Category Archives: Healthy Recipes for the Indian palate

You want to eat healthy and lose weight. You have the motivation but when you have to rustle up a quick meal, the default go-to choices are readily available high-carb options.
A lot of diets and low-fat recipes, especially soups and salads, available online are inspired by the West, but you have neither the time, nor the energy to figure out whether Proscuitto is the name of an ingredient or the name of a town in Italy . If you can identify with such dilemmas, welcome home.
In this blog, I share my journey to healthy, flavorful and easy cooking with you. My recipes tilt towards the Indian palate, because that is what I grew up with. What I share is only what I have tried and tested.

Sugar Cravings and A Banana Cinnamon Snack

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Banana-cinnamon snack

Banana-cinnamon snack

Ironies in life are aplenty. I start writing a food blog when I can stomach very little food. My acupuncturist warned, “Less oil, no spices.” Therefore, I am compelled to cook dishes that I can eat without disobeying her. I did text a friend to ask for a healthy marinade for grilled shrimp on skewers which I have been dreaming about since yesterday. She recommended marinating it in lime juice, butter and pepper. My friends are supportive like that. Not only does it NOT fit into my ‘less oil, no spices’ regimen, but now I will think about it for the next two days because it sounds delicious. Such cruelty.

The only way to get through food-deprivation, as with all other curve-balls that life enjoys throwing at us, is to take it one day at a time. The thought that I might have to deny myself spicy chettinad curry for a lifetime is appalling to me. But just for today, I can have bland lentils and rice.

And bananas. I have been snacking on bananas more than ever because they help with my sugar cravings. The simple sugar-free snack turned out so well that L thinks I can serve it to guests for dessert. I would agree, especially since I have lately been hosting very health-conscious guests, who balk at the sight of my home-made kalaakand and go running out of the door when I serve them my khejur gurer payesh. Next time, I warn you: you get bananas.

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 bananas

2 tbsp honey

1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

4 tbsp Greek yoghurt

Method

1. Chop bananas and drizzle them with honey and cinnamon powder.

2. Bake in oven at 180C/350F for 10 minutes.

3. Serve warm with dollops of chilled Greek yoghurt.

P.S. I am working on improving my photography skills. Today, I bought a heart-shaped cookie cutter and went a little crazy on a few strawberries. Sharing my favorite photograph of the day. See you tomorrow 🙂

Feb 10

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting the Blues with Cute Cucumber Tapas

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Cucumber Tapas

Cucumber Tapas

Today, I am not at my sunshine-y best. I have been battling a health issue for almost a year. I thought I would keep that out of my blog because I want this blog to be my happy space. But happiness cannot be disguised in denial. Sometimes, we have to squeeze in little morsels of sunshine and happiness into the gray canvas of a day.

When I saw photographs of these little cucumber darlings on Pinterest, I knew this is what I could create today. Its easy, fuss-free and light on the stomach.

Why should I bother rustling cucumber thingies up when I feel blue? Since I have been unwell for a long time, I feel as though my days are dissipating and vanishing into nothingness. I am committing to posting one healthy, simple recipe everyday. This is my attempt to give some structure and purpose to my day. Often, I reach out for that unhealthy snack simply because I cannot think of something quick and easy to eat when the hunger pangs strike. I am hoping to build a collection of healthy, yummy, go-to recipes that I can incorporate into my diet easily.

The cucumber tapas fits the bill perfectly.

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 large cucumber

6 tablespoons hung curd

Few sprigs of mint

1 slice of red bell pepper (capsicum), chopped

Salt to taste.

Method

1. Peel the cucumber with a vegetable peeler.

2. Scoop out the seeds halfway through to create a mini cucumber bowl.

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3. Sprinkle the cucumber ‘bowls’ with a little salt and set aside.

4. Chop mint leaves finely.

5. In a bowl, mix the hung curd, mint leaves and salt.

6. Pour in spoonfuls of the hung curd filling into the cucumber ‘bowls.’

7. Garnish with red bell pepper.

8. Chill and serve.

P.S. No matter how gray the day is, I always find a bright spot if I look hard enough. Today, a white hibiscus flower radiantly bloomed in my balcony garden. It felt such joy. I hope you do too. See you tomorrow 🙂

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Hummus and Resolving the Tahini Mystery

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Hummus & Carrots

Has this ever happened to you? You google for a yummy, healthy recipe of a dish you tried at your favorite restaurant. You start getting excited and suddenly, there is one such ingredient that you have never heard of. And your enthusiasm dies a slow painful death. You sigh and go back to your bag of potato chips because now you are very hungry from all the googling. This has been the long-abiding story of me and hummus.

Hummus is a beautiful dipping sauce that is served in Middle Eastern restaurants with toasted bread.It is protein-rich and makes for a yummy and delicious snack.

