Saturday, July 19, 2014

BLT Salad

BLT reminds us of sandwich with Bacon lettuce and Tomato.    I enjoyed this delicious salad at a kids camp, where I was volunteering.  The ladies in the kitchen prepared it for about 200 people.  There were several trays, full of  this colorful salad.   As the lunch time was approaching, I couldn't wait to try to this salad.  The lunch also came with black forest ham sandwich and juice.  The lunch was so delicious!  I thought my family would enjoy it just as much as I did....  I knew the basic ingredients used in this salad i.e Bacon , lettuce and salad.   I put it together and prepared it for weekend lunch.   They loved it all and it was quickly vanished from the bowl!

Ingredients:
Bacon - few strips cut in pieces
Tomato -  1 diced
Lettuce -  romaine lettuce washed and cut into pieces
Marble cheese - shredded 1/4 cup
Cucumber- 1 diced
Frozen Green peas/ sugar snap - 1/4 cup  microwaved  for few mins.  Sugar snap can be used fresh. 
Dressing:
Sour cream - 1 tbsp
Mayonnaise - 1 tbsp
parmesan cheese - 1 tsp
Salt , pepper
vinegar - 1 tsp
sugar - 1/4 tsp

Method:
 Combine BLT and other ingredients in a bowl.
Mix the dressing in a separate bowl and toss it all together to coat the salad.


For Bacon:  Place bacon in a  skillet. Cook over medium high heat, turning frequently, until evenly browned. Drain the excess fat, crumble and set aside.




Friday, July 4, 2014

Cantaloupe carving

Here is a beautiful carving made out of a Cantaloupe.   It takes lots of patience and practice to get the excellent results but this one seems to be pretty easy, though looks very complicated.  Makes a good table decoration for special occasions.  We can make two out of a single cantaloupe.
Here is the method:
1.  Choose a firm Cantaloupe. 
2. Draw two lines across, in the middle of the Cantaloupe.
3. In between the two lines,draw big V shapes going up and down all the way around.
4.With a sharp knife cut the V lines.
5. Separate the two lobes.
6. Peel the skin half way through making it look like a petal.
7.  To make extra petals, cut a little piece off between the petals, to make it look like they are separated and not clumpy.
8. cut the base off to keep it nice and steady.
Place it in any table decoration.





Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas rum cake



  Christmas is the time for food and food and lots of food, In every gathering, every party... But if you don't have the proper kind of cake, it's  takes off the show... In India, during the Christmas season we used to gift the cakes to people around us to spread the joy and cheer of Christmas. Me and my younger sister used to go cake shopping,  on my two wheeler.   We normally used to go to a baker who makes cakes in Mettuguda, Hyderabad.  He runs his business from home.  He is always busy during this season.  He and his sibling works in that small rented room, sifting the flour, mixing, baking etc.  We had to place an order and pickup after a week or two.  The cakes he makes is so delicious, that you want to eat up everything.  I didn't know the name of the cake at that time...it was black, with fruits and no icing.   When I came to Canada , I didn't get that kinda taste anywhere.  I didn't even know the name of the cake to buy or ask the recipe.  Some times I used to enjoy the same kind of cake in the weddings, in India.
Couple of years ago, a friend of mine from Jamaica shared her cake with me... It reminded me of the days of Hyderabad. My curiosity mounted and  showered her with too many questions, what is the name of the cake, what is the recipe ?  Where can I get it to buy?  She told me, that it is Jamaican rum cake, and you will not get to buy it anywhere because they don't make it in stores.  She happily shared her recipe.    It is so tasty that you will forget you are eating the cake without icing. It took me several years to obtain the name and recipe. So, here it is for you....


Ingredients:
2¾ cups Raisins
1¾ cups currants
1 cup Candied Peel
½ cup Walnuts
1/3 cup Prunes, chopped
1/3 cup Candied Cherries, halved
2 cups Brown Sugar
1½ tsp each Vanilla and Almond Extract
½ tsp Nutmeg
¼ tsp Cinnamon
Pinch  of each:   ground Ginger, Allspice and Cloves
1 cup  Rum/ Sherry/ port wine
1 cup Unsalted Butter
5 eggs
1 tsp to 1 Tbsp Browning (depending on how dark you want your cake)
1½ cups All-purpose Flour
½ tsp each baking powder and salt


 Method:
This cake has 4 stages of making, as opposed to regular cake .  

1. Soaking the fruit:   This is the major part of, this kind of  cake making.  If you know how to soak it you've won half the battle. Many people soak their fruit  for 6 months to one year ahead! Fruit that is soaked for that long will get very nice dark color. It doesn’t even need to be ground to paste because it will dissolve by itself into a thick fruit puree while mixing.
Combine raisins, currants, peel, walnuts, prunes and cherries. Add 1/3 cup brown sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves. Stir in ½ cup of the rum.  Soak it in a Air tight bottle and store it .
Instant method of soaking the fruit:
One day ahead, in microwaveable bowl, combine raisins, currants, peel, walnuts, prunes and cherries. Add 1/3 cup brown sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves. Stir in ½ cup of the rum. Cover and microwave at High for 10 minutes, stirring twice; let stand overnight. In large pot, bring fruit mixture and ½ cup of water to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often; set aside to cool. When fruit is cool, use a hand or stand blender, or a food processor to puree the fruit with 2 Tbsp of water.

