Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts




 Brussels sprouts, the cute miniature cabbages are believed to be originated from ancient Rome.  They belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables like Cabbage, Broccoli, Collard greens etc.  They are good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fiber. Moreover, they are believed to protect against certain types of cancer.  

  There is a slight bitter taste for Brussels sprouts, which may vary from person to person.  Research suggests that the bitter taste variation may be due to genetic differences among people.  Brussels sprouts picked after the frost are supposed to have the higher concentration of sugar content and less bitter.  The best known method of preparing Brussels sprouts is by steaming, microwaving, and stir frying which does not result in significant loss of the sulforaphane, the anticancer chemical.




       Recently one of my friends from our church, who also seeks the ideas of healthy diet, was nice enough to share this healthy recipe with me.  I had tweaked the recipe a little bit.  I got a chance to pick up some fresh Brussels sprouts from the local Farmers Market near to my house yesterday and wanted to give this recipe a try.  There are lots of variations to this recipe.  Go ahead and be creative and adjust the ingredients to fit your palate!!!

If you are looking for a quick low fat and healthy diet, this recipe is for you!!!

Serves - 2

Ingredients

10 - Brussels sprouts 
3 cloves - crushed garlic 
2 tbsp - chopped walnuts
1 tsp - lemon juice
1 tbsp - extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.
  • Wash the Brussels sprout and remove the yellow leaves if any.  Cut the stem off and quarter the sprouts.
  • Place the cut Brussels sprouts in a bowl and toss the rest of the ingredients.
  • Arrange the quartered Brussels sprouts on  a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.
  • Take it out and flip the sides and bake for 3 more minutes.
  • Serve as an appetizer or as a side dish.
Notes
  • You can bake it more if you prefer a crispy texture.
  • The more you bake, the chance to lose the nutrients will be high.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Soft Ginger Cookies



This week was so hectic with skating party, band concert and tests for kids.  I was uncertain about adding a post this week, but when I saw an invitation for the Cookie party from Lifescoops I felt the energy vibe and thought to bake something so that it can go for the Cookie party as well as can be a snack for kids. 




     Years ago, a friend of mine made these cookies and brought it to work.  It was a delight with the perfect combination of spices and flavor of ginger.  Obviously I got the recipe from her for Soft Ginger cookies.  Since then I make it every year during the holiday seasons.  I take it to the family gatherings every Christmas and it is a big hit.  Soft Ginger cookies are very soft as the name suggests and is spiced up with Ginger, Cinnamon and Nutmeg and Cloves.   These spiced cookies can be a great treat to welcome the vivid fall.

     You can pack them in decorative cookie boxes or jars and it can be a great holiday gift.






Yields – 30 cookies

Ingredients

2 ¼ cups - all-purpose flour
1 tbsp - ground ginger
1 tsp - baking soda
¾ tsp - ground cinnamon
½ tsp - ground cloves
½ tsp - ground nutmeg
¾ cup - butter, softened
3/4 cup - sugar
1 - egg
¼ cup - molasses
½ tsp - salt
¼ cup – sugar

Directions
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the sifted flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Keep it aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter for 30 seconds. Beat in the 3/4 cup sugar. Add egg and molasses; beat well. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture and using a rubber spatula mix it well.
  • Shape dough into 1 inch balls, using about 1 heaping tablespoon of dough for each. Roll balls in the ¼ cup sugar to coat. Place balls about 2 - 3 inches apart on ungreased or parchment paper-lined cookie sheets.
  • Plop them into the oven for 8 - 9 minutes or until light brown and still puffed (do not over bake). Cool cookies on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
  • Store them in air tight container.

