Tag Archive | food

Day 24 : Pre & Post cooking work

Our food is now greatly simplified. We just eat salads for lunch and dinner every day. The vegetables vary, dressing remains the same. The prep time is very time consuming, may be not that bad if it comes down to 2-3 hours for 3 days’ worth of food. And then packing the food in containers layering it from one of the greens , quinoa/cracked wheat/brown rice,  lentils of variety (one type every week), two steamed vegetables ( carrots, broccoli, beets, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts), I shop for veggies every 3 days so that they do not sit in the refrigerator and escape my memory. I have been diligent about that lately as I often forget and throw out the veggies. Bringing in only when I plan to cook is greatly helping me.

This obviously entails cleaning of veggies, chopping them, steaming and packing the food in containers. And all of them should be done in a day. I have also stopped using canned products that requires me to perform additional two steps of soaking a day before and cooking them. But, that is a lot of work as I am greatly un-coordinated and inefficient in the way I organize my cooking. Additionally, I make spicy peanut powder inspired by one of my favorite chef’s recipe, along with dressing. These items all combined make up for a fulfilling meal and I cannot be happier to have found something that is sustainable. The dressing which is supposed to last for 3 days usually does not. I think we overdose ourselves greatly. Still, not very bad compared to my earlier days of trying to make homemade food. Let’s just say I am able to manage and see a scope for improvement on being more efficient with my energy and time.

When I have some time and mood for cooking, I make a simple Italian, Indian or Mexican dish to satiate my taste buds or find a new recipe to play with. Then comes the cleaning part, which is where I am still struggling with, I am trying to wash them off immediately but the constraint of storing wet dishes makes it challenging. I have timed it several times, the dishes are done under 10 minutes’ tops, but motivating myself to do that work takes hours of cajoling. Additional stress if I have guests over.  And that is why, I have not been keen on inviting anyone over. Sure, we can order food outside, but it undermines the whole idea of saving when we are tight on budget. It’s any day cheaper to cook healthy meals at home than eating outside.

This is partly bragging as well as ranting about the benefits and dis-advantages of homemade meals and where I stand. Hope you have ignored all my rants and took only positive aspects. After all, in America – those added sugars, salt, canned and refrigerated goods are neither tasty nor healthy anyway.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”  ~Hippocrates

Now, your turn – speak up about your cooking adventures.

Day 15 : Fulfilling meal

What constitutes a meal that is nutritious, healthy and most importantly that satiates all your senses?. The smell, texture, taste that is not only appetizing but also very fulfilling is something that I look forward too. When you have food, it should be energizing as well. That is one such recipe I came across and I loved it very much. I usually look for vegan/vegetarian meals at various restaurants that I keep trying. When I came across this organic cafe Live Alive,  I fell in love with variety of food options that nurtures soul and body. I would look forward to trying different item on the menu every time I happen to visit that café. I carefully made a note of all the veggies, the style of cut, texture and taste, it was so delicious that I have decided to give it a try at home.

So, I scouted the entire world wide web for making the dressing recipe.. until I landed on this website, this turned out to be exactly as I tasted there. I made a batch of it that serves for up to 6 meals.  I had cooked quinoa, and layered with steamed broccoli, cooked & diced beets, steamed diced carrots and also added for some spicy-crunchy taste – dry-roasted and semi- blended peanut-chilli powder-coriander seeds-cumin-garlic-mustard seats. It turned out to be amazing. I just cannot stop bragging about how much I loved it. This is all refrigerated, all you need to do is organize, warm it for 30 seconds in microwave, add the dressing and have it. I have had it dinner & lunch for two days.  It was absolutely terrific. Highly recommend trying it.

If you were my regular blog reader, you would know how I keep struggling with food options and always on lookout for variety of cooking channels to get ideas for easy-to-prepare dishes. I want to minimize my time and optimize the options and easily scale for as many people as I want to serve. This recipe definitely goes under my favorite list.  What about you? And also, I do give reference links every time I like something and try it out. When I re-visit it In the near future, most of the links just does not work anymore. That is why, I plan on building my favorite recipe index, albeit copied, the references will be provided along with the text version of the recipe.  Between, I see the trend in food industry is shifting to grain bowls, mostly with kale-quinoa, kale-farro, kale-brown rice as a base, and all the other options are placed on top without mixing by giving an picturesque appeal to mix them up and eat. It just looks lovely and very appetizing. What appeals to eye and taste buds is a real winner –and before you assume, definitely not those junk foods that are deep fried and that are served in larger quantities.

