Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cranberry Apple Pecan Salad With Apple Cider Dressing




It feels great when you can inspire others.  All it might take is to just talk and you can make a difference.  It's worth a try, we don't have to wait for a perfect moment to do anything, just take the moment and make it perfect.  There is no need to be perfect to inspire others. 





It was few months ago when we had a family get together and a topic of healthy life style popped up.  As I had done one 5K run in the past with my friends I asked around if anyone was interested.  Few agreed to join.  I forgot about the run till I got the email reminder to register for this year's run.  I reminded few of my friends and we registered for it.  Few weeks ago we had another family get together and I reminded them again.  To my surprise 7 other family members including kids registered for the 5K.  We were super thrilled to attend the run, even though none of us did the serious practice.  Last Saturday was the 5K run/walk and everyone performed their best.  Kids even got within first 50 participants out of 600 or more participants in the race.  The next day guys ran the half marathon.  It seemed to be like a Thomas family affair in the Marathon.  Certainly there was pain and aches but the end of the day everyone felt so good and made a determination to continue the saga of running for a healthy life style.  Some 5K runners even thought they will be pursuing with 10k next year.



Today's recipe is a light fruity salad.  It's a very simple fix I do mostly every week when I want a quick salad.  I rely on this quick salad because I always keep a batch of the dressing in the refrigerator as handy.  The rest of the greens and fruits will be always found in my refrigerator.  I don't have to ponder a lot for a quick fix and this handy salad is not only very simple but also delicious too.  Hope you will give this recipe a try.



Ingredients:

Apple Salad
2 - medium size apples cored and cubed
1/4 cup - dried cranberries
2 tbsp. - pecan
1 cup - torn lettuce/salad greens of your choice
3 - 4 tbsp. - Apple Cider Dressing

Apple Cider Dressing
1 - fat clove garlic
1/3 cup - extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. - water
1 tbsp. - Apple cider Vinegar
1/2 tsp - freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp - dry basil/fresh basil
1/4 tsp - dry oregano/fresh oregano
1/4 tsp - salt
2 - 3 tbsp. - honey

Directions:
  • Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a blender.  Or mince the garlic and throw rest of the ingredients into a bottle with tight lid.  Shake well that it forms a emulsion where the liquid and oil is not separated.
  • Arrange the lettuce/green in a plate.  Top them with the cubed apples, pecans and cranberries.  Now drizzle the apple cider dressing over the salad per your desired taste.  Toss them and enjoy.
Notes:
  • I find it better to use a blender for the dressing which helps to bring out the right flavor of the dressing.
  • Left overs can be refrigerated.  If the dressing seems to get thick and solidify when taken from the refrigerator, just run the bottle under warm water for few seconds and it should be good to use.  Shake the bottle well before using the dressing.
  • Adjust the amount of pepper and honey per your taste.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Beets And Carrots Stir Fry / Beet Root Carrot Mezhukupuratti





How often do you waste food?  During my early days of cooking I had wasted lots of food.  As you age and mature, you understand the necessity and value of the food you prepare.  The amount of exertion that goes behind each meal does not start when the meal is prepared.  I would say it starts from where the ingredients originated.  Each and every ingredient that goes into a meal might have came from different parts of the world and it is combined into one dish.  If we think that way each meal will be special.  I hate to waste the food because of taste and excessive quantity.  So I try to make only what we need.  Especially when you hear the news of people who are starving, it hurts to waste even a bit.  It’s so easy to waste food, but it’s hard to prepare it.  The value of food is known only when the real feel of hunger is struck on the body. 





Today's post is a simple stir fry that is very colorful and nutritious.  The 2 main ingredients used in this stir fry are well known for their nutritional values.  The combination of sweet root vegetables and the heat from the chili flakes and freshly ground pepper makes it’s a perfect side to serve along with steamed rice.

