Tag Archives: healthy

3 ways to spice up your Superbowl party!

Chips and salsa are great. And easy if you’re hosting a Superbowl party. And you could always throw in a big bag of popcorn.

But if you’re a foodie in addition to being a football fan, you might need something a bit more exciting! And who am I kidding? I’d be coming for the food, not the football! I confess that even after living in the US for a gazillion years, I still don’t understand football.

Anyhoo, getting back to things I do know, here are three recipes that would add great international flair to your table! The other bonus is that you can make all of these ahead of time and reheat before serving. Oh yeah, and it just so happens that they are also healthier than your typical party snack!

So here are my picks from the blog archives:

Rustic baked samosas

Recipe tweak – Cut down on time by using premade filo dough sheets instead of making your own dough.

baked samosas

Rustic Baked Samosas

Kimchi pancakes

Make whole pancakes and cut into eights before serving. If your friends are anything like mine, they will not get nearly enough bites.

crispy kimchi pancakes

Kimchi pancakes

Egyptian street food Koshary

More than a snack! You can buy most of the ingredients from the bulk products aisle and save yourself some $$. To save time, you can buy fried onions in a jar, the kind you’d get for a classic green bean casserole.

egyptian street food koshary

Fill 'em up with Koshary!

So there you have it! Have a fun Superbowl weekend and may the best team win!

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Kicchdi for the Soul

The waft of cumin cooking in ghee stirs the soul. The sweet whiff of cinnamon calms it. The spicy clove though adds some excitement.

Kicchdi, food for the soul

Eating kicchdi always brings to mind the 10 days I spent in yoga camp as a 15 year old.

School was out for the summer. My parents were gone for 3 weeks to a yoga school on the outskirts of Bangalore. But they had such a great experience that they decided my brother and I should attend too. We were not too enthusiastic about it but were made to go (sound familiar to anyone?!).  But once we got there and practiced yoga for a couple of days, I started appreciating the experience and how much more energetic and happy it made me feel. We would start at 5 in the morning with stretches and asanas and end with sun salutations just as the sun rose. After a brief meditation, it was time for breakfast followed by a shower. In the afternoon, there were lectures about yogic philosophy before lunch and time for individual exercise after. Pranayama or eye exercises and breathing practice was part of the evening routine. There was plenty of time to read and walk about the beautiful grounds every day.

Part of what made the experience special for me was the variety and colors in the food we ate. It was all vegetarian and very healthy ayurvedic food of course. But it was so tasty! At the buffet, kicchdi was the option I most often went for. It didn’t look like much but the flavor of ghee with the few spices used made each spoonful taste like a happy song on my tongue.

The cares of the day start fading away when I hear the sizzle of the lentils touching hot oil and the hiss of water as it hits the hot steel pot.  The muscles in my neck feel less tight as I cover the pot and let the lentils and rice simmer in warmth.

Here’s my recipe for kicchdi.  I normally use Bhutanese or Himalayan red rice but didn’t have any today and used germinated brown rice instead. I also like to finely dice up a jalapeno and mix it into the cooked kicchdi for a little kick. There are so many recipe twists you can take!

Kicchdi with jalapenos

But try as you may, there is just no way to make boiled lentils and rice look good. So I hope that you will go beyond mere looks and allow the aromas and sounds while cooking this dish make for a sensual meditation.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice, rinsed (or any other rice)
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed (or other lentils that will cook in roughly the same amount of time as the rice)
  • 2 inch stick of Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1 inch stick cassia cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 pods green cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon Garam masala
  • Lime (optional), quartered
  • 1 jalapeno (optional), finely chopped
  • Cilantro for garnishing
For the difference between Ceylon cinnamon and cassia, see this post.