Notes
  • Make sure the butter is at room temperature and just soft enough to mix.  Don't melt   the butter in microwave.
  • If the dough appears to be sticky, add 1-2 tsp of flour to the dough or refrigerate the dough for 30 mins. 
  • I used a fork to make the design on the cookies.  Press the fork on the rolled balls till it flattens little bit and make another print crisscross to the previous print.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mediterranean Tomato Soup

 
  It is getting cooler and darker day by day, as nature is unveiling her sunny and colorful face and preparing for somber winter.  Flowers are fading their brightness and butterflies are not visiting my butterfly bush as often as they used to.  Yes, we are approaching the bitter cold winter within months.

     On these cold evenings, something warm like a bowl full of hearty soup is very appetizing and a humble treat everyone longs for.  Preparing something hassle free, that requires less detailed attention is what I would endeavor especially after work. 



     We all know that Mediterranean diets prevail due to their simplicity and health benefits.  The 'Mediterranean Tomato soup' is a simple soup that incorporates lots of tomatoes and some cooked pasta, which is light in flavor and low in calories.  Tomato is well known for its health benefits.
Cherry tomatoes are rich in Vitamin A, B and C and are packed with chemicals like lycopene. Twenty percent of the calories in a serving come from protein and none comes from fat.  Besides their glycemic index is lower when compared to regular tomatoes.  There are lots of websites out there that talks about the health benefits of tomatoes, I don't want to get deeper into that area and slip away from our subject of making this simple soup.  Let me get started now!!!!


Servings - 4

Ingredients

2 cups - Cherry tomatoes cut into half
1  - onion quartered/cut into big pieces
3 cloves - garlic
1 - celery stick
1 tbsp - Olive oil
2 cups - chicken stock
3 tbsp - tomato paste
1/2 cup - Ditalini pasta or any small shaped pasta

Salt and Pepper to taste
Cilantro or Parsley to garnish

Directions:

* Cook the pasta according to the package direction and keep it aside.
* In a heavy bottom pan, add the tomatoes, onion, celery and garlic, salt, pepper with the oil.
* Cover and cook over a low heat for around 30 minutes and remove from stove.
* Transfer the soup mixture into a blender or food processor and blend it until smooth like puree.
* Return the soup mixture to the pan and stir in stock and the tomato paste, bring to the boil.
* Add the pasta and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.
* Adjust the salt and pepper according to your taste.
* Garnish with cilantro or parsley and serve hot with garlic bread or garlic sticks.

Notes

* You can use plum tomatoes if you don't have cherry tomatoes.
* Chicken stock in the recipe can be substituted with vegetable stock if you prefer vegetarian diet.
* The traditional Mediterranean Tomato soup calls for sieving the tomato mixture before adding the
   stock.  I skipped the sieving part to keep the fiber in the soup.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lemon Olive Oil Cake


  It was this Summer when my son brought a lemon square home, that he got from the summer camp and asked me if I could make something like that.  The next day, I came up with my own recipe and it ended in a big disaster.  They turned out to be sour and they were left untouched by my little guinea pigs for couple days and finally made its way to the trash :(.  Since then I was dodging away from Lemon flavored cakes.  Recently I stumbled across the site eatliverun, where I found the wonderful recipe for 'Lemon Olive Oil Cake'.   

  This is a soft and very spongy cake which seems to melt in your mouth.  The key ingredients in this cake are Olive oil and lemon, that gives it a unique flavor.  This is the second time I am making this cake and we really liked the flavor of it.  If you like Olive oil cakes, you will definitely get hooked to this.  There is nothing exorbitant about this cake; it is a simple and humble cake.  The unique flavor of the cake is contributed by a good quality light and fruity Olive oil.  Cold Pressed olive oils are graded as the best extra virgin olive oils. 

I was in the hunt of a good fruity tasting Olive oil to make this cake and after some research I found one of the best extra virgin olive oil produced from California Olive groves that are available in local grocery stores, and are ranked next to the brand 'Columela'.  I used 'California Olive Ranch' extra virgin olive oil to prepare this cake.




                This is a light and fluffy cake that can be accompanied with some hot tea or Chai. 