Here are some health benefits of beets:
  • Beets are very low in calories and has zero cholesterol.
  • The phytochemical compound glycine betaine provides cardiovascular health.
  • The top greens of beets are excellent source of Vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoid anti-oxidants, and Vitamin A.
  • Beets are rich source of B-complex vitamins and minerals such as iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium.
  • They compose moderate level of potassium which provides heart health and helps digestion.
Always try to choose fresh, bright, firm textured beets with rich flavor and uniform size. Avoid  those with soft texture, over-mature and big size.  If you can get hold of the beets with green leafy part, you can make stir fry (thoran) with shredded coconut.  They resemble the red spinach stir fry.  Beets can be used in a wide variety of dishes ranging from savory to sweet desserts.  Their unique and vibrant color makes them nutritious and healthy.  So try to avoid over cooking of beets which will tend to spoil their color and hence lose their nutrients.
Facts to know
Did you know that eating beets and their greens can slightly pigment your urine to red or pink?  The harmless condition of beeturia can be found in people who are genetically unable to break down betacyanin pigment.

Carrots can also give a slight yellowish orange color to your skin when eaten in excess. You may notice the changes in babies if you feed them homemade carrot puree.



Ingredients
3 - medium size beets, peeled washed and cut into long pieces (refer picture)
1 - carrot peeled and cut into the same size as beets
2 - garlic crushed
1/2 - 3/4 tsp. - fresh ground pepper
2 - green chili slits
1/2 tsp. - red chili flakes
2 tbsp. divided - oil
1/2 tsp. divided - mustard seeds
4 - shallots thinly sliced
2 sprig - curry leaves
salt to taste

Directions:
  •  Splutter 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds in 1 tbsp of oil in a wide cast iron or non stick pan.  Add half of the sliced shallots, 1 green chili and 1 crushed garlic and saute for 30 seconds.  Now add the carrots pieces along with 1/2 tsp of chili flakes.  Adjust the salt and cook it covered on low to medium heat for 5 minutes or till the carrots are cooked but not mushy.  Add the curry leaves, saute for another minute and transfer to a bowl.
  • Repeat the above step in the same pan.  Instead of the red chili flakes, here you will be using fresh ground pepper powder.  Stir in between to enable even cooking.  Adjust the pepper powder per your taste. 
  • Plate the beets first in the serving bowl, then add the carrots on top of it.  Use a fork to gently mix the carrots.  This will help to keep the beets and carrot pieces retain their shape without breaking and carrots will not absorb the color of beets.
Notes:
  • If possible use a wide cast iron pan to make this stir fry.  This helps even cooking of the vegetables without burning.
  • Don't over crowd the beets or carrots in the pan if the pan is small.  This will tend to mush the vegetables and lose their shape and texture.
  • Try not to over cook these vegetables as it will lose the nutrients and color of the dish.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Apple Banana Strawberry Smoothie


In April you would expect April showers, but this year the rain was scarce. Last week we got some April Snow instead of April showers.  It just lasted for half an hour and melted.  The feel of spring is not in the air yet, because most of the days its cloudy and cold.
I see a flock of deer in my front yard most of the mornings.  They are out to reveal the presence of Spring by nibbling the tender tips of our tulips.  These were the special tulips my hubby got from Netherlands, but the lucky ones to enjoy them are the deer.  I literally gave up on tulips from last year.


 Last weekend was a sunny day even though the temperature was in the 40's.  I heard the lawn mower of our neighbors outside.  After such a long break of staying inside, everyone wants to come out in the sun and do something even though it is chilly.  Being a food blogger, the sunshine means time to click.  The easiest thing I could make was a smoothie before the sunshine fades.  When I made the first batch and took the pictures, my little ones came and asked if they could have it.  I gave them a small quantity to test because they like loads of sugar in the smoothie and I didn't add any in this smoothie.  To my surprise they asked for more and they finished everything.  I had to make another batch for rest of us.



