Category: Recipes


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

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What do you do on a lazy day? Order? I do that too but there are times when you want to eat homemade food but something you can quickly throw together.

This is what I did the other day:

I cut up a packet of firm tofu and stir fried it in canola oil. Before adding tofu cubes to the oil, I added in some dried red chilies, a little sesame and chopped garlic. Once these cooked a bit, I added in the tofu. Once the tofu browned a bit, I added in generous amounts of cut cabbage and a little bok choy. I seasoned the stir fry with salt and served it warm with vermicelli.

Tofu stir fries are simply awesome, not just because they are delicious but also because they are super healthy. You could pick different vegetable and different seasoning every single time, making tofu the perfect canvas to showcase your creativity as a cook.

Why Tofu is Awesome:

1. Protein vs. calories: 100 calorie serving of tofu contains 11 grams of protein. By comparison, 100 calories of ground beef provides 8.9 grams of protein, and a 100 calorie serving of cheese contains 6.2 grams.

2. Calories in tofu: Half cup of raw firm tofu contains 94 calories. By comparison, 4 oz ground beef contains 331 calories, 1/2 cup of 2% milk has 60 calories and 4 oz of cheese packs 320 calories.

3. Fat and cholesterol content in tofu: Half cup serving of raw firm tofu contains 5 grams of fat.  Low fat tofu is also commercially available, and contains 1.5 grams of fat per serving. 4 oz of beef packs 15 grams of fat, and one egg contains 5.5 grams of fat.

Like all plant-based foods, Tofu is a cholesterol-free food.  By comparison, half cup of 2% milk contains 9 mg of cholesterol, 4 oz of fish contains 75-100 mg of cholesterol and 4 oz ground beef contains about 113 mg cholesterol.

4. Calcium: Half cup of tofu contains about 227 mg of calcium or about 22% of the Recommended Daily Amount. The calcium content may vary slightly depending on the brand and the  process of manufacturing.

Main Source: Tofu Nutritional Value Information

You may also want to read Lean Streak’s popular blog post: A Hearty Tofu and Vegetable Curry

The Backstory

Growing up in India, I travelled extensively by the Indian Railways! We lived in the South Indian city of Bangalore and the most common destination of our train journey was my birthplace Hyderabad, another large and vibrant South Indian city. To take care of our dinner, my mother would pack food — usually rotis (Indian flatbreads) and beetroot curry. I do my own version of that childhood staple. I add potatoes to cater to my potato-loving husband and reduce the masala content to let the veggies take center stage.

This curry is a fave in my home, let’s hope you like it as much! Here’s how you make this hearty curry:

Boil the Potatoes and Beets, Peel and Cube Them

To cook enough for four generous servings, boil two large potatoes and three medium-sized beets. Peel them once they cool.

Chop Onions, Tomatoes and Chilies:

Most Indian curries begin with the cook tearing up over chopping onions :)! For this curry, chop two medium-sized onions fine. Also chop three medium-sided tomatoes and five-six  Thai green chilies. Feel free to use chilies of your choice but just watch out for the spice level.

Make the Curry:

Spices You Will Need — A pinch of cumin seeds, two pods of cardamom, one small stick of cinnamon, one bay leaf, two cloves, red chili powder, salt, paste of one inch cube of ginger and two pods of garlic and turmeric (optional)

Remember, if you want to take a shortcut, you could add garam masala instead. Or you could bump up the curry flavor by supplementing the spices with garam masala. If you are using garam masala, use it after adding the onions and tomatoes.

Making the Curry — Coat the bottom of the skillet with five tablespoons of canola oil or any other neutral-tasting oil of your choice. Heat the oil and add in the cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and cloves. Once an aroma begins to develop, add in the ginger and garlic paste, chopped chilies and onions. Once the onions turn translucent, add in the chopped tomatoes. Let this mixture cook till the tomatoes are tender. Then, add in the cooked and cubed potatoes and beets. Season with salt and red chili powder. Add chili powder with caution, because the dish already has chilies. Add one and half cups of water and let the curry cook and thicken. Once you reach the consistency you desire, adjust for salt and spice.

Garnish with chopped cilantro / coriander leaves. Serve with rice or Indian flatbreads.

Why Cheat Days are Awesome:

Most of us who consciously eat healthy and lean need a seventh day of rest — a cheat day when you throw caution to the wind and treat yourself to something decadent. This is a good idea on many levels because it compensates for the possibly low-calorie intake during the other days and also saves you from feeling deprived. A cheat day is one of the most important means of making sure you don’t fall off the wellness wagon.

