-fry my way through most of the dish and use ready-made spice mixture (garam masala), making the process simple and easy.

To make Mattar Tofu for four, you will need:

Two 350 g extra firm tofu packets

Two handfuls of fresh or frozen peas

Three Roma tomatoes or equivalent, chopped

One large onion, sliced

One tablespoon of ginger garlic paste

Canola or another neutral tasting oil

A pinch of chili flakes or two dried chilies (optional)

Salt

A tablespoon of chili powder

A tablespoon of coriander powder

A pinch of turmeric

Garam masala

Two tablespoons of cream / coconut milk / cashew paste

Method of Preparation:

Coat the bottom of the skillet with oil and heat. Cut the tofu into cubes and stir fry until golden brown. While they are getting done, add in the chili flakes / broken dried red chilies,  ginger-garlic,  chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric and a pinch of salt.

Indian Tofu curry

Indian Tofu curry

Once the tofu cubes turn golden brown, add in the sliced onions.

Indian Tofu curry

Once the onions turn translucent, add in the chopped tomatoes. Cover if you’d like the curry to have some sauce. Mash a few tomatoes with the ladle if you’ like. While the tomatoes cook down, add in the peas and stir.

Indian tofu curry

Once all the vegetables cook,  stir in the cream / coconut milk / cashew paste. Taste and adjust for salt and spice. Serve warm with rice or roti.

Indian Tofu Curry

Tomato vermicelli soup

As most of you may already know, tomato vermicelli soup is popular in the Middle East. I ate it for the first time at a Lebanese restaurant and loved it. Since then, I started making it at home. Of course,  I gave it my on spin and came up with this hearty flavourful vegan version that is perfect for a cold night or a light lunch. Here is the recipe –

For four meal-sized servings,

You will need:

Four large tomatoes

Oil

Two chopped pods of garlic

An onion, sliced

Half a packet of vermicelli, cooked

One small can of cooked chickpeas

Salt

Chili powder

Cumin powder

Chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)

A dash of lime

Method of Preparation:

Cook the vermicelli as per the instructions on the packet. Chop it into long pieces and set it aside. Put a skillet on medium heat. Coat the bottom with canola or vegetable oil. Do a rough chop on the tomatoes and garlic and cook them in the pan with a lid on. Once they get done, let them cool a little and puree them. Add two tablespoons of oil in the skillet and sauté the onion slices, add in the puree. Add water to reach the desired consistency. Add in the chickpeas.  Add in half a teaspoon of cumin powder. Season with salt and chili powder. Add in a dash of lemon and garnish with chopped cilantro!

IMG_7355

Being a savory brunch kinda girl, I  have often leaned on bacon, sausage and pulled pork to rescue me from depression, hangovers over just plain old hunger. So, while a salad may qualify as a perfect vegetarian brunch option for many an evolved being, I need something more robust to take the place of the piggy!

And, at least six times out of ten, my go-to bold flavor is Indian. As a wink to the countless hashes I have had all over North America and to the flavours of my childhood, I present this spicy curried chickpea sweet potato hash. To feed two people,

You will need:

One large sweet potato

3/4 cup of cooked chickpeas

One pod of garlic, chopped

A few slices of onion

A generous handful of baby spinach (optional)

Half a small tomato (chopped)

A handful of chopped coriander leaves aka cilantro

A teaspoon of chili powder

3/4 teaspoon of cumin powder

3/4 teaspoon of coriander powder

salt to taste

Two eggs

Two -three tablespoons of oil

Lemon juice – one tablespoon or so

Method of preparation:

Place a skillet on a burner, pour in the oil and heat. Peel the sweet potato and cut it into cubes. Stir fry them in the hot oil. Feel free to use a lid to aid quick cooking. While the sweet potatoes cook and become crisp, add in the garlic and onion slices. Stir once in a while. Once these veggies get done, add in the spinach, tomato and the chickpeas. Regulate the sweet potato-chickpea ratio if you like. Season with salt, cumin and coriander powders and lime / lemon. Add in half the chili powder, mix and taste. Add more chili powder to achieve the desired level of heat.

Heat an omelette pan. Add in a tablespoon of oil. Crack two eggs and fry them.

