Saturday, October 30, 2010

stuffed breads and swirls .... fun to make with all your favorite flavors....

How i am besotted with my breads , I want clicking a picture or two every time i bake some . The warm aroma of the bread and a spicy hint of the filling is something to die for . The season is perfect for some warm spiced up bread , stuffed or swirled or even toasted with a hint of garlic and cheese .......... the masala chai , coffee , milk or a soup is not just that ..... the bread takes them to another level .

Recently a couple of friends came to my place to have an experience of bread baking . We had so much fun kneading the dough with hands , proofing , punching down , letting them rise again and then baking a few loaves , challah and swirls . Gorgeous breads coming out of the oven one after the other , cooling on the wire rack ..... what a pretty sight , especially when the breads are this beautiful....... all these breads are essentially whole wheat breads..........


Or like this challah , a braided stuffed bread .


 Here the stuffing is a nice yummy spicy apple and pear chutny...oozing out of the braids ...
A mug of plain white milk is not just that after it gets a companion like this........


 The apple pear chutney spiced with star anise , cinnamon and a dash of red chilly powder .... hot and sweet were never so yummy together....


 The chai comes to another level when it has some of these to savor ........


Whole wheat swirls stuffed with butter-cheese and garlic mixture and the red ones are stuffed with a beet root and soy nuggets masala mix ..........


The swirls can be open or in the form of a loaf...


Whatever way it suits you........



Beet roots were never welcomed so much in my home until i started making this stuffing , children love it too .
Finely ( or even roughly ) chopped beetroots and soy nuggets stir fired in minimal oil with generous amounts of ginger garlic green chillies and freshly crushed black pepper ..... just perfect for a swirl bun .



The apple pear chutny involves cooking the peeled and chopped fruits with some sugar , salt and spices in the microwave .  I prefer mashing the cooked fruit pieces roughly and keeping the chutney in the fridge for a few days ....... it improves after a few days as far as the spice aroma is concerned . It can be used for the stuffing the same day too as in my case the bread is not consumed the same day most of the times.


I am not giving any recipe of the bread as there are so many great blogs and sites specially dedicated to bread baking . You know that i am always there to share the recipe if you want but this post and many other bread posts of mine are just to motivate a few of my readers to start baking healthier breads at home . You get good quality bread fresh at home and a very good mood uplifting exercise as a bonus .... for me it is the mood uplifting experience first and the bread as a bonus ... at least for now...... Just think of the possibility of a bread free of maida ( APF ) , emulsifiers , conditioners and most of the times preservatives too.....excessive amounts of sugar and salt too sometimes....


 Go for it and let me know if you started...........all my breads here use whole wheat ( aashirvaad brand atta ) with just a sprinkling of maida (APF) ...actually for 5 cups of whole wheat i use 2 tbsp of maida and the result is awesome . We don't get any gluten or bread flour in our country so this is the best way to use atta ( whole wheat flour with bran ) for a healthy bread.......Now tell me if you wanna bake some healthy bread.....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

pasta made healthy ........ being greedy for the leftovers...


The thought of a nice creamy cheesy macaroni n cheese gives an instant smile , an instant craving . But most of the times we brush off the idea of a hearty meal of mac and cheese just because it scares ....... for it's calorie count and virtually no fiber content . High on yum factor , the dish does not confirm to my food ideology . A dish high on fats and carbs must be accompanied with a lot of vegetables for me.

My husband loves the cheesiest of the macaroni and cheese and i had to come up with something which satiates his taste buds and my food ideology at the same time... this version of less cheesy mac and cheese has been served to people ranging from teenagers to senior citizens and one phenomenon has been repeated time and again....every time i made it for friends or extended family , all of them got greedy for the leftovers .

That 'abc' would love it , or it will be great for my diabetic 'xyz' ..... and while i would happily pack them a dabba full of this pasta , i would always cheat .....i would always keep a small bowl for my own 'xyz' ... the husband . He always asks if there is some leftover ...

As with other healthy homemade options , this one comes with a bit of additional peeling , cleaning and chopping too . But the effort can be minimized if you use the food processor or a convenient chopper , the effort is worth as you'd repeat this pasta for many meals to come.

ingredients...
( For 2-3 servings )

whole wheat macaroni pasta  2 cups ( boiled )
milk 300 ml or some more if needed
oats 1 tbsp ( heaped )
onion 1 large
garlic 4-5 cloves or as much as you like
celery 2 small sticks and leaves
I use spring onions instead of celery sometimes and it's good too
1 small carrot
4-5 florets of cauliflower
nutmeg freshly grated 1/4 tsp
black or white pepper powder 1/2 tsp or more
red chilly flakes 1/4 tsp
dried oregano 1/2 tsp ( or use fresh if available )
grated processed cheese or any other cheese of your choice 50-75 gm 
butter 2 tsp
salt to taste 

procedure...