I read somewhere, gut is the root cause of disease and food is the real medicine. If you ea t right, then you don’t have to visit any doctor. Please do share any simple veggie recipes you have.  Looking forward to hear from you.

Home made food – is it a tiresome chore?

The other day, I hung out with a friend of mine and mentioned that she hired a cook who cooks once every week. That has been a great relief for her and how she managed to stay out as she thinks that as chore that she does not enjoy. Since, I complained about how stressful cooking everyday has been and suggested that I hire the same person too.

It got me into thinking – is cooking really that stressful for me or am I bothered by something else?

  1. Grocery shopping – I do not have a car and walk 3 miles every single day to work. So, I just pick up few vegetables every single day through out the week. This has been bothering me, especially stopping by a grocery store every single evening, picking groceries, carrying them home, organizing them in the refrigerator is chore that I really burdensome.
  2. Then cooking 2 different dishes every single day – for simple reason, I love variety and always rack up my brain and browse various websites for recipes.
  3. The most difficult part – cleaning dishes – I create too many dishes to be cleaned, I cook, and on the side I clean, by the time I am done with preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner (yes, three different) for two, It took away at-least 2 hours of my time leaving me beyond exhausted.

Then, why do I prefer home made cooking?

  1. I shop consciously, very rarely do I get processed canned food home for all the health benefits they speak about.
  2. I love to create out-of-my-comfort food dishes apart from my regular one’s. I also use less to no oil and try to not over cook veggies. I am vegetarian by choice and I try to cook with almost every veggie that I can lay my hands on. Sometimes good, at times bad, but overall they are mostly edible.
  3. I compost – have been composting so religiously, the results are yet to come.

How can I save myself from being exhausted?

  1. I recently switched to weekly for fresh-grocery shopping (includes fruits and veggies) and monthly for other required groceries, just like my parents who did on budget. There are always exception, when we have guests, or if I want to make something interesting in between or if we run out. I am still analyzing the needs. – I would save myself from adhoc shopping and strain to carry them home. I just feel relieved with this plan in place. Hopefully, it helps me to get-away-from-plastic bags pretty soon.
  2. Meal planner – I just downloaded a free meal planner where I would be making a list of what to cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the entire week. It helps me with prep work too and hopefully saves time. I made it this week and I hope to improve my efficiency better.
  3. Washing dishes – there is no short cut yet, unfortunately, I do not have a dish washer and have to clean right then and there and some how need to learn to minimize the usage.

If nothing works, well, I plan to hire the cook on a need basis. It is always nice to treat myself by giving myself a nice break. I should at-least try once and see how it goes.

Overall, I do feel stressful at times and often wonder if I could make so much money where i could hire someone to come in and help me. But, at the same time, it also gives me satisfaction to some extent that I can indeed cook and feed myself. Eating out everyday is not my cup of tea even though I have done it for months in the past. I am slowly but steadily getting into the groove.

How about you folks? how do you do your meal planning? do you enjoy ? if yes – why and if not- why not? What is your ideal cooking/eating strategy?

Cranberry Chutney

Being from south, it is all about chutneys. My mother made chutneys all the time. My north indian friends were surprised on many things that I made it as matter of fact. In the process of such things, I decided to make chutney out of cranberry. Also, I found out that cranberries goes by some name in India as well and are available.

As most of you my dear blog readers know that, I buy most of my fresh grocery at farmers market and came across the fresh and eye catching cranberries that I could not resist and ended up buying.  The taste of berries is extremely sour, it tasted like, when you bite into extremely sour raw green tamarind – that is exactly what it felt like. I decided to make a chutney and use it on the side for dosa’s, chapathi’s, rice and just to munch on plain chips. It turned out to be delicious.

Recipe:

  1. Box full of cranberries – the bigger size (approximately 500 grams)
  2. Salt for taste
  3. Garlic  pods – it depends on how much you want it, I have added 2 small sized whole garlic pods
  4. 15 – Green chillies –  according to the level of spiciness.
  5. Sugar – 2 tbsp, to bring down the extreme sourness.
  6. Oil – 2 tbsp to sautee them.