What I Did on My Most Recent Cheat Day:

I made a moderately cheesy Chicken Kabab Pizza! Yes, I swapped a 100% whole wheat crust for a blend of whole wheat and all-purpose flour.

How I Made This Plate of Awesomeness:

First, I made dough using Wolfgang Puck’s  pizza dough recipe. I did a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour — feel free to pick your ratio, after all, it’s your day off!

While I waited for the yeast to do its magic, I marinated pieces of chicken (0.53 kgs or 1.16 pounds) in a freshly ground masala made from — Five dried red chilies, one teaspoon of coriander seeds*, one teaspoon of cumin seeds*, one stick of cinnamon*, two cloves, two pods of cardamom, two bay leaves, six raisins, a pinch of turmeric (optional) and salt. I added to this mix paste from two fat garlic pods, one inch cube of ginger and a tablespoon of yogurt.

After an hour, I baked the chicken in an oven pre-heated to 500 F or 260 C for 15 minutes.  Then, I rolled out the dough, brushed the raw crust with a little chili-garlic oil — one tablespoon of canola oil blended with a pod of garlic and a red chili. I then topped it off with shredded mozzarella and baked chicken pieces cut into strips.(You could also mix the chili oil with the cheese) The pizza was baked for 12 minutes. Check after 10 minutes to figure out how much longer you need to bake your pizza. I garnished my pizza with chopped cilantro i.e. coriander leaves.

Of course, you can add onions, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, purple cabbage or any other veggies of your choice to the pizza.

* If you do not have or cannot find coriander and cumin seeds or any of the spices, feel free to use the ground versions available at any major grocery store.

Indian Yellow Peas Soup

In India, this light and flavorful stew is often eaten in conjunction with potato patties and the dish is called Ragada Patties. However, when spiced well, this stew is perfect with brown or white rice, making it an excellent choice for a healthy and hearty meal!

Soaking Dried Yellow Peas: Soak the dried yellow peas in water overnight or for about eight hours.

To make the stew, that cooks for about an hour and allows for about eight generous servings,

You Will Need:

Two cups of dried yellow peas, soaked

Canola oil

Spices: One bay leaf, two pods of cardamom,

one small stick of cinnamon, two cloves

and a pinch of cumin seeds.

Two fat pods of garlic, crushed

One inch cube of ginger, crushed

One and half medium-sized onions, chopped fine

Three medium-sided tomatoes, chopped

Salt to taste

Red chili powder to taste

A few drops of lemon juice

A pinch of turmeric (optional)

A handful of chopped cilantro / coriander leaves

Two chopped green onions (optional)

Water

Method of Preparation:

Coat the bottom of the pot / pressure cooker with a thin layer of canola oil and heat over a medium flame. Add in the cumin seeds, cardamom pods, cinnamon sick, cloves and bay leaf. Once an aroma develops, add in the onions, ginger and garlic. Stir and let the onions cook till they become translucent. Then, add in the tomatoes, cover with a lid and let them cook till the tomatoes become tender and a sauce develops. Now, season with salt and chili powder. Season conservatively because you can adjust for salt and spice later.

Once the curry sauce is ready, add in the soaked yellow peas and about five cups of water. Cover with a tight lid and cook for 40 minutes or till the peas are soft. Add in more water if you’d like to adjust the consistency. You could have a thick gravy or a thinner soupy texture. Adjust for salt and chili powder and add in a dash of lemon juice and a pinch of turmeric. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) and chopped green onions. Serve warm over brown rice or white rice.

This curry marks a small victory for me!

I have been making palak tofu for a few years now. But adding eggplant to the spinach-tofu curry is not just a personal first but also something I have never witnessed. As I strolled through the grocery store yesterday evening, the ingredients seemed to work well in my head so I put them together today morning. I seasoned every ingredient, paid attention to every detail during the 40 minute cooking process and came up with a soulful dish that will now be a regular in my home. (Cooking time can be considerably shortened if tofu and eggplant are cooked simultaneously in two different skillets.)

Vegan Tofu and Spinach Curry

Tofu and Spinach Curry cooked with Indian spices

You Will Need:

A few tablespoons of canola oil, two japanese eggplants, 350 g firm / extra firm tofu, 8 oz of spinach, two medium-sized tomatoes, one large onion, four green chilies, one pod of cardamom, two cloves, one small stick of cinnamon, one bay leaf, a pinch of cumin seeds, salt to taste, red chili powder to taste and a pinch of turmeric (optional).