Serves - 2

Ingredients:

2 - Apples cored, peeled and cubed
1 - medium size ripe banana peeled
2 - Strawberries hulled and quartered
1 cup - cold water

Directions:
  • Blend all the ingredients in a blender and enjoy them immediately with few pieces of ice.
Notes:
  • This smoothie should be enjoyed when it is fresh, otherwise it will change its color.
  • I didn't add any sugar/honey to the smoothie as it was already sweet.  You can add sugar/honey as per your taste.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Kerala Style Spicy Mutton Curry



Mutton aka goat meat is classified as 'red meat' even though mutton fans claims it as healthier.  It’s consumed widely in Middle East, Northern Africa and Asia.  Mutton stew is a delicacy served with laced crepes during Christmas and Easter feasts in Christian families in Southern India.  I remember my dad used to buy mutton during the weekends when we were in North India, where you get the baby goats that are claimed as very tastier.  I was never a fan of mutton.  My hubby was neither a fan.  So I refrained from making mutton curry at home.  It was sometime during my pregnancy with my elder son, I started to like the spicy mutton curry my Mom specially makes for me during the occasional visits.  But my taste for mutton subsided very soon due to my bad experience with cooking this meat.  Every time it resulted in chewy stringy piece of meat due to lack of availability of good baby goat.  So I stopped buying it and my kids never developed a taste for it.  I would be an exception to the non-vegetarians, because, I never had heard from an Indian that they dislike Mutton.





I remember my grandma used to put papaya pieces while cooking the mutton which was then taken out when the curry was ready.  But I never knew the purpose of it; I always wondered what was the point of adding papaya to the curry.  Now I know that it was used as the meat tenderizer. The key to make a good mutton curry depends on the quality of the meat.  Meat from young goats and meat from young male goats won't have a leafy smell and they cook faster.  Older meat is best cooked through slow, moist cooking which takes more time to cook. Pieces with thigh bones enhance the flavor and juiciness of a good mutton curry.  Knowing the tips/trick to make a good mutton curry really helped me to experiment with the mutton curry that I prefer to eat.  Last Saturday I was determined to give my Mom's recipe a try with few changes that I thought would enhance the flavor to our liking. I have to say, the curry imparted the aroma that would have tickled the palates of any mutton lover even though I thought I should have cooked the mutton for couple more whistles in the pressure cooker to get a little more soft meat texture. 




When I was making the curry, my elder son Nathan was home and he was very much pleased with the aroma of the curry and he tried the gravy.  He gave me a thumps up, which is hard to get from him.  Since I got the confirmation from him, I was confident to do a post on my Experimental Mutton curry.  So I pulled my camera and clicked few shots for the post. This mutton curry had changed my attitude towards mutton and things are changing in the Thomas family now.  The younger ones still gave a big NO to the curry even without trying. But I am sure I can change their attitude towards mutton by making delicious mutton curry.


To marinate
2 lbs. - mutton pieces with bone
1 tbsp. - lemon juice
1/2 tsp. - salt
1/2 tsp. - freshly cracked pepper
1/2 tsp. - turmeric powder
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
5 - dry red chili broken into half & deseeded
1/4 tsp. - fenugreek/Methi seeds
1/4 tsp. - turmeric powder
1 cup - caramelized onion paste/2 red onions thinly sliced (refer notes)
1 tbsp. - ginger garlic paste
1 - medium size potato peeled, washed & cubed
1 - medium size carrot peeled, washed & cut into discs (optional)
2 1/2 cups - water
2 tbsp. - oil

Gravy Masala
1 1/2 tsp. - coriander powder
1 tsp. - hot chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. - red kashmiri chili powder
1/2 tsp. - garam masala (cinnamon, cardamom, clove, anise seeds & fennel powder)
1/4 cup - water
1/8th tsp. - asafoetida/hing powder
1 - bay leaf
1 tsp. - oil
1 sprig - fresh curry leaves
salt to taste

Tadka
3 - small shallots thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. - mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. - freshly crushed coriander seeds
2 - dry red chili broken into half
1 sprig - fresh curry leaves
1/4 tsp. - freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp. - coconut oil

