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.

Easy Mixed Vegetables & Greens Curry

Green Curry

This is a family friendly recipe that we’ve enjoyed for many years. Quick, easy & nutritious, it was given to me by my friend Akhila. We did some measuring of ingredients over lunch and some girl talk last week – it’s good to have girlfriends who’ll cook for you and let you vent all afternoon :). Thanks Akhila.

Green Curry

Easy Mixed Vegetables & Greens Curry

(Serves 4-5)

  • 2 medium onions (finely chopped)
  • 2 medium tomatoes (finely chopped)
  • 1 small cinnamon stick (broken)
  • 4-5 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 1 medium potato (washed and diced into small pieces)
  • 1/3 cup peas / lima beans
  • 3-4 firm small eggplants (chopped medium size) – You can use the long indian variety too, but it does get a little mushy
  • 4 cups chopped green beans (about large pea size pieces)
  • 1-2 cups fresh spinach leaves (washed, drained & roughly chopped)
  • 1 cup chopped dill
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup water
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp oil
  1. In a wide heavy bottom pan, heat oil over medium-high flame and add the cinnamon & cloves. Saute for a few seconds.
  2. Add onions and fry till just starting to brown.
  3. Add tomatoes and cook till soft – about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add green beans and saute for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the potatoes & lima beans and saute for another 2 minutes.
  6. Add eggplant, chilli powder & salt and continue cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
  7. Mix in the spinach & dill, add water sparingly and cook covered till all the vegetables are done.
  8. Serve with rice or flatbread like naan / roti / chapatis.

Pressure Cooker Method

  1. Follow steps 1-3 as above.
  2. Add all the vegetables, salt & chilli powder and fry for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the spinach & dill, and 1/2 cup water and mix well.
  4. Cover pressure cooker lid and cook on medium for just 1 whistle.

Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley

Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley Signing up for a fitness challenge at Gold’s Gym and having a trainer has meant that I have started to watch what I eat – grudgingly, but I’m doing it. I don’t believe in starving or depriving myself, or in any of the no carb/ high protein/ gluten free/ paleo/ etc diets – I guess I just don’t have the discipline for them. I’ve realized that our (my family’s) food philosophy should be to eat like our parents & grandparents – seasonal, whole foods, variety, primarily plant based, occasional indulgences without guilt, and moderation. While I still sneak a bite of the PBJ sandwich, and enjoy an occasional cupcake, I have definitely incorporated a fruit and atleast one vegetable as the main source of each meal. With conscious eating, I am more appreciative of colors, flavors and texture now than ever before. I made this Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley during one of the snow day holidays when I had to make do with what I had at home.

With warm weather picnics & barbecues in the horizon, this is a make-ahead healthy side that is great on the taste buds as it is on the eyes. Pair with grilled meat, veggie burgers or even as an unusual but always much welcome option for an appetizer. My teenager had to be shooed away from eating these straight from the pan!! The recipe here, again, is just a guide – feel free to adjust the seasoning & quantity to suit your tastes.

I use this simple seasoning for many of my vegetable sides – brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, etc – and either pan roast or oven roast ( my preferred method). Just toss the raw cut veggies in olive oil, chilli flakes, minced garlic and salt. Transfer to a flat baking tray and bake at 425*F for 8-10 mins till they are cooked but still crunchy. My family never complains about eating their veggies this way.

NOTE: The recipe shows a lot of steps because I have explained in detail how to blanch the vegetables. This dish is very easy to put together.

Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley

Green Beans & Red Pepper Medley

(Serves 6-8)

  • 1/2 – 1 lb thin green beans (washed & drained) – {I use the Costco haricot vert or French green beans which are smaller and more tender than regular green string beans; if using regular beans, use the tenderest ones you can find}
  • 1/2 – 1 Tbsp finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp crushed red chilli flakes
  • 1 large onion (finely sliced)
  • 1 large red pepper (seeded and sliced)
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • salt to blanch the beans, plus extra to taste

1) Bring about 8-10 cups of water to boil in a large pan.