Finely chop the onions , garlic , celery sticks and carrots using a chopper or food processor.

Heat the butter in a pan and throw in the chopped veggies into it , keep the flame low and stir fry till they are translucent but not pink ..


Meanwhile chop the cauliflowers and celery leaves too in the same chopper and throw them in the cooking mix...


Add salt , pepper and oregano and stir fry for a minute . Add the grated nutmeg and turn off the heat .


Now pour milk into a casserole dish , add the oatmeal and cook in the microwave till the cereal is cooked . This can be done in a separate pan too. In the casserole , add the cooked vegetables and mix to make a slurry with bits of colorful vegetables . Adjust seasonings . It can be made white by using just the onions , garlic and cauliflowers and it's great that way.


Add half of the cheese and boiled macaroni to this mixture ...


Grate the remaining cheese on top of it . Some mozzarella cheese will be great but i avoid as i want to keep it balanced.


I add some more milk to this as we like it a bit gooey and not dry .... also the finished dish becomes thick as it cools so adding milk is better...


Bake in a preheated oven at 250 degree C till the cheese gets golden brown on top and the pasta sauce sizzles...


Turn over the pasta so that the browned cheese is mixed up with the gooey sauce , giving a nice smoky taste.
The thickness is nice , do not add more milk if you want it drier...


 Serve in shallow dishes , i sometimes bake it in individual soup bowls or cups and serve immediately ...


I am yet to see if somebody becomes greedy for this barley  version . Well , i am the one who will choose the later always . Try replacing your pasta with boiled barley at least once . You'd love it . See one more recipe how i like barley in a tomato based pasta sauce......

Enjoy...

Friday, October 15, 2010

red lentil-vegetable soup with barley



A soup when you want a hearty one pot meal . All the fresh vegetables are complemented very well with red lentils . I use barley for it's health promoting benefits as well as for a nice starchy bite , almost like a meaty pasta . In this soup all the elements seem to complement each other so well , the colorful vegetables have been cooked till very soft but not mushy , barley is another soft bite while the lentils provide the base . Tempered with a lot of garlic , the way i love all my lentil soups .

ingredients...

red lentils 2 tbsp
pearl barley 2 tbsp
baby bok choy 4 heads
celery stalk1 no.
spring onion bulbs 2 nos.
carrots 2 nos.
garlic cloves 8-10 chopped finely ( small Indian cloves)
finely chopped ginger 2 tsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
black pepper powder 1 tsp
turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
butter 1 tbsp

procedure...

Wash the red lentils and keep aside.

Chop all the vegetables in small pieces and keep aside.
Heat butter in a pan and throw in the cumin seeds and garlic . Wait till both become brownish , add the ginger followed by chopped vegetables . Toss and stir fry for a few seconds .

Add the washed red lentils , barley , salt and pepper . Add water ( about 500 ml ) and turmeric powder , cover to cook on medium heat till the lentils are mushy and soft and barley is cooked and plump . Adjust water to make it desirable consistency , adjust seasonings too.


I have not added any chillies to the soup , it's just the ginger and black pepper for heat and it was great this way . All the flavors of the fresh vegetables were intact and there was just enough heat for the soup , the flavor of garlic was awesome.

No garnish is required when there is great color naturally in the soup . Parsley or cilantro would be great of you feel like a fresh green kick to it. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

corn -oats -whole wheat parathas.... herbed multi-grain flat breads


Another multi grain paratha for a typical punjabi breakfast . If you think on the lines of high fiber and complex carbohydrates , this is the paratha for you . A bowl of fresh curds and may be some pickle of your choice will be great in the morning . I personally like it wrapped with some thin cucumber and carrot sticks , washed down with thin masala buttermilk.

ingredients...
(for about 10 parathas )

fresh or frozen corn paste 1 cup ( the same as i used for a corn idli and pakode recipe )
oatmeal 1 cup
whole wheat flour 1.5 cup and some more for dusting
dried fenugreek leaves 2 tbsp
red chilly powder 1 tsp
ajwain seeds 1 tsp
salt to taste
ghee 1-2 tsp per paratha




preparation....

Mix all the ingredients except ghee and make a medium stiff dough by adding little water to the mixture..


Divide the dough into 10 portions and make round balls , roll each ball of dough on a dusted surface , using a rolling pin and shallow fry each one , both sides till brown spots appear. You may like to make them crisp or soft , crisp ones will be great for immediate consumption but if you have to serve them later or pack in a tiffin box , it will be appropriate to make softer parathas by allowing just small pinkish brown spots.


These flat breads can be used as wraps for your favorite salad fillings or can be smothered with any chutney or dip for a quick snack.......they are very versatile and yummy on their own too....the best thing is , they keep very well in the fridge and you can just take them out , microwave for a minute and serve as desired....

