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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Blueberry-Yogurt Parfait

Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

As you all know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Most of you have also probably come across multiple sources that state that starting your day with a healthy & nutritious protein-rich breakfast is the key to feeling energetic, controlling appetite, reducing snacking, and staying slim. Protein-rich breakfasts have shown to regulate blood sugars and reduce late afternoon cravings for sugary and unhealthy snacks, and I can personally vouch for it. But if you are like me, meat in the morning is not appealing and eggs are not an option due to allergies. Greek yogurt to the rescue!! With around 200 calories & over 20 gms of protein per cup, greek yogurt is an easy, tasty and portable breakfast or snack item.

Blueberry Yogurt Parfait

The Blueberry-Yogurt Parfait is so simple to make and can be assembled ahead of time. Just top with granola before eating. Use the fruit of your choice and customize quantities to suit your needs. If Greek yogurt is not available, you can use hung yogurt (recipe below). Make a few of these in resealable containers and store in the refrigerator for a quick grab-and-go snack or breakfast. My husband & kids love it too!

Blueberry-Yogurt Parfaits

  • 1 cup greek yogurt (plain or flavored) – [use hung yogurt if greek yogurt is not available – recipe below]
  • 1 cup fruit of choice (berries, banana, mango, peach, etc.)
  • sweetener of choice (honey, sugar, agave, etc) – optional
  •  1/2 cup granola (Click here for stove-top granola recipe.)

1) Take 2 resealable containers and layer each with 1/4 cup greek yogurt on the bottom.

2) If using sweetener, drizzle a teaspoon on the yogurt.

3) Top with 1/4 cup fruit.

4) Repeat yogurt, sweetener, fruit.

5) Just before eating, top with granola. Stir and enjoy. (Click here for stove-top granola recipe.)

 

To Make 1 cup Hung Yogurt

 1) Line a strainer/small colander with a large clean piece of muslin cloth and place the strainer over a deep bowl.

2) Pour 2 cups of regular yogurt onto the muslin cloth.

3) Bring the ends of the muslin together and make into a bundle.

4) Hang the bundle from the faucet / knob with a dish to catch the whey dripping.

5) Leave undisturbed for 3-4 hours till all the water is out. Creamy hung yogurt is ready.

6) Flavor with sweetener if needed and stir well.

No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

No-cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

Have you spent enough already on snack / granola/ energy / breakfast bars? One – the $$ add up pretty quickly; two – have you turned to the ingredients list? Yes – they may be low in sugar & carbs, high in protein & fiber, and claim to be a good meal replacement. But most of them are chock full of additives & have dozens of ingredients that I would never put in my mouth if I saw it by itself. In my attempt to feed my family food that is tasty, nutritious, natural and most importantly,  can be made ahead, I have been experimenting with a few different recipes.

I found that over the last few months, the alternative to my 4pm sweet tooth / chocolate craving was only satiated by the texture and sweetness of dates and the crunch of a few walnuts or almonds. If that was not enough, I would eat an apple or a banana to tide me through till dinner. Some days, I needed a ‘portable’ breakfast & cereal bars seemed like a good thing to start the day with.

These bars are husband & kid approved, and I generally don’t flinch when my boys go back for a second piece. The recipe below is more of a guide  – feel free to swap out ingredients for what you have on hand and adjust sweetness to your preference.

No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars

(Makes 16 – 2X2 inch squares)

  • 2 cups nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc)
  • 2 cups oats ( I used rolled / old-fashioned oats; can probably try Instant / quick cook variety)
  • 1 cup dates
  • 1 cup dry figs (soak in 1/2 cup warm water for about 15 mins and drain well before using)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds (optional)
  • 2-3 tsp cinnamon OR cardamom powder
  • few Tbsp honey OR maple syrup OR agave syrup (optional)
  • 1-2 cups applesauce OR finely chopped apple OR banana

1) Heat a wide, heavy bottomed pan on medium-high flame and add the oats. Toast them for about 5-10 mins till they are nutty, stirring constantly and making sure they do not brown. Remove to another wide container to cool.

2) In the same pan, add the nuts in a single layer and toast for a few minutes, again stirring continuously and making sure they do not burn. Toast till they are fragrant and glossy with their own oil. Remove from hot pan to cool completely. Work in batches if necessary.

3) In a large food processor, add the oats, the nuts and the dates & figs separately. Process till coarsely (your preference) chopped, removing to another container as each one is done.

