Friday, March 10, 2017

sesame seeds and orange dip | making healthy eating easier everyday

Sesame seeds come handy when I have to make quick nourishing foods many a times. The chutneys and dips have been my savior when I have to whip up quick meals and snacks. This sesame seeds and orange dip has been a regular in many variations as I keep adding different flavours to it, the motive is to eat more sesame seeds regularly.

sesame seeds and orange dip

This sesame and calamondin salad dressing is more complex in flavours, we love it to make our vegetables flavourful.

The simpler dip recipe I am sharing today pairs really well with carrot sticks, apple slices, fritters, crackers and even parathas. Try this and you would know what I am talking about. I love recipes that can be used differently and don't perish somewhere in the fridge, pushed back in a corner.

(makes to fill a 350 ml jar, 5-6 or more servings approx)

one orange peeled, sliced and seeds removed
150 gm sesame seeds lightly roasted
1 tsp orange zest (optional, use only if the oranges are organic or home grown)
1 tbsp crushed jaggery
1/4 tsp pink salt (or table salt)
1/2 inch piece of ginger grated
1/2 tsp paprika powder
1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar


Mix everything in a blender jar and make a paste. Do not add any more liquid to it. 

Let it rest for an hour in the fridge before serving. This sesame orange dip keeps well for 2 weeks in the fridge.

We ate so much more raw carrots this season thanks to this dip, knowing that all the nutrients in this food combination are absorbed well is a great relief in the times when we have been planning our meals carefully. 

sesame seeds and orange dip

I have not been updating the blog lately because of so many distractions and family emergencies. Hoping to be regular now and continue the lunch box series again. The giveaways are still up so keep commenting to be eligible.

In the meanwhile I will tell you that I brought some water apples from Calcutta in December, yes it has been that long. I was there developing a Banaras chaat menu for The Grand Oberoi and training the chefs the nitty gritties of making traditional chaats, some of them are even steamed but all of them healthy even though the calorific value may be high in some cases. Real food is always better I keep saying.

Coming back to the water apples, these are so delicious with a mild flavour and crisp texture. The fruit oaks salad dressings like a sponge and responded really well with a diluted dressing made of this sesame seed dip.

water apples

I just diluted the dip with some lime juice and salt and pepper to adjust seasoning.

Just some thinly sliced carrots, thinly sliced water apples, some greens and flowers from the garden and lot of well soaked smoked Bandel cheese that I brought from Calcutta.

water apple salad with sesame seeds and orange dip

This salad was such a delight to eat. So many flavours and textures in every bite, the bandel cheese is salted and crumbly and it provided a great contrast to the crunchiness of carrot and water apple, few shreds of pea shoots and kale from the garden kept the promise with bites of greens.

Some radish flowers lending a hint of pungency here and there, you can use any leafy greens or herbs you like but don't let it overpower the fruity notes of this salad.

water apple salad with sesame seeds and orange dip

Will tell you more about the Bandel cheese soon, the lunch box series will be resumed within a week and we will celebrate a new season with mangoes and then cherries, plums, peaches, apricots and what not.

Stay tuned and join the fun.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

10 ways to clean and maintain lunch boxes to prevent spoilage of packed food

Ever since I started posting pictures of lunch boxes on my facebook page and then did a series about lunch boxes for adults here, I have been getting random queries about packing food in lunch boxes.

All these queries may seem mundane but I knew the bottom line is the same. How to make the food stay fresh in the lunch box for 3-4 hours or more, it may be a challenge in the diverse climate we experience through the year. In summer there are chances of the food getting spoiled and in winters it may get too cold and dry, some foods get soggy when packed and some foods become chewy and inedible.

Oh and some foods become smelly and they seem to get the smell of the food that you had packed yesterday in the same lunch box.

While most of us figure out what foods will stay edible till the lunch or snack time, many of us stay clueless about the fact that it is the lunch box, its cleaning and maintenance that can affect the food in certain harmful ways.

If the food gets smelly by lunch time, or gets soggy and tasteless, if the food leaks or stains the insides of the lunch box, you need to take care of a few facts about your choice of lunch box and how you clean and maintain them.