Every hummus recipe requires teaspoonfuls of tahini. And recipe writers assume that I know what tahini is simply because I have eaten at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Ali Baba. (Have you ever noticed how every city has one Middle Eastern restaurant called Ali Baba and one Indian restaurant called Tandoor? Stereotypes, I tell you!) This makes me want to write an Indian recipe with ingredients like rajma, amchoor, etc. and deliberately leave out the English  translations. I am diabolical that way.

I discovered that tahini is nothing but a paste of toasted sesame seeds (white til). And with that knowledge, I proceeded to make this beautiful hummus with a creamy, nutty taste. You can have it as a dipping sauce with carrots, celery, or kebabs, and you could also use it as a sandwich spread.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 15oz can/125 grams of chickpea (garbanzo, chhole)
  • 5 tbsp sesame seeds (white til)
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp coriander leaves (chopped)
  • Pinch of red chilli powder/paprika
  • Salt to taste

Method

1. Toast the sesame seeds in a hot skillet/kadhai for 5 minutes till they get a light brown color. Make sure not to over-roast it because it will become bitter.

2. Drain the can of chickpeas. If you are using uncanned chickpeas, soak it overnight till it becomes soft.

3. Tip in the chickpeas, sesame seeds, 5 tbsp og olive oil into the blender. Blend till it gets a creamy consistency. If its too dry, add 1-2 teaspoons of water.

4. Transfer the mix into a bowl. Fold in the lime juice and coriander leaves.

5. Season with red chilli powder and salt.

Easy creamy hummus is ready!

P.S. I did have some fun while roasting the sesame seeds. Since Valentine’s day is just around the corner, my sesame heart, just for you! See you tomorrow 🙂

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Mango Lassi: Tied through Karma

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My first attempt at mango lassi

Mango Lassi: Yoghurt-based mango smoothie.

When we were children, one of my friends would hide mango in her closet beneath her clothes. This was her strategy to avoid sharing her favorite fruit (“dearer-than-my-life” in her words) with her brother. She was my neighbor. Every summer evening,we would walk to a neighboring fruit juice stall which served mango smoothie. It was in the heydays when we couldn’t care less about the calories that came from the full-fat milk, cream and sugar that went into the mango juice.  The mango smoothie added just  that wonderful touch of sweetness as we walked and talked, sharing our teenage hopes and dreams.

I have carried the karma of being attracted to people who LOVE mangoes wherever I go.  When I went to college in Delhi, the breakfast that was served in the hostel was eminently uninspiring. Slices of hard toast, boiled egg, fruit and watered down tea. And one little cube of hardened butter that came directly from the freezer. So it was impossible to spread it on to the toast. So I came up with this brilliant innovation. I would slice the boiled egg (which was hot)  in half and I would put the cube of hardened butter between the two egg-halves. The butter would soften very quickly due to the heat of the egg.  This technique of melting butter spread like wildfire through the hostel and soon, everyone was melting butter in the ‘womb’ of an egg. If you can’t tell already, I was quite proud of this discovery. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the temptation of bragging with my butter story, but the point is that breakfast was quite inedible.

Until the day I met S. Hostel usually closed down during the summer, except for those who were working through a summer internship. Both of us had summer internships that year. Since there were so few people in the hostel, we started spending a lot of time together. She introduced me to this tiny juice stall a little distance away from our hostel that made the most delectable mango lassi.Lassi is traditionally a drink from the Indian province of Punjab that is made with yoghurt and milk. Mango lassi essentially involves whisking yoghurt and milk with the pulp of mango. I like mango lassi better than mango smoothie because the yoghurt adds a tartness to the drink – just an additional layer of flavor that I enjoy.

Everyday, we started skipping breakfast to take a five-rupee rickshaw ride to the Sharma’s lassi-stall for mango lassi.The stall owner whisked sweet Dussehri mangoes, creamy yoghurt and milk in a blender and pour out a smooth liquid into tall glasses. Then he would garnish it with pistachios, thinly sliced cherries and top it with a sprinkling of roasted coconut.The lassi stall was a small and rickety makeshift structure. Just as most street-food stalls in India are. There was only a raised platform with enough space for a blender and a few glasses. There was one wooden bench on the side, big enough to seat three people. We usually stood in front of the stall in the bright hot morning Delhi sun. After drinking the full glass of lassi, we threw away the straw and tilted the glass over our mouths to ensure that we drank the last few drops of lassi which the straw couldn’t reach. Whenever there were people seated in the wooden bench, they stared at us while we were mooching off the last few drops of lassi. I guess there is something stare-worthy (is that a word?) about two girls standing next to a busy highway with cars whizzing past, tilting their glasses to reach the last precious drops of mango lassi.