Yields - 6'' cake (5 pieces)

Ingredients

2 - eggs
1/2 cup - sugar
1/4 cup - good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup - flour
1/4 tsp - baking powder
1/8 tsp - salt
1/2 lemon - Zest  of 1/2 lemon
1 lemon - juice of 1 lemon
powdered sugar for dusting

Directions: 

* Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
* Beat eggs and sugar using an electric mixture till fluffy for 5 minutes.
* Gently add the olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest to the egg mixture and beat for another 2 minutes.
* Sift the flour, salt and baking powder in another bowl and gently fold the flour into the egg mixture.
* Use a rubber spatula to combine everything together to form a smooth batter.
* Pour into a 6 inch greased pan and bake for 30 minutes.
* Cool on wire rack and dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Notes 

* A good quality Olive oil definitely enhances the flavor of this cake.
* You can double the recipe to prepare 8-9 inch cake and bake for 40-45 minutes.
* Make sure you beat the egg and sugar till fluffy, this helps the cake to become spongy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Chipotle Style Spicy Chicken Taco



Grilling outdoor is not an option anymore for the last couple of weeks.  It is getting cooler and occasionally raining here.  You can still enjoy the tacos with a pan cooked meat and some spicy salsa.

  Chipotle burritos are our favorite take-out food, which allows you to control the fat content by choosing your own fillings.  I make these tacos which are almost close to the ones you get from the store.





These tacos are really easy to make and if you plan it a day ahead, it is something that could be fixed within 30 minutes.  I usually clean and cube the chicken ahead and freeze it, which saves me lot of time especially when I am lazy after work to make an extensive dinner.

Yields - 10 tacos

Ingredients:

Chipotle Chicken
3 cups - cleaned and cubed chicken
3 cloves - crushed or chopped garlic/ 1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp - McCormick Chipotle pepper Marinade
1/2 tsp - ground pepper
1 tsp - Red Pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp - Oil
salt to taste

Sauteed Onions & Pepper
1 - medium red onion sliced
1 - green bell pepper sliced
salt to taste

Salsa
3 - tomatoes chopped
1/4 - red onion chopped
1 tsp - chopped Jalapeno pepper
2 tbsp - chopped Cilantro
salt to taste

Lemon Cilantro Rice
2 cups - Instant rice
1 tsp - olive oil
1 tsp - lemon juice
2 tbsp - chopped cilantro
salt to taste

10 - medium sized soft tortillas
Sour cream and Mexican cheese blend to garnish

Directions

  • Cook instant rice according to the package direction and mix the oil lemon juice and chopped Cilantro.
  • Mix the chopped onions, tomatoes, Jalapeno peppers, Cilantro and salt to make the salsa.
  • Light grease a non-stick pan with cooking spray or 1 tsp of oil and add the onions and green pepper with salt and saute for 3-4 minutes over medium to high heat till it the onions are translucent.  Remove from heat and transfer the onion and pepper to a bowl. 
  • Add 1 tsp of oil to the same pan and cook the garlic till golden brown.  Add the chicken and the rest of the ingredients for Chipotle chicken, cover and cook till the chicken is well done and still juicy.
  • Warm the tacos one by one on a hot griddle or a non-stick pan, by flipping both sides.
  • Fix the tacos by adding the fillings including chicken, rice, salsa and sauteed onions and peppers.  Garnish with the cheese and add some sour cream on top of it and enjoy.
Notes
  • Adjust the Jalapeno and Chipotle pepper according to your taste.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fish Tagine with Lemon Cilantro Rice


     My grandmother was a great cook.  I still have memories of her giving instructions to the cooks to make fish curry on special occasions like weddings, where she will be invited to share her expertise.  Her fish curry was very popular.  The authentic fish curry in Southern parts of India is prepared in clay or earthenware pots which gives it the unique flavor and aroma.  The combination of mashed Yuca and fish curry is a delicacy in Southern parts of India.  With the innovation of non-stick pan and pots, the use of these earth friendly clay pots vanished.  It has become more over a decorative serving bowls nowadays.  You can see these brick colored serving pots in star hotels in India.  