Red lentils

Brown rice

Spices for kicchdi (ceylon cinnamon, cassia cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, garam masala)

Recipe

  1. Heat 1.5 tablespoons oil in a thick bottomed pot for about 2 minutes or till a cumin seed thrown in sizzles
  2. Roast all whole spices for 10 seconds
  3. Add the rice, lentils and the garam masala
  4. Let roast for 30 seconds while stirring. The rice should start to clump up.
  5. Add 5.5* cups of water
  6. Add 1 teaspoon salt and mix
  7. Bring to boil
  8. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or till rice and lentils are cooked. The cooking times will vary if you use different rice or lentils. White rice and masoor dal will only take 10 -15 minutes to cook.
  9. Adjust salt to taste and squeeze lime if desired
  10. Garnish with cilantro and serve with vegetables or plain yogurt

*If you’re making this ahead of time, I’d recommend using 6 cups of water as the kicchdi consistency will naturally get thicker once cooked.

When I make kicchdi, I feel like I’m not just cooking but nurturing my body. And I surely hope that you feel just as good eating this kicchdi as I do.

Kicchdi

 

Check out our collection of easy to cook Indian recipe kits!

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Curried mung beans

If you’ve ever been to a temple in India, you may remember being offered ‘blessed food’ or prasadam. Prasadam or prasad is often laddu or another sweet but can also be savory. Some temples are so well known for their prasad that I suspect some ‘devotees’ are really after the food. They’ve checked their offline version of Yelp and who can blame them? Those temple cooks can be really good!

One of my favorite foods to receive was curried mung beans. This is also a dish that is often served as a side at homes. While the spices add flavor, the mung beans and shredded coconut provide texture making this a great side dish to eat with rice and Daal.

All you need are a few spices and pantry items. You could also make this with black-eyed peas or chickpeas, both available canned. See notes.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mung beans, soaked in 3 cups of water overnight, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small onion, diced (roughly 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 green chili, diced (optional, de-seeding helps reduce the heat)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 5-10 curry leaves
  • Pinch asafoetida
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Roughly 3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1-2 teaspoons lime juice (fresh is best)

Recipe

  1. Place the soaked mung beans in a pot with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, over low heat for 20 minutes or till the mung beans are cooked and slightly mushy.
  2. In the meantime, prep the remaining ingredients and have all the spices ready to use.
  3. If you are using frozen coconut, thaw to room temperature. If using desiccated coconut, re-hydrate in 1/2 cup warm water for 5 minutes.
  4. Heat the oil in a pan or skillet over medium high heat. The oil is hot enough if you throw in a mustard seed and it sizzles.
  5. Carefully add the mustard seeds to the hot oil and wait a few seconds or till the seeds start spluttering. Add the curry leaves and asafoetida.
  6. After 10 seconds, add the green chili and diced onion. Cook for a few minutes while stirring occasionally till the onion is translucent.
  7. Add the cooked mung beans, cilantro, shredded coconut, salt and lime juice. Mix well and taste. Add more salt / lime juice if you like.
  8. Serve as a salad or with rotis, chapatis, toasted tortillas. My favorite way to eat this is with rice, yogurt and mango pickle.

Notes:

Soaking, rinsing and draining  any dried legumes removes some of the water-soluble carbohydrates that are typically hard to digest. You can  substitute 2 cans of either black-eyed peas or chickpeas (or one each). Rinse and drain before adding in step 7.

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5 easy tips for ordering healthy in an Indian restaurant

Photo credit - Lee Sam. Used under Creative Commons license.

Ever walked in to an Indian restaurant and then waddled out an hour or so later? For me, this happens almost every time. I feel like Eve discovering the proverbial Apple on almost every line of the restaurant menu. With many Indian food babies under my belt (or is it over?), I have a few tips to share for those resolving to eat healthier this new year. But if you’re one of those people who can eat and eat and eat without gaining a pound; firstly, I’m jealous and secondly, don’t bother reading on.

So it’s the new year and you’ve resolved to eat healthy and/or lose a few pounds. Follow these common sense tips* (disclaimers below) to continue to enjoying your favorite Indian restaurant while staving off the pounds.

For starters

DO choose a mulligatawny soup or chicken tikka

DO ask if you can get pappadums that are microwaved rather than fried.

DON’T choose pakoras or samosas as they are deep fried

Be wise with the sides

DO order tandoori roti instead of naan as its made with unleavened whole wheat. If they smear on butter, ask them to leave it off.

