Gluten-Free & High-Fiber Millet Upma

Millet Upma

Farmed thousands of years ago & revered in ancient texts, Millet is an ancient grain tracing it’s roots to the Far East. According to Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, ‘Unlike most other grains, this versatile, gluten free grain is alkaline, which makes it easy to digest and helps balance the body’s natural tendency towards acidity.’

  • Millet is also gluten free, protein rich & is an excellent source of dietary fiber.
  • It is anti-oxidant rich & provides a significant source of necessary minerals:
    • phosphorous
    • potassium
    • magnesium which reduce effects of migraines & heart attacks
    • Niacin (vit B3) which helps lower cholesterol & triglycerides
  • While comparable to semolina in calories & carb count, millet has a lower glycemic load meaning that its high fiber & low simple sugar composition produces lower blood sugar levels than rice.
  • Millet helps foster healthy gut bacteria, and the serotonin is calming to the mood.  (all info from www.Care2.com).

Millet looks like large quinoa, and is sometimes mistaken for it. This whole grain can be used as a healthier alternative to rice and can be cooked both savory or sweet. My friend Uma gave me this idea and given the health benefits and easy of preparation, it will definitely be a staple in my pantry.

Millet Upma

Gluten-Free & High-Fiber Millet Upma

(Makes about 6 cups; serves 4-5)

  • 2 cups hulled millet (not pearled)*****
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 big onion (chopped fine)
  • 8-10 green chillies
  • 1 inch ginger (grated) [or] 1 1/2 Tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 medium tomato (chopped fine)
  • 1 medium potato (diced into small pieces)
  • 1 large carrot (diced)
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 Tbsp lemon / lime juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  1. Heat a large heavy bottom pan on medium flame, and add oil.
  2. When oil heats up, add the onions, chillies and the ginger and fry till the onions start to slightly brown, stirring frequently.
  3. Add tomatoes and saute till they are soft, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots, potatoes, peas, salt & turmeric and stir fry for 3-5 minutes on medium-high flame.
  5. Add the water and bring to a boil.
  6. Immediately add the millet, stir everything well and return to boil.
  7. Reduce flame, cover and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes on low flame. Do not lift lid midway to check.
  8. Remove from heat, stir and recover; allow the millet to sit for about 10 minutes.
  9. Add the lemon juice & cilantro and stir before serving.

EASY method: Season directly in a pressure cooker pan, roast the vegetables for only 2 minutes, add water and millet, and cover. Cook on medium flame for 2 whistles. Allow to rest for about 15 minutes before opening and adding cilantro & lime juice.

***** Hulled millet is still a whole grain which is ‘shelled’ / just the bran removed – a realistic way of humans being able to consume it. Pearled millet is more processed and polished to make cooking times lower.

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Quinoa Breakfast Bars

Quinoa Breakfast Bars

How many of you spent the summer with kids who were constantly eating – because they were starving after hours at the pool, because their friends were over and wanted a snack, they wanted to try a new concoction, or they were just plain bored because you took away their electronics? My kids had more than their fill of junk food over the last few months, and there was not much I could do about it when extended family visiting for a few months and there was constant entertaining.

Quinoa Breakfast Bars

Fast forward to mid-August: the guests leave and my college bound child – who is suddenly on a gym routine – announces that he needs lots more protein than he gets at home! The 11-year old on a growth spurt eats like there’s no tomorrow. Husband says he’d like to take something from home to keep the 3p.m. vending machine run at bay. I just want something that can be eaten without utensils and feels like a treat but is also healthy for my family. These Quinoa Bars to the rescue! I made these the first time without any recipe, and you can do the same too. The amounts and ingredients below are just a guide (as are many of my other recipes). Feel free to substitute what you have on hand and adjust quantities to suit your taste. For example, add coconut flakes if you like the taste. Substitute almonds with walnuts (or mix a little of both!). Replace cranberries with cherries or even raisins if that’s what you have on hand. I’ve used a whole 15 oz bag of milk chocolate chips but you could reduce it or switch it up with dark / semi-sweet / white chocolate.

With school back in session and after school events looming around the corner, breakfast and grab-and-go snacks that are easy, tasty and good for you are a blessing. These bars keeps for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

Quinoa Breakfast Bars

(Makes 16 bars 2-inch X 2-inch bars)

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dates (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup figs (chopped)
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup almonds (or walnuts) – chopped
  • 1/2 cup cranberries (or cherries / tart raisins)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups chocolate chips of choice
  1. In a heavy bottom pan, lightly toast the quinoa over medium flame for few minutes. It will pop and lightly puff. Remove from heat & cool completely. (Do not brown.) – I feel this removes the slight bitter taste, but feel free to use raw if that’s what you prefer. 
  2. In a heavy duty food processor, add the dates, figs and coconut oil and pulse till it becomes finely processed.
  3. Add the cooled quinoa, flax, chia, almonds and half of the cranberries & pumpkin seeds. Pulse until all the ingredients are finely chopped and mixed well.
  4. Line an 8X8 pan with wax paper and press the mixture into the pan. Level the top using the back of a flat spoon or dish.
  5. Melt chocolate chips according to package directions and pour evenly over the mixture and spread.
  6. Set in the refrigerator for an hour or so to set and firm up. Cut into 16 pieces. The bars keep for atleast 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Click here for recipes for No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars and No Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bars