     Gazing through one of the cookbook that focuses on low fat diet in the library, my eyes got stuck on the recipe for 'Fish Tagine' which reminded me of the fish curry that is made in clay pots in Kerala.  The illustration was rather simple and it only required a stoneware or  bakeware to prepare it in the oven.


'Tagine' is North African dish which is named after the special earthenware pot used to cook meat that has a dome shaped lid which retains the flavor of the dish with the process of condensation and makes the meat butter-tender.  Moroccan Tagine dishes include a whole array of spices with preserved lemon and fresh vegetables layered between the meats.  Fish Tagine is prepared with fish steaks that have firm meat like Mahi-mahi, Halibut, Cod or Seas bass.  

  Everyone in my family loves fish, so it was an easy pick for tonight.  I was keen to see the outcome and it turned out to be a wonderful dish despite of my little dismay.  This is a definite keeper for me.  I prepared this dish for dinner with some Lemon Cilantro rice.  The fish were juicy and properly infused with the blend of spices and was unanimously remarked as delicious.


   Experimenting with variations in ingredients is the adds-on I try on recipes that might sometimes end up in cooking disaster too.  But changing or twisting here and there in recipes is something I am passionate about.  This particular recipe was also subjected to variation from the traditional Tagine recipe.

Servings - 5
Ingredients for Fish Tagine

Marinade
5 - cleaned fish fillet
5 cloves - garlic chopped
2 tsp - fresh ginger root chopped
1/2 tsp - chilli powder
3 tbsp - Paprika powder
1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
1/2 tsp - ground pepper
1/2 a lemon - lemon juice from half a lemon
1 tbsp - olive oil
 2 tbsp - tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

For Layering

2 - Sliced tomatoes
1 - Medium onion sliced
1 - Green pepper sliced
1 - Red pepper sliced
2 - Green chili seeded
1 tbsp - olive oil
1/2 lemon - sliced in wedges
1/4 cup - chopped Cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
  •  Heat a non-stick pan with 1 tbsp olive oil and cook the garlic and ginger till light brown.
  •  Add the rest of the ingredients for the marinade except tomato paste and lemon juice and cook for 2-3 minutes until the raw smell is gone.
  •  Grind the ingredients with lemon juice and tomato paste to get a thick paste.  Add little bit of water if necessary. 
  •  Reserve 1 tbsp of marinade and coat the fish fillet with the rest of the marinade and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  •  Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.
  • Heat a non-stick pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil and cook the sliced onions, tomatoes,  peppers and 1 tbsp of marinade for 2 minutes with salt and pepper.
  •  Grease the stoneware or bakeware with olive oil or cooking oil and arrange half of the vegetables at the bottom of the baking dish.
  •  Layer the marinated fish fillet over the vegetables; reserve the liquid from the marinade.  Arrange rest of the vegetables on the fish and  garnish with Cilantro.
  •  Pour the reserved liquid from the marinade over the layered fish and vegetables.  Cover and bake for 40 minutes.
  •  Uncover the dish and broil for 5 -6 mins to reduce any excess juice.  Garnish with some fresh Cilantro and lemon wedges.  Serve with Lemon Cilantro rice.  

Ingredients for Lemon Cilantro Rice 

2 cups - instant rice
1 tbsp - lemon juice
1/8 cup - chopped Cilantro
1 tsp - extra virgin Olive oil
Salt to taste

Directions:
  •  Prepare the instant rice according to the package direction with salt to taste.
  •  While the rice is warm, add the olive oil, lemon juice and chopped Cilantro and mix well.
  •  Serve with the oven warm Fish Tagine.