DO enquire if brown rice is an option. Brown basmati rice is becoming widely available nowadays.

Strike a balance

DO order at least one healthier dish if ordering more than one. Daal or saag (minus paneer and when cream not added) are yummy and healthy too. If the restaurant has vegan options, select one dish that is vegan to avoid excessive cream and butter.

DO order tandoori chicken or chicken tikka. They are marinated with yogurt and spices and cooked in a clay oven – relatively healthy.

DONT order rich Mughlai curries. This cuisine developed in the kitchens of the Mughal emperors are made to befit a royal table. Though deservedly alluring whether you’re of royal blood or a commoner, curries made mughlai style are laced with cream. Avoid if possible.

DON’T order anything with korma in the name or dishes like butter chicken, tikka masala, and malai kofta. I know, they’re yummy but they’re also laden with cream and thus lots of calories.

Take up the spice level a notch

DO order spicy food if you can take it. The heat will kick your metabolism into gear. A vindaloo is a great option. It’s spicy and there is no cream in the gravy. But please don’t set your throat on fire. I’ll feel really bad.

And finally…

DON’T order desserts or if you do, share. Indian desserts are rich and sweet. All that sugar will convert to fat in your body if you don’t burn the calories right away.

DO end your meal with finishing up a side of yogurt. It will cool your stomach down and with its probiotic powers will help digest that yummy meal you’ve just had.

So there you have it. To summarize the entire post in three words: avoid cream curries.

Does this help? Other tips you can think of? While I’m advocating making healthier choices, I know it’s all about balance. So go ahead, indulge a bit if you must. And then consider walking home.

Happy New Year!

Veena

*Disclaimers

1) I’m NOT a nutritionist.

2) There is a lot of variation in menus and in how restaurants might choose to prepare these dishes. For example, some restaurants choose to add cream to saag while others don’t.

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{June Newsletter} Four Reasons to Cook Indian food

“Why cook Indian food when you can buy a pre-made curry from Trader Joe’s or get takeout from a restaurant?” Not many people have time to cook anymore so it’s a good question. It’s a question I get asked occasionally. Thankfully, I have an answer, four good reasons to cook from scratch.
#1 Experience something new with family and friends
I recently got back into Moroccan cuisine after my wonderful neighbor lent me her tagine to cook with. While the lamb was simmering away on a rainy day in Seattle and the sweet aroma of spices enveloped the kitchen, I daydreamed of meandering around sun soaked desert dunes on a camel and shopping in a Marrakesh souk for the best Ras El Hanout. My husband and I have attended community kitchen events where people from the neighborhood get together to cook. Everyone picks a group and each group is assigned a recipe and given ingredients. You might be meeting these people for the first time, as we did, but at the end of the evening after you have cooked together and sat at the same table to eat, you share a mysterious bond. So if you haven’t spent time recently with your friends, invite them over and cook something new together and renew those bonds.
#2 It just tastes better
The packaged stuff has been made not with optimum taste in mind but with optimum shelf life in mind. It just doesn’t taste right. Eating out at a restaurant is hopefully better. There are plenty of Indian restaurants nowadays, even in smaller towns. But not all of them are good. Many of the curries taste exactly the same. There is a clear trade-off between convenience and taste.
#3 Knowing what’s in it
If you have gluten or dairy intolerance or allergies, eating out at Indian restaurants can be difficult. Even if you have no allergies, perhaps you are concerned about the amount of oil or the presence of preservatives. Cooking at home gives you full control over what goes into your food. (Our website shows allergy information and a full list of ingredients for each kit if you are wondering…look for this information under the tabs on each kit’s page)
#4 Bragging rights
And lastly, let’s face it, you don’t get any bragging rights for opening a packet and heating up curry or getting take-out!
There are lots of reasons to cook more at home. This is where, at least when it comes to Indian food, I hope that Veena’s Market makes it easier for you to cook from scratch.
Signing off to make Daal for dinner…and as always,
Happy Cooking!

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