4) Add the cinnamon/cardamom powder and fruit and mix well. – If using applesauce, use only 1/2 – 1 cup to bind mixture, and add on as needed.

5) Alternately, add all the coarsely chopped ingredients and powder back to the food processor and pulse till it all comes together. (This is my preferred method as we don’t like chunks in our bars.) Drizzle in some honey/syrup if needed as everything is getting mixed.

6) Line an 8X8 inch pan with wax paper or foil, making sure it overhangs over the sides.

7) Press the mixture into the pan, and smooth out the top evenly.

8) At this point, the bars are ready to eat. I prefer to let the raw mixture stand overnight in the refrigerator to set and allow the flavors to meld. 

9) When the mixture is set, remove the bars by holding the foil. Slice into 2X2 inch squares and store in an airtight container. They will be fine for a week or more in the fridge.

10) Alternately, once you press the mixture into the pan, cook in a preheated 350* oven for 20 minutes and allow to cool completely. Remove with foil, slice and store in an airtight container.

NOTE: As mentioned above, add or reduce the quantity of the dates, fruits and syrup to suit your tastes. You can also experiment with different types of nuts, although I find that walnuts have the best texture here.

Tofu Sofritas (Vegan)

Tofu Sofritos

Original Chipotle Tofu Sofritas is braised (seared on high heat in fat, then simmered in a liquid) in a combination of spicy peppers and spices. While I would have loved to replicate the exact recipe, I didn’t want to buy 1-use ingredients like poblano, adobo, etc. This version here is quite close in taste, but easier and not as saucy as the original. You can use store bought taco seasoning or make your own blend with ingredients at home.

Tofu Sofritas

  • 1 (16 oz) extra firm tofu (if not available, use firm)
  • 3-4 Tbsp oil
  • 1 medium onion (chopped fine)
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 Tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1-1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/3 cup salsa (or 2 Tbsp tomato paste & 2 Tbsp water/stock/beer mixed together)
  • salt to taste

1) Drain tofu from package and press to remove as much moisture as possible.

2) Move to a bowl and crumble the tofu with your hands or a fork.

3) Mix in the taco seasoning, red chilli powder, cumin and oregano.

4) Heat a wide & thick-bottom pan, and add oil.

5) Add the minced garlic and saute till golden. Do not burn it.

6) Add the chopped onions and saute on medium-high till it starts to brown lightly.

7) Now add the seasoned tofu and stir fry on medium-high for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Add another teaspoon or two of oil if the tofu mix sticks to the bottom of the pan.

8) Add in the salsa or tomato paste mixture and mix well. Continue stir frying till well incorporated and the mixture is almost dry. Adjust salt to taste. Top with chopped cilantro if you like.

This can be served on a salad, in a burrito, as a lettuce wrap, or with rice or quinoa.

For serving suggestions, and to see other related recipes, see my post on Homemade Chioptle-Style Buffet & Tortilla Salad (Lots of vegetarian options)

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.

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.

Spinach Cottage Cheese Roti

Spinach Cottage Cheese Roti

 

 

Cottage Cheese is a calcium rich protein powerhouse, and spinach, as we all know, is one of the wonder-foods packed with iron and fiber. I have tasted methi masala rotis before, and had heard of using cottage cheese to make rotis soft. When I came across a recipe for spinach cheese parathas at Saffron Hut, I wanted to try them. I changed the recipe to make just rotis without the stuffing. I was surprised at how nicely they fluffed up while cooking, and they kept beautifully for a few days in the refrigerator. Reheating was as easy as putting them on a hot griddle for a few minutes each side. This breakfast is on regular rotation in my family.

Spinach Cottage Cheese Roti

(8-10 rotis)

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves (packed)
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • few spoons oil to cook rotis

1) In a large food processor bowl, add cottage cheese, spinach, chilli, cumin & turmeric powders and salt. Puree till well mixed.

Spinach Cottage Cheese Roti

 

2) Add the whole wheat flour and pulse few times till a dough forms. DO NOT ADD WATER.

Spinach Cottage Cheese Roti

3) Set aside covered in a bowl for 10 minutes. Check to see if the dough is too dry or soft, and add cottage cheese or flour as needed. Set aside covered for another  15-20 minutes.

4) Knead lightly and form into 8-10 balls.

Spinach Cottage Cheese Roti

5) Roll out into thin rotis and cook on a hot griddle, brushing with some oil on both sides.

Spinach Cottage Cheese Roti

6) Serve with some yogurt or a pat of butter.