Thursday, October 7, 2010

mung tahiri with vegetables.....

What do you do when you want to eat healthy and nutritious lunch and have no time  , or may be you can spare just about 15 minutes to cook and still you want something pleasing to eat. It's not that difficult if you are a good planner and keep some chopped veggies in the fridge . Freezing the veggies is a very good idea if you have good freezer space . I do not have much space in the freezer but most of the times when i buy some fresh vegetable and cook something with half of the quantity , i prefer chopping the leftover vegetable and keep that in ziplock bags inside the freezer . Carrots , beans , lotus stem , baby corn , sweet corn and even bitter guard behave really decently when they are cooked straight out of the freezer. This way it is ensured that the vegetable is processed in it's freshest form , keeping the vegetables in the lower sections of fridge may end up in shriveled and stale vegetables , and it takes more time to peel and chop ( with a heavy heart of course ) ..........you can even freeze the ginger Julienne and they are so easy to use after that , just thrash them to make smaller pieces or a coarse paste as required. 

Although many vegetable do not freeze well like mushrooms , potatoes and many cucurbits , but we should make the best use of the vegetables who are friends with the freezer ....so if you do that , you know you are never too tired to cook a great looking healthy meal for your family. Lots of precut frozen vegetables are available in the stores these days and that can be chosen if you need so...


Tahiri and khichri are the most favorite one pot meals and they are specially very rewarding when there is a time crunch.. Traditionally cooked tahiri needs to stir fry the vegetables and then the rice along with them and then adding water to cook . This takes double the time than this quick tahiri recipe ( or an idea again ) as the vegetables take time to be stir fried and then the rice takes it's own time to cook . Here in this recipe i cook the rice ( and mung dal as used here ) simultaneously when i stir fry the vegetables and they are mixed up in the final stages of cooking to reduce the total cooking time.... see how i do it.

ingredients ...
( two servings )

rice ( i used white basmati tukda ) 1 teacup
mung dal 1 tea cup
sliced lotus stem 200 gm
baby corn chopped 100 gm
soy nuggets 10-12 nos.
sliced onions 1 cup
ginger chopped in thin julienne 1 tbsp
lenthwise slit green chillies 3-4 nos.
cumin seeds 2 tsp
black pepper corns crushed 2 tsp
cinnamon stick 1 inch long
black cardamom lightly crushed 2 nos.
bay leaves 2 nos.
salt to taste
ghee 2 tbsp
( any vegetable can be used here and green peas especially are very good addition , but at the end of the day you make it with whatever is there in your freezer )

preparation...

To make the maximum use of time on hand first place the soy nuggets with enough water (200 ml ) into the microwave for 2 minutes.

In the meantime wash the dal and rice together , immerse in 4 teacups of water in a microwave safe bowl and place the bowl inside the microwave oven ( after taking out the soy nuggets ) for 10 minutes on high , uncovered. Add the bay leaves to the cooking rice and dal mixture . If not using microwave this can be done on the other burner of the gas stove conveniently.

This is the time to come to a thick base kadai . Heat ghee in the kadai and throw in the cumin seeds and cinnamon stick . Now add the black cardamom and crushed pepper corns along with the green chillies and ginger julienne . Add the sliced onions too without waiting for any popping of the spices. The onions need to be caramelized a bit and adding a pinch or two of salt quickens up the process.

Now add the chopped veggies , the soy chunks get slightly cooled up to this time and they are also added at this point of time after squeezing all it water. Add salt to taste and stir fry on low heat ( the vegetables are not to be overcooked ) till the rice becomes almost 90% cooked . There should still be some liquid into the rice. And if you do the stir frying fast like me you will need to switch off the gas till the rice is ready.

When the rice is just about to cook , take it out and pour over the cooked veggies , mix lightly and cover with a tight fitting lid and cook on very low flame for about 2-3 minutes.

As you see i served it with a salsa like salad here , that is made within the 2-3 minutes when the rice is being finished . Dunk two tomatoes ( crossed with a knife on the top ) in the microwave for 2 minutes , they will burst open and become squishy . Let them cool a bit while you chop some cucumber and onions and may be a green chilly . Mash the cooked tomato after removing the skin , add the chopped onion and cucumber , salt to taste and a dash of raw mustard oil ( Extra virgin olive oil is great too ) , mix well and it's ready to be served on the side.


This tahiri is mildly spicy and the taste of the individual veggies comes out nicely.The texture of mung dal is very interesting in this because every grain of dal remains separate and gives a nice complement to the rice.
I like serving the tahiri with this salsa or kachumber style salad as it combines well with the mildly spiced rice . If serving a curd based raita on the side , you may like to make the raita a bit hot .