Directions:
  • Wash the meat thoroughly and drain.  I add some lemon juice and salt while washing the meat to remove any smell.
  • Now add the lemon juice, salt, pepper powder and turmeric powder to the meat pieces and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate for minimum 1 hr.
  • In the pressure cooker, splutter 1/4 tsp. of fenugreek seeds in 2 tbsp. of oil and add dry red chili on low heat.  Once the red chili starts to change color, add the caramelized onion paste/the sliced onions with salt.  If using caramelized paste, just sauté for 1 minute, else cook till the onions starts to become translucent.  Then add the ginger garlic paste and turmeric powder; cook till the raw smell goes.  Add cubed potatoes and carrots.  Sauté for a minute.  Then add the marinated meat the pressure cooker and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add 2 1/2 cups of water.  Close the lid of the pressure cooker and cook till 6 whistle blows.  Once the pressure subsides, open the lid and check the texture of the meat.  If the meat is still tough, cook for couple more whistles.
  • Make a paste of chili powder, Kashmiri chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala ,asafoetida powder by adding 1/4 of water to the mix.  Heat one 1 tsp. of oil in a non stick pan, add the masala paste to the hot oil and cook by stirring continuously on low heat for 3 to 5 minutes till the raw smell is gone.  Add tomato paste/chopped tomato to this and cook for another minute till the paste comes together a big lump.  Turn off the flame and add the masala mix to the cooked meat along with a sprig of curry leaves in the pressure cooker.  Add one bay leaf; secure the lid and cook till 2 whistles blows.  Turn off the flame and let the pressure subside.
  • Mean time prepare tadka by spluttering the 1/2 tsp. of mustard seeds in coconut oil, add the crushed coriander seeds, sliced shallots, red chili, fresh ground pepper.  Sauté under low heat till the shallots become golden brown.  Turn off the flame and add the curry leaves. 
  • Transfer the mutton curry to the serving bowl and add the tadka above it.  Serve the mutton curry with Kerala Porota, rice or Indian flat bread like Roti or Naan.
Notes:
  • Since mutton/goat meat takes longer to cook, it is always better to add a meat tenderizer like papaya pieces or papaya paste.  Alternatively you can marinate the meat with lemon juice or yogurt.
  • It is advantageous to use a pressure cooker for this curry, otherwise you may have to slow cook the meat for at least an hour to get a tender texture.
  • You can add more water to the curry per your desired consistency.  I prefer thick gravy than runny gravy, so 2 1/2 cups of water was adequate to attain the thickness.
  • I used coconut oil for making the seasoned garnish/tadka which imparts the authentic aroma and taste of the Kerala style curry.  So I highly recommend the tadka made in coconut oil for this curry.
  • You can use tomato paste or fresh tomato in this curry.  Caramelized onion paste and tomato paste helped me to attain the thick consistency for the gravy.  



Friday, April 10, 2015

Green Smoothie With Apples, Avocado, Grapes And Spinach


The sun is shining bright through the window and fills me with the rapture I need to wake up from the passive mode of my blog.   I am enjoying some sunshine and a long waited vacation time.  Meantime I have recipe for a green smoothie I tried.  I know the word 'Green Smoothie' is not well received by everyone.  The raised eyes brows, the disgusted look and unpleasant face are some of the common gestures people make when they hear the word 'Green Smoothie'.  But I think if we take baby steps in making green smoothies, it will be lot better than hopping all the way to the 'All Green Smoothie'.





This recipe includes only one green leafy vegetable.   Trust me, there is no leafy after taste because of the apple, grapes and honey added to this smoothie.  The nutrient rich Avocado and Spinach makes this smoothie a healthy and filling option for those who try to skip meal to lose the extra adipose.  Besides the ingredients in this smoothie helps to rejuvenate your skin, boosts up your immune system and provides hair health benefits.





Serves - 2 Adults

Ingredients:


1 - Avocado pitted and flesh scooped out
2 - Apples peeled, cored and cubed
20 - baby spinach leaves
25 - green seedless grapes
2 cups - cold water
1 tbsp. - honey



Directions:
  • Blend all the ingredients together in a blender and enjoy them immediately.
Notes:
  • You can increase the amount of water per desired consistency.
  • If using Green Granny Smith apples, you may have to adjust the amount of honey.  I used yellow apples in this recipe.
  • You can add few pieces of ice cubes too while blending the smoothie for a chilled smoothie.