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.

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.

Eggless Coconut ‘Cheesefake’

Coconut 'Cheesefake'

From Washington Post’s Food Section, this recipe is a no-bake, healthier dessert than the traditional cheesecake. Greek yogurt & gelatin substitute cream cheese, and almonds & dates make up for processed graham crackers crust. It may look like a lot of work, but the recipe is pretty easy to make.

I will be honest, it does not taste exactly like regular cheesecake. But at about half the calories, it does not compromise on taste and texture. Tangy and coconuty, it does not seem like a winter dessert. But I thought I should share, just in case there was someone looking for a guilt-free dessert recipe.

Coconut ‘Cheesefake’

Coconut 'Cheesefake'

(Serves 10-12)

MAKE AHEAD: The cake needs to be refrigerated for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

FOR THE CRUST

  • 16 pitted dates, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups (skinless) slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (solidified)

FOR THE FILLING

  • 1 cup coconut water
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons (2 packets) unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 cups plain low-fat greek-style yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1) For the crust, use a 9-inch springform pan.

2) Pulse the dates, almonds and coconut oil in a food processor till well incorporated.

3) Press the mixture into the bottom of the springform pan; use a piece of wax paper to do this if you don’t want to get your hands sticky.

Coconut 'Cheesefake'

 

4) Wipe out the food processor bowl.

5) For the filling: Heat the coconut water in a microwave-safe bowl on HIGH for a few seconds, until it is hot (but not boiling).

6) Add the lemon juice, then stir in the powdered gelatin until it has dissolved.

7) Blend the yogurt, coconut and vanilla extract in the food processor to desired consistency (if you like the texture of coconut, coarse blend; if you like just the flavor, blend fine).

8) Add the gelatin mixture and puree until smooth. Pour on top of the crust, leveling the surface.

9) Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

10) To serve, dip a knife into very hot water before cutting each piece. Serve plain, top with fruit, or drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Coconut 'Cheesefake'

Refrigirate leftovers in a tightly covered container. Use within a day or two (it tastes fine, but gets a little soggy if stored longer).

Low-fat Mango Coconut Muffins

 

 

 

 

 
Low-fat Mango Coconut Muffins

 

I made these muffins a few weeks ago on a whim – I was growing tired of the same old flavors and wanted something different. They turned out alright – tasted better fresh than thawed from the freezer ( I tend to bake a big batch of muffins and freeze them for breakfast / snack on other days). I plan on tweaking the recipe soon, and will post updates on how it turns out. Till then, happy baking.

 

Low-fat Mango Coconut Muffins

(Makes 1 dozen)

  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted & cooled
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup mango pulp (homemade or store bought)
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or regular all purpose flour)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes

1) Heat oven to 325* F

2) In a medium bowl, melt butter and cool (adding egg to hot melted butter will scramble them).

3) Whisk in the egg and mango pulp and mix well.

4) In another large bowl, mix flour, salt, sugar, cardamom powder, baking soda, and coconut flakes till well incorporated and set aside.

5) Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently till just blended.

6) Spoon into 12 muffin cups (about 1/4 cup mix in each) and bake about 25 mins, till toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

7) Remove from oven, cool for 5 minutes in pan, and then cool completely on a wire rack.

South Indian Chicken “Fry”

South Indian Chicken 'Fry"

This easy & tasty chicken dish can be prepared ahead of time and warmed in the oven just before serving. Deep frying will give it a better taste, but pan frying / stir frying is almost as good, and a little healthier.

South Indian Chicken Fry

(Serves 5-6)

  • 4 lbs chicken (cut in small pieces)
  • 2-3 garlic pods (grated)
  • 1 inch ginger (peeled & grated)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp yogurt
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/4 tsp cloves powder
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder

For tempering:

  • 1 sprig curry leaves;
  • 3-4 green chillies (slit)

1) In a large bowl, mix all the spices. Add chicken and marinate for 3-4 hours, stirring once midway.

2) In a wide pan / wok, heat 2 Tbsp oil on medium-high. Add half the chicken and stir fry till cooked and the moisture is gone, stirring often. Avoid overcooking as it makes the meat rubbery.

3) Repeat with the remaining chicken and place on serving platter.

4) In the same wok, heat 1 tsp oil and add the slit green chillies. Use a plate or lid to partially cover the wok and shield your face, as the chilli seeds will pop and splatter. Fry for a few seconds. This gives the dish a wonderful flavor.

5) Add the curry leaves and fry for a few seconds, waiting for it to stop crackling.

6) Pour the oil with chillies and curry leaves over the plated chicken and serve hot.

NOTE: You can use skinless, boneless chicken breast or thighs, but I prefer to have the butcher make 5 small pieces from 1 whole leg and thigh piece.