Mexican-style Black Beans (Vegan)

Black Beans

I made this super easy and yummy black beans  to go with the Homemade Chipotle-Style Buffet & Tortilla Salad (Lots of Vegetarian Options). We filled baked tortilla bowls with cilantro-lime rice, black or pinto beans, tofu sofritos or taco chicken, corn salsa, tomato salsa, red onions, cheese, sour cream, cheese and cilantro for a delicious meal. These black beans can be eaten as-is, or topped on rice/quinoa too. To see pictures of the buffet table and the finished salad, click here.

Mexican-Style Black Beans

(Serves 12-15)

  • 1 lb dry black beans*** (picked through, rinsed, & soaked overnight)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 2 large cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 large onion (chopped fine)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

1) In a large stockpot, add the beans, water and salt and bring to a boil.

2) Simmer, partially covered for about 30-40 minutes till bite tender.

3) In another pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.

2) Add the bay leaf and saute for a few seconds.

3) Add the minced garlic and the onion, and saute till it starts to lightly brown.

4) Stir in the cumin and oregano, and saute another 15-20 seconds till fragrant.

5) Add the onion-herb mix to the pot of beans and stir well. Adjust seasoning and simmer for another 30-45 minutes, adjusting liquid as needed. (Mixture should not be dry nor soupy and runny.)

6) Can be served over rice / quinoa, or eaten by itself as a thick, hearty soup.

***NOTE: Substitute 4 (15 oz) cans of black beans for 1 lb dry. Drain 2 cans, but save the liquid separately. Saute all the ingredients above (except beans) in a stockpot. Then, add the 2 drained cans & 2 undrained cans of black beans and mix well. Adjust seasoning and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Add the reserved liquid if the mixture seems too dry.

A New Beginning… Another Chance To Do It Right

Happy 2014 to all of you. I hope everybody had a fantastic time over the 2013 holidays – good food, laughter, time with family & friends, shopping, cleaning, cooking, drama ;)) – all the things that make the season feel like you can’t take it anymore, yet you look  forward for it to roll around again a year later.

On my end, over the last month, I met family in snowy Deep Creek, MD for Thanksgiving, hosted my son’s 10th birthday party for 20+ people, had a few friends over for a South Indian dinner, hosted 20+ family members for Christmas dinner, and then headed to Atlantic City to meet my husband’s elementary school friend and his wife who were visiting from Jamaica. It was a ton of shopping, gift-wrapping, decorating, cooking, cleaning, nagging, complaining, but also laughing, eating, hugging, gossiping and catching up with friends and family. The cherry on top was my $635 win at the casinos in Atlantic City. For someone playing 3-card poker for the first time, I guess I got really lucky. Santa must have thought I was a very NICE girl :))

Of course, all this made me neglect this blog. I have a ton of new entertaining recipes that I tried and loved, but it’s a little too late to put up considering that most of you would have started your “get skinny / healthy” resolutions. I will definitely post them in the coming weeks. But below are some links that should help you get started on the track to eating better and taking care of your body.

Pomegranate-Banana-Smoothie

Banana Pomegranate Smoothie

Double Green Smoothie

 Double Green Smoothie

Ginger-carrot-pineapple Smoothie

 Ginger-Carrot-Pineapple Smoothie

Oatmeal with Dates and Walnuts

Oatmeal with Dates  and Walnuts

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Spicy Quinoa Muffins

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Spicy Tofu Scramble

Tri-Colored Antioxidant Rich Salad

Tri-colored Antioxidant Rich Salad

winter-tabbouleh-salad-1

Easy Winter Salad

Rainbow Cabbage Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

Rainbow Cabbage Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing

Black Bean Soup

Vegetarian Black Bean Soup

Spiced Carrot Ginger Soup

Spiced Carrot Ginger Soup

Savory Quinoa Pongal

Savory Quinoa Pongal

Quinoa "Fried Rice"

Quinoa “Fried Rice”

I hope these links will help you get started on eating better this year. I appreciate feedback from you readers, and hope to hear about your tips and tricks for enjoying good food without guilt.

Quinoa “Fried Rice”

 

 

 

Quinoa "Fried Rice"

 

 

This dish is so easy to make, and is can be customized with any vegetable and protein of your choice. We’ve had leftovers for brunch and even packed in a lunch box – it holds well for a few hours.