Procedure:

  1. Put the pan on stove, add oil, after it warms up, add ingredients from 1 to 5 and let it cook in medium flame until they become soft.
  2. After it is cooked, let it cool down, add it to mixer, add sugar and grind it until it becomes paste. Adjust spice, salt or sugar according to your taste.
  3. You could also temper with oil, red chilli, mustard, cumin, curry leaf and onion to add flavor for much richer taste. I choose to stop at step 2.

Result:

Cranberry Chutney

Cranberry Chutney

Used:

I have used it as a spread on chapathi’s and bread.

I have added yogurt to it and made it as a sauce for dipping.

It lasted for about a month for me, yes in the fridge. Spicy, tangy, the delicious cranberry chutney was absolutely mouth watering.

Tagged

Perspectives and prejudices has tagged me in Sisterhood of the world Q&A.  I have seen it making rounds in the blogger world and it was interesting to see their responses by some of the fellow bloggers.

Thank you P&P for tagging me. I have to scour through my memory to jot them down.

  1. One beauty product you would recommend to all your girlfriends.

I have no particular product that I use, I usually keep trying different moisturizers, makeup foundations, eye liners, lipsticks and not able to settle down on one particular brand yet.

But, there is one thing that I have been planning to incorporate into my face moisturizing routine which I have started just couple of weeks back and it is working out great. – You probably cannot guess, the awesome coconut oil that we, most of the Indians known to use it for our hair. Oh well, they use this oil to cook as well, but not me.

How do I use it:  I apply it right after I wash my face while it is still wet. My belief is that the oil gets observed into skin while the pores are still open. It also adds shine to my face – bonus points.  It might help you to know, that coconut oil is antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial.

I have used the coconut oil from head to toe all my growing up years, as none of the famous fair and lovely and ponds cold cream reacted well on my face. My skin was clear back then. Not the case now unfortunately. Sometimes, I wonder why it took me so long to go back to what I was used to before.

  1. Three books everyone must read: I am not an avid reader and prefer to go more towards fiction over non-fiction. I cannot say they are must reads, but definitely worth reading. I have many books that I want to suggest but as I am supposed to pick 3- they are listed in no particular order of preference.
  • Fountain Head by Ayn Rand – It speaks about an young architect who is not compromised on traditional ways of building things and the struggle it takes for him to go ahead in the chosen path.
  • Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling– As much as I hated to get started on this book, behind this fiction lies lives of people, political agenda and how it unfolds life in the grand scheme of things. Very beautifully articulated.
  • Infidel by– Ayan Hirsi Ali Non-fiction. Great read.  This book speaks about how this lady went against all odds of being tied down by religion in her country and came as a refugee to Netherlands and ended up becoming Member of Parliament. She spoke about issues that Islam women face, that subjected her to extreme criticism and threat for her life.  It speaks about her journey from the time of her birth in Somalia to rising to high-profile public figure in Netherlands.
  1. Favorite online shopping site: I have quite a few preferences. I order anything and everything online lately. Amazon.com tops my list.
  1. Favorite phone app: Too many, sometimes, I think all these smart phones with great apps are making me dumber? Mostly used apps are : Audible – where I get my quote of alternative to reading books by listening. Google maps – they are my saviors. Yelp – without which I cannot get instant reviews about all possible restaurants I want to grab my food. Uber/Lyft – my usage has gone up lately. I use way too many for various purposes and it definitely has made my life much easier.
  2. One dish you’re really good at making and it’s recipe: I experiment quite a bit and I do not have one thing that I can say I am good at. I am a decent cook. Having a partner whose appetite is diverse definitely makes space for my culinary experiments. I did not blog about every experimental food; I took pictures but never got around to blog about them. But, one recipe that was such a huge hit which I make it for all possible gatherings is Crunchy quinoa salad.

Dear readers, if you are interested in doing this, please feel free to borrow the sames questions. Once you do this, please update the comments on this post. I would love to read what you have to say. Looking forward to hear back from you.

 

Cravings..

It has been slightly over a week that I cooked at home. Have been grabbing lunch at work and dinner’s with friends. With the unexpected expense with home repairs,  eating out everyday indeed has been challenging financially. Just as we try to manage this crisis, the check that we gave last month to a person has decided to deposit at the very crunch time made the whole thing more challenging. Every time, the time came to hang out with my friends makes my heart bleed. Lately, hanging out with friends has been turning out to be very expensive. I am spending the money I do not have. How do I politely decline such going out in such situations? may be I should be honest about our situation and suggest alternatives instead? . It does not help the fact that with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner and holiday season surely brings more expenses.