2) Meanwhile, add ice to another large bowl with water and set close to the stove.

3) When the water boils in the first pan on the stovetop, add about 1-2 tablespoon of salt and the beans (salt generously – this will keep the color of the beans vibrant, yet will not be absorbed heavily by the vegetables). Continue cooking  for another 3-4 minutes on high flame.

4) Taste test a bean to see if it is slightly tender and lightly salty. It should still be crunchy. At this point, quickly use a strainer or tongs to remove the beans and transfer immediately into the ice water.

Depending on the size of your pots and the amount of beans being used, you may have to work in small batches.

5) Let the beans cool completely in the ice water – this will stop the cooking process and retain the color. Touch after a few minutes to make sure they are no longer warm.

6) Drain completely – do not allow the beans to sit in the cold water for a long time or they will become soggy – and spread on a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible.

7) Heat the same large pot on medium-high flame, and add 1/2 – 1 tablespoon oil to it.

8) Add the garlic and saute few seconds till lightly golden. Toss in the chilli flakes and stir.

9) Now add the sliced onions and saute on medium-high flame till translucent.

10) Add the sliced red pepper and saute for about 2-3 minutes till slightly tender.

11) Add the drained green beans and salt to taste and saute on a high flame till all the vegetables are starting to slightly brown, but are still crisp and crunchy.

12) Remove to a platter and serve hot or at room temperature.

Orange-Blossom Stuffed Dates

Orange-Blossom Stuffed Dates

With gift-giving season around the corner, I’m sure the pressure to find something ‘perfect’ for everyone on your list without breaking the bank is on your mind. Hello Black Friday shopping!!! But as I’ve gotten older, I seem to have lost the pleasure in giving & receiving store bought gifts; I mean, doesn’t everybody have enough ‘stuff’ already? In the last 2-3 years, unless I find something that I am pretty certain the recipient will love. I would rather give flowers or home-made edibles or even an experience (movie/dinner/museum out together) than another candle/bowl/you-name-it item that’s pretty but will probably be re-gifted or sit in the basement. This drives my family crazy!! Gift-giving occasions are a pain-in-the-*** for them because they really need to think about it :)). For me, it’s not how much the gift is worth in $$ but how much thought went into it. Along these lines, when I had a certain (ahem!) milestone birthday a few years ago, I was treated to a fantastic trip to Morocco – one of my ‘places to visit before I die’. What an experience!!! The scenic beauty, the people, the food, the history & culture is definitely one I will never forget. I will do a small post on our trip soon and share photos, but I wanted to share this recipe for yummy Stuffed Dates that we were offered with mint tea in some of the places we stayed. While it probably isn’t authentic Moroccan, my recipe below has blended several recipes I’ve come across, with a touch of Indian. Hope you enjoy it.

You can find Orange-Blossom water in any International or Middle Eastern grocery store for around $2-$3. If it is not readily available, you may substitute Rosewater (more readily available at any of the above or Indian grocers). Please read the bottom of this post for how to make Rosewater flavored stuffed dates.

Orange-Blossom Stuffed Dates

Orange-Blossom Stuffed Dates

Orange-Blossom Stuffed Dates

(About 25-30 dates)

  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 1 cup fine confectioners sugar
  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
  • 25-30 (soft) dates – NOT the dry dehydrated ones
  • 2-3 tsp + 1 Tbsp orange-blossom water
  • zest of one orange (Optional)
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (approx. 1 large orange)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • pinch of cardamom powder

1) Boil 2 cups of water in a small bowl and remove from stove. Drop the almonds in the hot water and let it sit for about 5 minutes.

2) In another small saucepan, bring the orange juice, honey, 1 Tbsp orange-blossom water, orange zest (if using) & cardamom to boil on medium heat, then simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool completely.

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(Oops – didn’t realize how messy the saucepan looks 😦 )

3) Meanwhile, toast the pistachio nuts in a pan on medium-low heat, stirring constantly to avoid browning – about 3-4 minutes. Pour into a wide plate in a single layer to cool completely.