Serve the hash warm with a nice bright egg on top!

You must have heard the mantra “Eat the Rainbow”. While most of us consciously eat dark green and yellow / orange veggies and fruits are superstars, we tend to ignore purple / blue foods. However, it is  a provenPurple Foods

fact that darker the coloration, higher the antioxidant level. So, reach out for those purple onions, concord grapes, purple cabbages, black figs, blackberries, blueberries, purple yams and the like!

The purple pigment in these foods contains various flavonoids, including resveratrol, which can help decrease blood pressure. Resveratrol also helps relax the arterial walls and decreases the pressure in the arteries, allowing for better circulation. These dark-colored foods also contain polyphenols that can reduce the inflammatory response in the body. Inflammation is often said to be the culprit in case of major diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and immune dysfunction.

Purple Foods

A Closer Look At Why Purple Foods are Awesome:

1. Purple foods could help fight cancer: In animal studies, resveratrol found in purple grapes, cranberries, blueberries, bilberries, and red wine and grape juice could inhibit the spread of colorectal cancer. Other promising studies show that the chemical induces cancer cell death in cases of prostate, breast, skin, liver, lung and blood cancers.

2. Purple foods heal your liver: Black rice, rich in anthocyanins, is a delicious antioxidant grain that has been found to reduce damage to the liver caused by excessive alcohol intake.

3. Purple foods are ulcer-fighters: A 2011 study on rats found that anthocyanins from blackberries reduced stomach ulcer formation. Researchers say this is because the antioxidants in blackberries prevent oxidation and boost the activity of other important antioxidants that are naturally present in the body.

4. Purple foods are good for the heart: Black currants are said to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol by up to 13 percent while raising “good” HDL cholesterol. Remember that wild raw berries have higher antioxidant content than their fresh raw berries or frozen counterparts.

5. Purple foods prevent UTIs:  It is common knowledge that cranberries fight urinary tract infections. This is because of their anthocyanin content. This is the same amazing chemical found in  vegetables such as purple cauliflower, purple carrots and purple cabbage, giving them UTI-fighting power as well. Studies show that anthocyanin compounds fight H. pylori, the bacteria that promotes stomach ulcers and urinary tract infections.

Primary Sources:

Five health benefits of purple foods

The Power of Purple Foods

Salmon baked with Dill

I baked salmon and paired it with whole grains: Inspired by BBC’s How to be Slim

Every few weeks I consider turning vegan or vegetarian. But my resolve lasts only a few days and I end up giving in a mean piece of steak or fish on my friend’s plate. It starts off with a bite and blows up in to a full-blown meat fest. So I’ve decided that moderation is the way to go and I try to stick to Michael Pollan’s very practical mantra — “Eat Food. Not too Much. Mostly Plants.”

My husband has been trying to shed off some serious pounds and once in a while the two of watch a documentary or read a book that will help us design a diet to lose weight and more importantly keep it off. Many of the documentaries we watch are too rigid — geared more towards food industry practices or veganism. While we value these food philosophies immensely, we are not there yet — moderation within omnivore-ness seems the most practical to us.So when I stumbled upon this BBC documentary, I was thrilled. It wasn’t extremist and it seemed to be based on scientific findings. Not to spoil the surprise but it speaks of simple substitutions you can make, metabolism and its relation to weight, low-fat dairy and its contribution to weight loss and different food groups and their place in our balanced meal. The BBC seems to have many more awesome documentaries for weight watchers but this one is a good start:

Part 1 of How to be Slim  Part 1/6:

The day after I saw this documetary, I baked atlantic salmon with dill and made my own yogurt!

Food addiction, food porn

I typed in “food sex” into google, to help me flesh out my thoughts, and this page from urbandictionary.com came  up:

Capture

I couldn’t have put my tumultuous on-again, off again relationship with food in better words than the folks at Urban Dictionary. I have lusted for and had sex with ribs and pasta a gazillion times and even the ad on the side makes supreme sense to me — bacon does rock my world! I once visited a famous burger joint in Downtown Toronto only to walk out almost immediately because they didn’t offer bacon as a condiment — a blasphemy in my books.