I digress, enough of my rantings about current financial crisis. It has been 10 days and I was craving for some home made food and specifically a particular summer sour soup that my mother used to make with fresh tamarind that was available during that time. So, I set out to cook some chickpea-tomato curry and soup along with rice.  The food turned out to be delicious, it sure tasted great. Cravings and deprivation does bring some sense of longing to some simple foods isn’t?

 

Raw vegan food diet????

Before you make assumptions of any sort – I do not eat raw food all the time, but some times. It definitely makes me feel lighter, more energetic, and it’s summer here, so much of fresh produce straight from farmers market will make you want to use those beautiful, colorful veggies.

Many of my friends and family have always told me that I need to eat meat to get protein, If not meat, it has to be tofu. I have never enjoyed any of them. Instead, I had lentils to get share of my protein and I would put that point across.  Technically tofu is made out of soy beans – not my favorite way of processing, so out of scope. Yesterday, while looking up for zuccini recipes, I came across this wonderful raw vegan videos and I almost fell in love with the idea for the great recipes that kristina shares, and she has been following raw vegan diet for 10 years. I went onto wonder, how does one get share of protein if one goes completely raw?  right?

But, here is the truth that I learned from another source, the food when consumed in natural state is not only easily digestible but also has enough protein in it that is sufficient for our human body. The moment we cook our food, we lose that protein % and have to consume more to get more nutrition. It made me ponder, as to what are we really doing to our bodies? I was just speaking to my uncle yesterday, he says back in those days, they were vegetarians for 6 days and would eat meet on every 7th day as one time meal (he also mentioned that his mother never visited hospital for her entire life other than to deliver her kids of course). That is apparently more than enough.

Ever since, I got interested in healthy organic food and produce, it kind of coming down to eating food close to its natural state (no meat please – it takes about 48 hours to digest, so much work by our body to break it up) and if that is grown out of pesticide, even better. This makes me more motivated to grow atleast some veggies/greens in our back yard. If I could, at least include one meal for dinner, the raw vegan food, I think, that would be great. I can’t wait to follow this.

I am not in favor nor against eating meat, it is up to ones personal choices and of course convenience. But, it is definitely worth to include more veggies into the diet.

What about you folks? how do you go about ensuring you are taking care of your health through food?

on Cooking..

Do you enjoy cooking?  if so, why? if not, why not?

I have never really enjoyed cooking and gladly ate what ever my roommates prepared, if not, there are plenty of restaurants around to grab a bite from. Lately, I have become more conscious of what I eat, reading more about food, nutrition, and how it impacts health in general. I have screwed my self up big time with these unhealthy habits, it has reflected on my skin. I have suffered from acne in my mid 20’s. Never in my teens.

I used to stress out when ever I had to cook. Once, I had this roommate who enjoyed cooking and feeding people. She can cook anything with in 30-45 minutes, but she would also create hundreds of dishes. I thought cleaning dishes was the easiest thing to do, and I did all through the courtship. There was not even a single day I ever had to cook. I loved it back then. She started cooking when she was 10 and she became efficient at her skill. 15 yrs in making isn’t too surprising for some one to be good at it when you love what you do. I thought, I can never be like her. True to date, I am still not even close to what she is. I am lazy and prefer simple food over complicated dishes.

I have never enjoyed the idea of cooking, cleaning every day at home. As if, in asian households, the females were and still are expected to cook – definitely not true in my case. I let any guest who comes to my home, become the chef of the home. I had no shame in doing that. Of late, the trend has been changing slowly, I love to expose my newly acquired culinary skills and creative dishes to guests. I love to experiment with variety of veggies, creating new foods, new ideas. I have been watching plenty of you tube videos, and cooking does not take much time as it used to be in the past. Now, I can make a simple meal with in 15-30 minutes. That is my dear friends is what we call “Practice make anyone perfect”. Ok, I am not perfect, but good enough to get by.

I must say, I am finally loving what I am doing (no, not always). In addition to CSA farm share, this 30 day challenge to prepare food at home everyday is making me more creative, health conscious, and most importantly, I try not use up too many dishes to clean. Which is awesome. Ever since, I have organized and cleaned the kitchen , it is the source for my renowned enthusiasm to become creative. I have been freshly preparing food every day in the morning and in the evening. It takes about 2 hours on the average that includes, washing veggies, cutting, preparation, cleaning dishes in the morning as well as in the evening.