Notes
  • Other vegetables like Potatoes, carrots, celery olives etc are used.
  • Spices like cumin, cinnamon, saffron are used in Traditional recipe.  I omited those spices in this recipe.
  • In traditional Tagine recipe no precooking of vegetables are done.  I had slightly cooked the vegetables and marinating ingredients.
  • Adjust the spices according to your palate.
  • You can serve Fish Tagine with plain rice too.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Simply Great Cheese Pizza





   
It was few years ago, one of our family friend told me that she never buys store bought pizza, but makes it at home from scratch to avoid all the added fat that comes with it.  She assured me that I will never try to buy the greasy store bought pizza once I start making my own.  That gave me the confidence to give it a shot.  Since then I made pizzas of my own with variations that skews my mood.

 Cheese pizza is one of the pizza Moms can try prudently for kids.  That being said, my kids are no exception.  They too love cheese pizzas.  They are not fond of thick crust.  So I always make thin crust pizzas and they gobble them up in minutes. Lately, I started involving them to assist me in making dinner, and rolling the dough is their main act of glee.  Even though they leave a big mess for me to clean up, I let them get involved in the kitchen to understand the exertion that goes behind each dish that appears on the dining table, which might help them not to waste the food and grumble less.  This might be totally my perception, but it is worth a try.  Nowadays, soon after their homework, they inquire "What are we having for dinner and who is the assistant today?”  They seemed to take it seriously lol!!!




     I usually make 2 pizzas with this recipe, one with Cheese and the other with vegetable toppings for us with less cheese.  The following picture depicts how I assembled our vegetable pizza.



Yields - 2 thin crust pizzas

Ingredients

Dough
1 packet or 1 1/2 tsp - instant dry yeast
1/4 cup - luke-warm water
1 tsp - sugar
1 tsp - salt
3 cups - Wheat flour
1 cup - all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup - luke warm water
2 tbsp - extra virgin olive oil

Toppings
1 cup - Tomato sauce (Recipe here)
10 - basil leaves
3 cups divided - Mozzarella & Parmesan cheese shredded or cheese chunks ( I used the chunk)
2 tsp - extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to sprinkle on the crust (optional)

Directions
  • Mix yeast in 1/4 cup warm water with sugar and salt and let it stand for 10 minutes or till frothy.
  • Knead the rest of the ingredients for the dough with the yeast to make a soft dough.
  • Transfer the dough to a olive oil coated bowl, cover and keep in warm place to rise for 1 hr.
  • Preheat oven to 425 F.
  • Once the dough is doubled, punch it down to release all the air and divide into 2 balls.
  • Dust the baking / pizza pan with flour and keep aside.
  • Dust some flour on the rolling surface and Roll out the dough into the shape that fits your pizza/baking pan.
  • Poke holes on the base using a fork and spread 1/2 cup of the pizza sauce on it leaving a little space around the edges.
  • Top it with 1 1/2 cup of shredded cheese mix or cheese chunks.  If you are using cheese chunks, place them evenly on the base not too close, as they will spread when subjected to heat.
  • Bush the edges with 1 tsp of olive oil and sprinkle some kosher salt on the edges.
  • Place the basil on the top of the cheese and bake the pizza for 8 - 10 minutes till the cheese is completely melted.
  • Repeat the above steps with the remaining dough and the toppings to make the second pizza.
Notes

  • You can used all purpose flour instead of wheat flour.  The texture of the crust is different when using wheat.
  • If you are using store bought pizza sauce, adding crushed garlic (roasted in olive oil) and some basil will give a nice flavor to the sauce.
  • I prefer cheese chunks than the shredded cheese because they seem to work well with cheese pizzas.
  • Don't try to reduce the amount of yeast, you will end up with a chewy crust.
  • Brushing the edges with olive oil will help to make it crunchier and golden brown.
  • If you are using vegetables, sprinkle some kosher salt and drizzle 1 tsp of olive oil on the vegetable mix and rub well before arranging them.

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