Note: I ground dried red chilies to make my chili powder so it looks like small flakes.

Step 1:

Spice, Sear and Cook the Eggplant Scallops :)

Cut up the long eggplants into thick discs and sear them in a heated skillet with a thin layer of oil. Season with salt, red chili powder and a pinch of turmeric. Cook the pieces till they are done.

Step 2:

Season and Stir Fry the Tofu Pieces:

Cut up the firm / extra firm tofu into cubes / cuboids. Stir fry them in a skillet coated with a thin layer of oil. Season with salt, chili powder and a pinch of turmeric and let the tofu brown.

I used the same skillet I used for the eggplants. However, if you cook the two simultaneously in separate skillets, you save time.

Step 3:

Make the Curry:

Once the onions turn translucent or brown slightly, add in the tomatoes. Let the tomatoes soften. You could use a lid for a short while. Using a lid for a prolonged period of time will make your sauce watery.

Once the tomatoes cook, add in the spinach. Once the leaves cook, add in the cooked eggplant and tofu pieces and stir. Season with salt and a pinch of chili powder. Let the curry cook as a whole and thicken for a few minutes (8 mins or as necessary). Taste and adjust for salt or chili powder if needed.

Serve warm with rice or Indian / Middle Eastern flatbread. Cracked wheat and bulgur works just fine too!

Purple Cabbage and Sesame Pizza

Red Cabbage and Sesame Pizza

What I love about pizza is that you can play with it! This time I went the Asian route with cabbage, green onions and sesame. You could add mushrooms or bok choy in the mix too! Using well-seasoned veggies on a whole wheat crust is a guaranteed way to have a delicious and healthy meal:).

For those who want to replicate my creation, here’s the recipe: Make a whole wheat crust using  Wolfgang Puck’s Pizza Dough Recipe. I use whole wheat flour instead of all purpose flour.  Once the dough is ready to be used, cut the red cabbage into thin strips. Mix it with some chopped green onions. Season with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 500 F or 260 C. Roll out the dough to the desired size and shape and, brush with oil. Spread the vegetable mixture onto the pizza. Top off with a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds. Bake the pizza in the oven for seven minutes. Then add, some tomato slices to the pizza and bake the pizza for another 5-6 minutes. Add a drizzle of soy sauce and / sesame oil to the pizza before eating.

Tomato Dal

Soulful and Spicy Tomato Dal

We Indians grow up on Toor Dal or split pigeon peas. Dal or lentil soup Indian style has become immensely popular in the West as well — I should know because my American vegetarian friends make Dal all the time! While moong dal (made from mung bean), French lentils and several other lentils make a good Dal soup as well, the classic version is with Toor Dal that is available in any Indian grocery store.

For this Tomato Dal (four servings), you will need:

Three tablespoons of canola oil

A pinch of cumin seeds

A pinch of black mustard seeds (optional)

Six small green chilies (adjust if you don’t dig spiciness)

Five-six curry leaves (optional)

Two medium-sized tomatoes, chopped

Two cups of chopped spinach leaves

Two-third cup of raw toor dal, cooked

A pinch of red chili powder

Salt to taste

A pinch of turmeric powder

Water

Method of preparation:

Cook Toor Dal in a pressure cooker with lentils and water in a 1:3 ratio. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, soak the lentils overnight and cook in a pot, like you would split peas.

Heat the oil in a pot, add in the cumin and mustard seeds. Once they begin to splutter, add in the chilies and curry leaves. You could either chop up the chilies or slit them and add them whole. Once the chilies cook a little, add in chopped tomatoes and close the lid. Once the tomatoes cook, add in the chopped spinach, stir and close the lid again. Once the spinach cooks as well, add in about a quarter cup of water. Add in the cooked dal (lentils) little by little. Once you reach the consistency / ratio you desire, stop. Add a little water if you prefer your Dal to be more soupy. Add in salt, chili powder (if necessary) and a pinch of turmeric. Stir, close the lid and cook for a few minutes. Taste and adjust for salt.

Serve hot with white rice, brown rice, cracked wheat, bulgar or flat breads.

If you love or are intrigued by this lentil, read: Toor Dal (Split Pigeon Peas): What Indians Grow Up On

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