And like a catholic school girl torn between her religion and hormones, I have felt extreme shame in pleasuring myself. But, should I have felt shame? Some might say “yes” because so far I have made it look like I crave only for rich and unhealthy foods. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are times when I pine for mango or spinach or low-fat yogurt and I always choose whole wheat bread because it just tastes better. Of course the fact that grew up in a vegetarian household makes my mind hold veggies and fruits in the same regard as a Texan would hold his brisket. So, yes, my food craving in not just a direct result of the devious tactics of the food industry — that lures us with fat, sugar and salt — it originates from my deep-rooted lust for deicious food.

A lust that equals,  and sometimes even surpasses my appetite for sex.  (There are times when I choose food over sex or as a substitute!) And from my interactions with my friends and darling husband, I understand that I am not alone in my servitude of food. Our generation struggles to reconcile its desire be thin, sexy and healthy with its need to satiate its curiosity and palate in food wonderland that surrounds us.

Not only are the treats that are dangled before us marketed to occupy our mind space, they also often come from exotic lands or places close to the home and heart! While there are those who are spartan enough to place disciple and functionality above all else, most of us just cave into the crave, at least once in a while. And while most responsible eaters are able to stuff their faces with what’s already available (or healthy alternatives) and supress their craves, images of food continue to flash in our heads, creating a sequence of fantasies, not unlike our admiration of the opposite sex.

So, YES, food has become the new sex! And I’m not sure if I’m lovin’ it!

EdamameI haven’t visited Japan yet. But from what I’ve seen in Japanese bars or izakayas, Japanese love their edamame steamed and salted. Over the past few years, I have incorporated this preparation of these green soybeans in my snacking routine and have been very impressed label112111with the results. Not only does a small packet full full of frozen edamame pods, yield a filling meal, it is also a splendid source of vegetarian protien! And needless to say steamed and salted edamame are yummy to the point of being addictive.

Making your own  Lean Edamame Snack:

Buy frozen edamame pods either at an Asian store or a mainstream market. I buy mine at CostCo because of the quality. Steam the pods till they cook but retain their green-ness. Be careful not to overcook.

Salt the pods on the outside.  I put the pods in my mouth and drag the seeds in with a sweeping motion involving my teeth.

Enjoy!

 

snacksIf you are an early-riser, who eats a light breakfast, a mid-morning snack could be the difference between staying on course on a healthy diet and stuffing yourself at lunch. That said, so as to not be counter-productive, snacking has to be healthy.

Keep in mind that for the implementation of a practical snacking regimen, snacks have to be not just healthy but also portable, affordable, non-messy and easily available. Here are some of my faves:

1. A handful of raw almonds: Raw almonds are called a “superfood” for several reasons. Rich in protein and fibre, almonds offer an instant energy boost. These yummy nuts have high contents of manganese and vitamin E. While manganese is essential for healthy bones and metabolism, vitamin E allows for skin development and supports heart health. When paired with a low-calorie nutrient-rich diet, almonds can also help lower cholesterol.

2. Dark chocolate and fruit: Pick a dark chocolate with 75% or higher cocoa content and pair it with blueberries, pomgranate or orange and you got yourself nutrient-rich snack worthy of the gods. Both dark chocolate and several fruits are loaded my the goodness of antioxidants and other nutrients that make this unique pairing not just delectable but also power-packed.

3. Carrot sticks: Do you give a growling stomach the carrot or the stick? How about carrot sticks? Peel and cut up some carrot sticks or buy baby carrots and snack on them with a Bugs Bunny-like zeal.

Carrots are best known for their beta-carotene content. While they can be an excellent source of this phytonutrient, carrots also contain an impressive combination of other phytonutrients such as other carotenoids, hydroxycinnamic acids, anthocyanins (in the case of purple and red carrots) and polyacetylenes.

Carrots are also an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids). They are also a very good source of immune-supportive vitamin C, bone-building vitamin K and heart-healthy dietary fiber and potassium. They are also a good source of heart-healthy vitamin B6, niacin, folate, and vitamin E; enzyme-supporting manganese and molybdenum; and energy-supportive vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and phosphorus.

4. Now-fat yogurt: If you area dairy lover, non-fat yogurt is an ideal low-calorie snack for you. Other than being a great source of protein and calcium, non-fat yogurt also promotes a healthy gastrointestinal system and prevents conditions like diarrhea.