4) Now drain the almonds and pinch between your thumb & forefinger to remove the skin – it should slide off easily. (Check this video if you’ve never blanched almonds before.) Drain well and cool completely on a plate.

5) Gently slit the dates down one side and remove the pit – do not cut all the way through into halves. Set aside on a flat plate. (I buy pitted dates from Costco).

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6) Coarsely chop the pistachios in a small food processor jar and set aside in a bowl.

7) In the same jar, combine the blanched almonds, powdered sugar and 1 tsp of blossom water and process till the almonds are ground fine. You may need to add another teaspoon or two of blossom water to help the mixture come together like a ball, but add only as needed or the paste will become too sticky. (I needed 3 tsp). Do not over-process.

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8) Take teaspoons full of almond paste and roll into small logs the size of the dates, keeping them slightly fatter in the center. (Keep the paste covered with plastic wrap or it will dry out.)

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9) Stuff all the dates with the almonds and gently press into shape with your fingers. Set aside on the flat plate.

10) Brush the dates generously with the orange-honey mixture and let it sit for 20-30 minutes to soak up the juices. (You can wrap the plate in plastic wrap and refrigerate at this point for a day or two.)

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11) Before serving, brush with the dates with the remaining syrup. Lift each date, and holding upside down, gently roll in the chopped pistachios and place on serving platter. Top with orange zest (optional) and serve at room temperature.

FOR ROSEWATER SUBSTITUTE:

1) Process the almonds, sugar and rose syrup to form a paste (step 7 above).

2) Roll into logs & stuff the dates with the paste.

3) Make the syrup with 1/4 cup water + 1-2 Tbsp honey + 1 Tbsp rosewater (step 2 above). Skip the cardamom is you feel it will overpower the delicate rose taste.

4) Brush the stuffed dates with the cooled syrup, roll in chopped pistachios and serve at room temperature.

5) If you serve each date in an edible rose petal, it should make for a spectacular presentation. Alternately, arrange some dry edible rose buds in the serving platter for some wow factor.

Guilt free Chia Seed – Pumpkin Pie Filling

Guilt Free Chia Seed - Pumpkin Pie Filling

Halloween seems to herald in the start of unhealthy eating. By the time we’re done sneaking our favorites from the kids candy stash, Thanksgiving comes around, and the holiday parties begin. If you like pie like I do, then this season is like walking in a land mine! I stumbled upon this recipe on Pinterest from Forks Over Knives and LOVE it. Surprisingly, my 10-year old has been enjoying it too as much as I do. You can have it for breakfast, snack or any time you get a craving for something sweet. Made with whole foods, and put together in minutes – what’s not to love about this Pumpkin Pie Filling?

Guilt Free Chia Seed - Pumpkin Pie Filling

Guilt Free Chia Seed – Pumpkin Pie Filling

(Serves 4-6)

(Adapted from Forks Over Knives)

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1 cup water
  • 12-15 pitted dates
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (NOT pie filling)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds***
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

1) Add the chia seeds to your blender and make it into a powder. Pour into a large bowl and set aside.

2) Add the almonds, water & dates to the blender jar and puree. (Alternately, use 1 cup of almond milk & dates).

3) Add the banana, pumpkin, vanilla & spice, and blend well.

4) If your blender is powerful, add in the chia and give it a whirl till well mixed. Add a few more tablespoons of milk or water if necessary. Otherwise, pour the liquid from the blender over the chia powder and mix well.

5) Pour into 4-6 serving dishes and chill covered for a few hours (it’s fine to eat right away too). Sprinkle with cinnamon before serving.

6) My teen loves his pie crust, so I poured some into individual ready crusts for portion control.

*** If you prefer the texture of whole chia seeds, skip step 1 and mix with the pumpkin filling. This method requires several hours to set – it will not be ready to eat as soon as it is assembled.