I don’t think I have gone as religiously to a temple  to pray as I went to Sharma’s for lassi. The moment Sharmaji saw us, he would whip out two mangoes and get to work. Though he served a host of other fruit-based beverages, he knew we were his mang0-lassi-loyalists. After a few weeks, Sharma ji reduced the price  of one glass of mango lassi from Rupees ten to Rupees eight. He smiled and said, “Students’ discount.” This was virtually the cherry to top our mango lassi escapades.

These stories happened more than a decade ago. But I can still taste Sharmaji’s mango lassi. I remembered my friends today as I set out to make my mango lassi . I am still in touch with both my mango-loving friends. But I do feel a twinge of sadness when I think that both now live in countries where mangoes are not readily available in the summer. One of them sent a distraught text I message to me saying that no mangoes would be available to her this summer because there was some export ban on mangoes.

I am in the midst of a bad back ache that prevents me from doing too much in the kitchen. But I am really trying to get this blog off to a start. If I procrastinate, “its not gonna happen babe-eh.” So I had to come up with the simplest recipe that I could make and write about. So I chose Mango lassi. It doesn’t surprise me that I am married to a man who loves mangoes. When we go grocery-shopping, he usually goes through the process like a zombie, but the moment we reach the mango section, he behaves like a man who has just downed a bottle of ‘Hamdard ka Cinkara’ and gets into an enthusiastic mango-buying spree.

I have recreated this lassi with low fat yoghurt, skimmed milk and honey. If the mango is very sweet, you can even omit the honey. You could make a vegan version of this beverage with light coconut milk and flax milk.

http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/vegan-mango-lassi

MANGO LASSI

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe mangoes, pitted, peeled and roughly chopped

    My first attempt at professional photography. Frankly, its quite terrible.

    My first attempt at professional photography. Frankly, its quite terrible.

  • 1/2 cup yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp chopped pistachios

Purée all ingredients in a blender. Garnish with pistachios. Chill before serving.
Some recipes call for adding ice cubes during blending. You can do this if you want, but I find that it makes the consistency a bit runny.

Epilogue: I went about cleaning up the kitchen after handing over the glass of lassi to L, who was busy on his laptop. As I walked past him, I saw something that made me stop and smile. He had the glass tilted above his mouth, waiting for the last drops of lassi.

 

 

Tuna Salad for Carb Girl

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I am a carb person- the rice-potatoes-pasta girl. When I try giving up carbs at dinner, my body goes into withdrawal mode. I get headaches and hunger pangs. So I have given up on giving up carbs. Instead I am trying to have around 4-6 tbsp of brown rice at dinner. Then I load up with meat and veggies so that hunger doesn’t drive me to raid the refrigerator at night. Let’s see how it works.

I made a tuna salad today.

Ingredients:

  • Lettuce chopped, 3 cups
  • 1/2 can of tuna
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 4-6 tbsp brown rice, cooked
  • 1 egg, hard boiled.

Dressing

  • Olive oil, 2 tbsp
  • Pepper, 1/2 tsp
  • Lime juice, 3 tbspImage
  • salt (to taste)

Mix the lettuce and red onions. Add in the hot rice and tuna. The hot rice will make the lettuce a little mushy. Mix all ingredients of the dressing, pour it into the rice mix and toss well. Chop the egg and mix into the salad. Enjoy!

I had committed myself to making a big salad everyday but I am having a nasty pain in my foot from plantar fasciitis so it has been difficult. I ignored the pain for a while and it only good worse. But I read a Louise Hay article on how we must never criticize ourselves, so I won’t.

I also read a blog today on the virtues of coconut oil for beautiful skin. I feel bad now about the times when I screwed up my nose when my mom would try to massage my hair with coconut oil on Sunday mornings. Always listen to your mom!

I couldn’t take a picture of my salad because its really difficult to take a picture while standing on one leg. But I am posting a picture of last night’s midnight raid on the refrigerator. SIGH !!!

 

Garbanzo Beans Salad

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This one is an easy and filling go-to salad when I am HUNGRY!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup canned canned garbanzo beans (chhole) , rinsed and drained OR soak and boil chhole in pressure cooker.Garbanzo_beans_salad_April20
  • 1 medium sized red onion , finely chopped
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes , chopped
  • 1 cucumber,peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 head romaine lettuce, sliced

For dressing

  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. dried dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp. dried dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic , finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil

Optional

  • 1/2 cup low fat feta cheese cubes
  • 2 low fat chicken sausages, sliced

Method

Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic when the oil is heated. When the garlic is light brown, add garbanzo beans and fry, stirring often, until crisp and golden, 5 to 7 minutes.Add 1/8 tsp. salt and chill powder. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, basil, oregano, and remaining 1 tablespoons oil, salt (to taste), and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to make a dressing.Add tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, tossing gently to combine.

Transfer to bowls. Garnish with the garbanzo beans, Add in the cheese and sausages. Serve.