A note of caution: While picking a non-fat yogurt, tryto avoid brands that contain sweetened fruit or granola as they add to the calories.

5. Fruit juices and fruit cups: This is an affordable and easy snack that ensures that you get all the energy and vitamins you need to have a fuitful day :)!

Sources:
Livestorng.com : Are Almonds a Good Snack?

Whfoods.com: carrots

MarksDailyApple.com: Why You Should Eat and Drink High Cacao Chocolate

Fitday.com: 5 Delicious Low Calorie Snacks to Try Today

Black Eyed Peas

Delicious Vegan Protein: Black-eyed Peas Curry

Growing up in India, Black Eyed Peas  to me was well… the American hip hop group. As much as I enjoyed grooving to “Don’t Phunk with My Heart” and “Pump It”, I love the lentil, that I started eating when I moved to Washington DC seven years ago, WAY MORE!

Of course black-eyed peas on their own are awesome. But give them the curry treatment given to chickpeas and red kidney beans and they become even more awesome! And remember, while the curry is ideally made with all the ingredients listed, missing a spice or two will not make that much of a difference.

To make the black-eyed peas curry that serves at least five,

You Will Need:

500 g of black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and cooked

(or canned, cooked)

Two medium-sized onions, chopped fine

Four medium-sized tomatoes, chopped fine

Two fat pods of garlic, crushed

One-inch cube of ginger, crushed

Canola oil to coat the bottom of skillet

Indian spices — Cumin seeds, bay leaf, two cloves,

one stick of cinnamon and two pods of cardamom

Spice powders — Red chilli powder and turmeric powder

Salt to taste

Chopped cilantro (coriander leaves) — for garnish

Chopped green onions — for garnish

One and a half cups of black-eyed peas stock / water

Method of Preparation:

Coat the skillet with oil and heat. Add in the spices. Once an aroma develops, add in the ginger and garlic pastes and chopped onion. Stir occasionally and let the onions turn translucent and eventually brown slightly.

Then, add in the chopped tomatoes and cook them down to form a sauce. Add in a teaspoon of chilli powder, a pinch of turmeric and a little salt. Add in just the cooked black-eyed peas. Then, measure one and a half cups of the water the peas were cooked in, and add it in. If you do not have the black-eyed peas stock, add an equivalent amount of water.  Let the curry cook for a few minutes. Use a lid if you like.

Once the desired consistency is reached, adjust for salt and chilli powder. Garnish with chopped cilantro (coriander leaves) and chopped green onions.

Serve warm with rice or flat breads.

Black-eyed peas make an excellent source of protein for vegans such as me. Here are the details:

(Source: http://nutritiondata.self.com/)

Nutritional Data Black Eyed Peas

Zingerman's Delicatessen

Zingerman’s Delicatessen

Meet Carlos! Isn’t he splendid? How could he not be, afterall his maker Ann Arbor’s Zingerman’s Delicatessen describes him as “Apple Schram Orchard’s organic Berkshire pork shoulder rubbed and roasted with fennel pollen & marash pepper, lettuce, tomato & housemade garlic mayo on a Bakehouse onion roll.”

He is one of the reasons I have been a meat-eater. But now that I have Skinny Bitched and Food Inc.-ed myself out, I am going vegan starting today. And, yesterday, to celebrate everything that I loved about meat, eggs and refined carbs, I visited one of my favourite delis Zingerman’s, an institution whose Tomato soup, Chicken Paprikash and Spanish Hot Chocolate have lent me comfort in some seriously tough times.

Although I am not necessarily a fan of everything Zingerman’s makes, particularly their cakes that tend to be a tad too sweet and dry, what tugs at my heart is the honesty and love that goes into their food. Whether you are just doing a killer goat cheese over some hearty sourdough bread or are partaking in one of their elaborate food festivals, Zingerman’s is truly an omnivore’s paradise.

Visit http://www.zingermansdeli.com/ to understand the scope of this Midwestern institution, that has impressed renowned chef Mario Batali enough for him to tell the LA Times, “When I head out to my Lake Michigan house for the summer, I always stop at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor… “

Zingerman’s Delicatessen

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