Quinoa “Fried Rice”

(Serves 5-6)

  • 1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1/2 block firm tofu – well drained and crumbled; [OR] 1 egg
  • pinch turmeric (optional)
  • 1 small onion (diced fine)
  • 1 red pepper (seeded and diced small)
  • 1 (15oz) can peas & carrot – about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp chilli flakes
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional)

1) Cook quinoa according to package instructions and cool. Take care not to make the quinoa mushy.

2) In a large wok, heat 1 Tbsp oil on medium heat.

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3) Add tofu and turmeric and stir fry few minutes, stirring well, till dry and cooked. Adding a pinch of turmeric makes the tofu look just like scrambled eggs. Alternately, whisk 1-2 eggs in a small bowl and scramble. Set aside.

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4) In the same wok, heat the other 1 Tbsp of oil and saute the ginger – garlic paste till cooked. Add onions and cook till just starting to get golden.

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5) Add red peppers and chili flakes, and saute two minutes.

 

 

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6) Now add the peas & carrots, scrambled tofu / egg, quinoa, soy sauce and fish sauce. On a medium-high flame, mix well.

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7) Roast till well incorporated and heated through. Serve.

 

 

Vegan Black Bean Burgers

 

 

Vegan Black Bean Burger

 

Back after several weeks of absence, but I’ve been trying out a whole bunch of new recipes. Unfortunately, that was not the goal for starting this blog. It was to whittle down my collection of recipes; not add more to my stash! Anyway, some were a hit and some were a miss. These vegan black bean burgers were definitely delicious and nutritious. I made a dozen and froze them – they came in handy for quick dinners, after-school snacks, my lunch, even as a salad topping. Served here with homemade (and freezable) guacamole.

 

Vegan Black Bean Burgers

(Serves 4)

  • 2 cups / 16oz can black beans (drained well)
  • 1 small onion (chop fine)
  • 2 jalapeno peppers (chop fine) – [can use red-chili powder instead]
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • few sprigs cilantro (chop fine)
  • 1/2 medium red or green bell-pepper (chop fine)
  • 1Tbsp flax meal mixed with 3 Tbsp water (substitute with 1 large egg if not vegan)
  • 1/2 cup instant oats / cooked brown rice/ quinoa (pick any one)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

1) Mix all chopped vegetable in a bowl and set aside. Alternately, put everything in a food processor and pulse till fine.

 

 

 

 

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2) Stir flax meal and water well to make sure there are no lumps. Let it sit for a few minutes. (If using egg, whisk gently with a fork and set aside).

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3) In a large bowl, mash the black beans with a fork (I used the food processor and found that it was too ‘smooth’).

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4) Add vegetables, flax meal, cumin powder, salt and oats/rice. Mix well and adjust taste if needed.

5) Using lightly oiled hands, shape into 4 patties about 1 inch thick. [I lined the lid from a peanut butter jar with plastic wrap and shaped my patties in them. It goes faster if you are making a big batch.]

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6) Invert onto wax paper squares and chill about an hour on a cookie tray until firm. Alternately, these can be frozen on the cookie tray and saved in zip lock bags for later use. Make sure to keep the wax paper between the patties for easier handling.

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7) To cook, lightly spray a skillet with oil and cook on medium heat about 6-8 minutes per side. Serve on buns, inside pocket pita, sliced on top of a salad, or just by itself.

NOTE: The beans must be well drained as they will not hold if it has too much moisture. In the event that the patties are too soft, add a little more oats/rice to bind.

 

 

 

Spicy Quinoa Muffins

After reading a dozen quinoa-muffin recipes online, I decided to try out my own version with an Indian twist. Pulled 2 out from the freezer for my husband’s breakfast this morning, and he said “Hmmm…. I love it!!” He asked to have 2 more after his run this evening 🙂

(Makes 16-18 muffins)

  • 3 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
  • 4 eggs (use 3 if that’s all you have)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese ( I used mozzarella as that’s all I had at home)
  • 1 medium onion (chop fine)
  • 2-3 green chillies (chop fine)
  • few sprigs cilantro (chop fine)
  • salt to taste

1) Heat oven to 325* F. Spray two muffin trays with cooking spray.

2) Gently mix all ingredients till combined.

3) Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way and gently press down. Bake 25-30 mins till set, gently lifting one muffin to check if crust is light golden brown.

NOTE: I put the onion, chillies and cilantro in a small food processor to make it easy. Make sure not to make it too fine as the onions will release more moisture. For easy clean-up, you could line the muffin tin with cupcake liners, but I find that they do not give  crisp golden edges.

MAKE AHEAD: Once cooled, these muffins can be stacked in a freezer bag and frozen for a few weeks. To reheat, cover with a paper towel and place 2 in the microwave for about a minute and let it sit for another minute (time varies according to microwave power).