It is hard to follow rules everyday, so I cheat once in a while, today I felt like cheating and grabbing food from outside, but decided against it and prepared fresh food in less than 30 minutes. I fell in love with myself all over again.

How about you folks?

Tip for not being overwhelmed in kitchen: Have fewer dishes, clean and plain counter tops with absolutely nothing on them, clean sink and stove = motivation to cook.

Pita Bread – what an adventure

My parents are visiting me and my enthusiasm to expose them to variety of food has increased. As part of our regular grocery shopping routine, we went to indian store. Parents spotted pita bread and asked what is it- that it could be used for? “Excited me” jumped up on the opportunity,and informed that we could make great pita sandwich, in turn got them excited as well. I told them that, I would make the delicious dinner the next day. And so, we went ahead and got all the relevant materials that could go well with it.

Given, how much I detest cooking and avoid getting into kitchen as much as I could. Putting that attitude aside, with great fervor, I prepared all the stuffing that goes well into the pita pouch bread. The stuffing, cucumbers, tomatoes & avocados were sliced and each of the item were placed in respective bowls. The time came when we had to cut the pita bread into two halves and open the pouch, fill it up, add the dressing and serve.

Just about for us to open the pouch and fill in “what ever you want to”, the pouch would not open. We thought may be it was over heated, and tried with the colder one – yet, it would not open, tried few more and yet none of them would open. Everyone were hungry and Dad on the other hand loved the stuffing and started eating with the thicker version of chapathi. Just then, I happened to call my dear partner who was on his way home, asked him to grab Pita bread from the near by store.

We waited for the whole 45 minutes with food in front of us until the new Pita bread arrived home. This new pita that was got from store few minutes back – does not have pouches either. **Seriously** This was the first time ever, I came across that does not have pouches. I could not believe my luck. I mean, we have been looking forward for such a long time and none of the three packs have pouches in the pita bread. Greatest disappointment. I started throwing tantrums and cribbed for no end. It took me a while by spoiling the atmosphere for some time until I came to terms that is what it is. Where as everyone else were quite understanding and adjusting. Later, my parents and  I ate it like a salad instead of pita sandwich. Which was absolutely delicious.

After so much of complaining & cribbing, I wanted to take a look at what the packaging label has to say, it was clearly written – Pita with no pouches (who on the earth would think that pita without pouches does exist?? ), the second one that was brought clearly stated “Pita Flat Bread” (I have seen square version of flat bread, the round version is new) – what luck. sob sob.

Tonight, we’ll make Pita Pizza- after all we have at least 16 more to go – what else can we do with them? any ideas?

Bean and Carrots – Kerala Style (Quick Recipe)

One of my colleague at work hails from Kerela, southern part of India.  One of my dream destination as well. I am looking forward to spend at least a week just roaming in the nature of Kerala.

I have been trying her food lately during my lunch sessions and fell in love with them. When I googled to make bean-carrot kerala style, I came across Vazhayila, her simple recipe that was so quick and easy to make made me do it. My measurements are not as accurate as she specified but here is the link of her recipe. I loved her food photography but I am writing this down for my future self..

Ingredients

Beans – 1 pound – thinly chopped

Carrots – 3 medium – chopped in small size 1/4 inch cubes

Mustard seeds- 1 tbsp

Grounded cumin powder – 1/2 tbsp

Curry leaves – few

Onion – 1 medium – chopped thinly

Grated fresh coconut (I used frozen coconut) – 1/2 cup

Green chillies – 5 (or more depending on your taste buds) – chopped into thin pieces

Salt to taste

Turmeric – pinch of it.

Oil – 2tbsp or less depending on how you prefer using it.

Ginger – minced – tiny bit

Procedure

1. Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, once they sputter, add Curry leaves.

2. Add all the mix at once – ( beans, carrots, chopped onion, turmeric powder, green chillies, minced ginger, salt , little bit of water) – cover and  let it cook for about 6-8 minutes or until cooked or the raw smell disappears.

3.  Now add cumin powder and grated coconut and let it cook for about 3-4 minutes uncovered and let it become dry.

4. Turn off the stove.. voila..it’s ready! . Goes well with chapathi.

Result

Bean Carrot Thoran

Bean Carrot Thoran

I loved it, Hope you like it too..