Jicama Salad with Thai Spices

Jicama Salad with Thai Spices

After the carb-overload from Memorial Day weekend, this salad has made a steady appearance on my plate this week. Spinach salad gets old soon, I still haven’t developed a taste for kale, and I refuse to eat lettuce! I mean – why?!?! Seriously – why?  🙂 I’d much rather eat a bowl of steamed veggies. Anyway, I generally shop at the local international supermarket, and see so many different varieties of produce. I have finally decided to try atleast one new thing each month, and hopefully make something worth sharing here. I had seen many recipes using Jicama on Pinterest, and figured it would be a good idea to make a salad or stir fry with. Originating from Mexico, this root vegetable is slightly sweet and crunchy – almost like a mix between an apple and a potato. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and does not change color or texture even after cutting and saving in the refrigerator for a few days. Turns out it is pretty inexpensive too – under $1/lb. Choose one that is firm and heavy, without any bruises or mold. To use, cut the top and bottom to level on chopping board. Then, make small slits and peel off the thin brown skin.

According to the USDA National Nutrition Database, 100 gms of jicama has only 38 calories; approx. 8 gms carbs; approx. 5 gms fiber; 20 mg Vit C. 

Jicama Info

(photo from http://bonnieplants.com)

Jicama Salad with Thai Spices

(Serves 2)

All ingredients are to taste, so I am skipping measurements. This salad is light, crunchy, and healthy. Plus, it holds its texture and color very well. I julienned a medium jicama on Monday, and it stayed the same till this afternoon (what you see in the photos). Store bought julienned carrots were used. To keep apples from browning, drop into a bowl of Sprite or any lemon-lime soda immediately after cutting and soak for a few minutes (I save the large bottles that go flat after opening for a party). Drain completely, and the apples will not darken for several hours. Alternately, you can just grate all the veggies using the larger holes in your grater.

Jicama Salad with Thai Spices

  • 1 small to medium jicama
  • 1 medium apple of choice (I used green Granny Smith as it crisp)
  • Julienned carrots
  • Finely chopped green / Thai chili
  • Finely grated ginger
  • Fish sauce (you can probably substitute soy sauce or just plain salt, but the flavor will be different)
  • Chopped Cilantro
  • Sugar (optional – about 1/2 tsp)
  • Roasted chopped peanuts (salted or unsalted)

Toss all ingredients in a bowl, and top with more roasted peanuts and cilantro.

Vegetarian Pinto Beans for Burrito Bowl or Tortilla Salad

Pinto Beans

 

Serve these beans as an option alongside Mexican-style black beans, tofu sofrito, cilantro-lime rice, and salsa chicken when you want a Homemade Chipotle-style Buffet & Tortilla Salad (Lots of Vegetarian Options). It can be made ahead and heated at the time of serving. Leftovers freeze beautifully, and I’ve had it without any accompaniments as a hearty chilli. Adjust the spice levels to suit your tastes – this version is medium spiced.

Vegetarian Pinto Beans for Burrito Bowl or Tortilla Salad

(Serves 12-15)

  • 1 lb dry pinto beans *** (picked, rinsed, soaked in water overnight)
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, chopped fine OR (1 Tbsp paste)
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 (15 oz) tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup taco seasoning (or to taste)
  • 3 cups water
  • salt to taste

1) Discard the soaking water and rinse the pinto beans well. Drain and set aside.

2) In a large stockpot, heat the oil on medium-high.

3) Saute garlic, then onion for a few minutes till fragrant and just starting to brown.

4) Add cumin powder and stir for a few seconds.

5) Add the pinto beans, taco seasoning, tomato sauce and salt. Mix well.

6) Bring to a boil, then reduce flame and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours uncovered, stirring occasionally.

7) The beans should neither be dry or runny. Add more water or broth is it looks too dry, or cook uncovered for longer on a higher flame if it seems too runny.

8) Check beans for doneness, and adjust seasoning.

 

***NOTE: You can substitute 4 (15 oz) cans of pinto beans for 1 lb dry. Drain 2 cans and reserve the liquid. Follow recipe as stated above by using 2 cans undrained & the beans from the drained cans too. Cook according to above instructions, but reduce time to 30-40 minutes. If you need more liquid, then use what was reserved from the cans. Or simply rinse out all beans, and use about 2-3 cups of water / broth.