Eating healthy is not a herculean task if you love the vegetables for their color , texture and nutrition....This is a yummy balanced meal with intelligent planning and minimal physical work....

cheers for good health...

Monday, October 4, 2010

unusual greens : curry patta is not just for the tempering, it can be a leafy green vegetable... making a green rawa idli with curry patta

Can we use the curry patta as a regular green ??
Not just as a tempering and as an ingredient being used in larger quantity. Imagine the amount of antioxidants and minerals you are using per serving. Curry patta lends an incredible flavor to any dish when used as a tempering , the essential oils in the curry patta get infused in the daals , sambars and many dry stir fries. For tempering we use only a few springs of curry patta and I am talking about using it in larger quantities. Think about it, have you ever made a pakoda with curry patta instead of using palak (spinach) or a curry patta daal instead of daal palak. I know curry patta is used so beautifully in the south of India but I have seen my north Indian friends using this wonderfully flavored green just for the aromatic properties.

 Making a curry patta chutney is a great idea,  one tightly packed cup of curry patta, 3/4 cup of coconut flesh, 3-4 green chillies and 3-4 garlic cloves, salt to taste and a quick whiz in the mixie is all you have to do for a yummy chutney.... many of my north Indian friends think that curry patta cannot be eaten raw and temper such a chutney with curry patta and mustard seeds fried in oil, which is not necessary at all. This chutney is great with any dosa, idli or uttapam. I make many versions of green chutney (will post them sometime) with curry patta especially in the rainy season when i do not use store bought mint and coriander leaves. Curry patta is my savior even in rainy season.


There is loads of information about curry patta on the internet, it's health benefits and thousands of yummy recipes. I love south Indian food with all the coconut , curry patta and spices. I wonder how the vadas and masala dosas are enjoyed by all my north Indian friends so much and the drumstick sambar and curry patta podis are conveniently given a miss (what is that?).

Here is a green idli for my friends who tend to remove the curry patta from the sambar and upma :)

I have a handsome curry patta tree in my garden and make a very useful curry patta masala powder whenever the overgrowing branches are lopped off. Apart from that I prefer making a coarse paste of fresh curry patta in the chutney grinder of my mixie , without using any water. About 40 full grown springs of curry patta make 2 heaped tbsp of this crumbly paste.


This is very useful for making a green pohe where I just throw in (a heaped tbsp or two) while frying the onions and potatoes and nobody will pick and throw the leaves from the plate ( I prefer eating them even if whole leaves are used for tempering). Pohe becomes diabetic friendly when a tbsp of curry patta is there per serving, think about it. This is a late evening picture without using flash so the color is not very bright, but it looks beautifully green.


And now about the green idli, the same curry patta crumble paste is used to make this pillow soft idli , served with green plantain peel chutney (another unusual green) and the combination of this idli chutney has become a favorite at my place .


2 cups of mota rawa (coarse grain semolina) dry roasted on very low flame (I store rawa after roasting it this way) is soaked in a cup of fresh curds whisked with a cup of water, 2 tbsp of curry patta paste, 1/2 tsp soda bi carb and salt n pepper to taste. Wait for about 10 minutes till the mixture looks like the second picture. The curry patta can be added to the regular idli batter too, this is my instant idli recipe.


The idli being instant, I hate using the plastic microwave safe idli mold. One, it has to be retrieved from the forgotten corners of the kitchen shelf and secondly, plastic is not environment and health friendly. So I use my glass or ceramic bowls for suitably sized idlis. See the batter into the left bowl and the fluffed up cooked idli in the right side bowl of the first picture below. One minute is enough for one idli to be cooked covered on high power. Use a knife to ease the idly out of the bowl, or just dunk in some chutney in the same bowl and enjoy. The idli is great even at room temperature and can be a great tiffin box lunch too.


Two large idlis per serving, smeared with the luscious plantain peel chutney... heavenly taste ...


The chutney may not look very pleasing by the look of it but it's really really tasty. Peels of two green plantains are chopped roughly and microwaved for a minute. Grind with an largish piece of ginger , 4-5 cloves of garlic, 4-5 green chillies and 2-3 tbsp of chopped coconut flesh. Add salt to taste and lemon juice or tamarind pulp for sourness.


Fulfilling your green quotient of the day, a bright green idli and a green chutney to smear it with. One more interesting healthy chutney with one more version of rawa idli is posted earlier too cooked in a similar way, healthy food made possible with little bit of effort and a little bit of imagination, and healthy is not always boring. If you like your breakfast or snacks fried, this instant semolina-curry patta vada with similar ingredients can be your idea of yumminess. Ilike this idli better.


A spoonful of heaven. Roasted or fried dry fruits like cashews, almonds or peanuts can be included in the idli batter to make it even more interesting. We like it this way or that way....