1. Use the most appropriate type of lunch box for your type of food to be packed. You need to eat a tasty filling meal for your lunch or even a snack so please take care to choose your lunch box rightly. There are specific lunch boxes for sandwiches, for curries, for salads, breads and crackers etc.

If your kid brings back her food untouched it doesn't mean she is not interested in food. Most probably the food gets insipid by her lunch time or she finds it difficult to hold the food while eating.

Some really nice sectioned lunch boxes may be the best for kids and adults like, choose the shape and size suits the requirement.

2. Choose good looking lunch boxes and water bottles if your kid is a fussy eater. It helps in most cases as they feel proud of what they bring. Most importantly, the lunch boxes should suit the type of food you are packing for them. A snug fitting leak proof lid is important if you are packing wet foods but if you mostly pack dry type of food you can easily choose cute hand painted steel dabbas too.

Do not use hard brushes and abrasive cleaners if the lunch boxes are hand painted like the ones above.

3. Use appropriate brushes and soft sponges to clean the lunch boxes of all types. The detergent should be non abrasive because the abrasions become the breeding spots for bacteria and fungi that cause food poisoning and make the food spoil, get smelly etc.

Some sectioned lunch boxes come with a superbly snug fitting lid that has the grooves lined with a delicate silicone cushion. These need more attentive cleaning as any food particles stuck to the silicone lined grooves make hidden breeding spots for pathogens.

I have seen a young child whose IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) symptoms were not being traced back to a definite cause but when the lunch boxes started getting cleaned properly her IBS got cured. Better be careful about the cleaning of your kids' lunch boxes and not leave it to the house help who may not be aware of the harm.

4. Do not reheat the food in lunch box for too long in the microwave oven. It is better to avoid reheating but do it quickly if you must, don't ever heat the food too much or for too long. Frequent reheating in a wrong way can cause degeneration of the plastic in the even in the best quality plastic lunch boxes. Also, remember not to freeze food in the lunch boxes too frequently if you want your lunch box last longer and to prevent chemical leaching from the surface. 

5. Pack some hand towels and tissue papers along with the lunch boxes not just to wipe hands after eating but to wipe the empty lunch box too. When you wipe the lunch box with a tissue after eating your food it becomes clean and dry enough to not let any bacteria or fungi breed in it till you reach home and get the lunch box cleaned.

This works like a charm and we follow it diligently. The lunch box smells awful when opened for cleaning if not wiped dry with a tissue paper, so Arvind always follows this simple rule after finishing his lunch.

6. Clean the lunch box asap after reaching home as the waiting time increases the chances of germs breeding in them. The grooves in the lid make the lunch boxes more susceptible to germ breeding than other everyday use utensils.

7. Rinse the lunch boxes with hot water if you pack buttery foods or coconut chutney, oily dips etc.Hot water wash is also needed if you pack foods with strong smells or flavors, foods that leave stains like curries and pickles.

8. Once a week get all lunch boxes dipped into hot water with vinegar and pinch of soda bi carb. It helps dislodge all odours and stains that may be clinging to the surface. Note that the cleaning brushes and sponges also need this treatment so clean them thoroughly to keep them germ free too.

9. Get all the lunch box bags cleaned in a washing machine once every fortnight or as required. Use appropriate wash mode, most bags need a gentle mode and mild detergent. Sun dry them thoroughly before using them again.

10. Drop in a few dry orange rind or dry basil flowers along with the lunch boxes to keep them odour free. Do not use chemical De-odourants of any type for either lunch boxes or the bags meant to carry them.

A pouch of silica gel can be slipped into the bag to keep it dry but be careful in case of children.

Last but not the least, don't forget to comment, give you inputs, ask questions about these issues and enter a chance to this fabulous giveaway.

Please don't forget to leave your mail id or keep a tab on the upcoming blogposts about lunch boxes to know what you have won. There are some nice lunch boxes waiting to become yours.

So tell me what do you do to maintain your lunch boxes? Did you find this blogpost helpful?

Tell me what lunch box related queries do you have? I might include the queries and suggestions in the next blogposts, this series will continue till the end of the next month.