2. Cake mixing:
In large mixing bowl, beat butter with remaining brown sugar, beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add fruit mixture and browning, blending well. In another mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt; fold in fruit mixture until well combined.

3. Baking: Pre- heat the oven
 Pour batter into two greased non-stick 9×5-inch  circle or loaf pans.
Place pans into 275 degree oven for 2 hours or until tester inserted in the center comes out slightly wet.
Let cakes cool in pans for ½ hour then turn out onto cooling rack and cool for another ½ hour

4. Liquid shower:  Combine remaining rum with port to make 1 cup of liquor; poke holes in the cakes with a skewer and pour ½ cup equally over the bottom of cakes.
Once the liquor has soaked into the cakes, carefully turn them back into their pans and pour the remaining liquor over the top of each cake. Cover with foil and let stand for 3 days.



Tip:1. For the black cake,  the dark colour is obtained on how much of browning you use and how long you soak the fruit in liquor.
 2. For those of you who don't use the liquor, grape juice can be substituted.

Storage Tip: Cakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap and Aluminum wrap on top and store it in a air tight tin at room temperature.  It stays for up to 1 month. If the cake dries out, just pour more rum or port over it.





Monday, September 2, 2013

Berry Almond salad

I dropped by at Wendy's for lunch, and was looking for some healthy options in the menu.  There, I found Berry almond chicken salad.  It was very good with the raspberry vinaigrette.  It was perfect meal in itself for me, coz it has protein from chicken and also protein from vegetable source(almonds), the goodness of berries and freshness of tomatoes...  But I felt, It was overly priced. I wonder why the healthy options are overly priced and the fat laden food is priced low. It looks like they don't want us to eat healthy... lol !!   I thought, why don't I make it at home... I replicated the recipe and here you go, you got the recipe to enjoy too...  If you have the left over barbecued  or grilled chicken or roasted chicken pieces from the Thanksgiving dinner, toss it into the salad.Vegetarians can skip the chicken. Raspberry vinaigrette kicks up the notch. It adds zing to any salad.  You can make it at home and  feed 20 people with the amount you spend outside.


Ingredients:
Lettuce - 1 washed and torn in pieces ( romaine or iceberg can be used)
Cherry tomatoes - 5 sliced in halves
Strawberries -  washed and cut in 4 pieces
Blueberries - 1/2 cup washed
Slivered Almonds - 3 tbsp
Kraft raspberry vinaigrette - 2 tbsp for dressing
Grilled chicken  -  Optional ( Vegetarians can skip this item)

Method:
Take a salad bowl and put the lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, grilled chicken, drizzle with vinaigrette and toss.  Sprinkle  toasted and slivered almonds on top and serve.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Oats & nuts laddoo

Allergy warning:  This recipe contains peanuts and other nuts.
Many schools, daycares,  child care facilities, Social and public places  in Canada are peanut free zones.  Especially ,the kids areas are restricted and strictly supervised.  It is restricted to the extent that kids cannot bring a snack which contains nuts, nor can they bring a Birthday cake to the school which is  prepared in peanut processing unit .  Kids safety is the primary concern in these places because allergy to nuts is a serious condition in Canada.  It is life threatening and  sometimes can prove fatal.   Poor kids has to remember to carry epipens with them to schools and other places. There is nothing much we can do about it, except preventing them from getting exposed to such incidents.  

Oats and nuts laddoo is the healthiest snack .  It is a power packed healthy snack.  Have a couple of it for breakfast or pack it for your office snack.  The goodness of the nuts and the properties of oats makes it the healthiest snack. Especially, if it  prepared in a healthy way , dry roasted, powdered and rolled into sweet edible balls. It is not just healthy but inexpensive to make,  long storage life and easy to take with you, on the go....

Eating nuts as part of a healthy diet can be good for the heart. Nuts contain unsaturated fatty acids  i.e good fats  that your body needs such as mono saturated and poly saturated fats. They are  also rich in omega-3 which are good for the heart and the brain.  All nuts contain fiber, which helps lower the cholesterol.

The other main ingredient of this recipe  is OATS
Oats is the significant sources of dietary fiber. The fiber has proven effective in lowering blood cholesterol. Oats, like other grains  contain hundreds of phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that can reduce a person's risk of getting cancer.The soluble fiber of oats  when consumed,  forms a gel. The gel delays stomach emptying making you feel full longer which helps with weight loss



Oats and nuts Laddoo
Ingredients:
Oats  - 1 cup dry roasted
Peanuts -   1/4 cup  dry roasted
Cashews - 1/4 cup dry roasted
Almonds - 1/4 cup dry roasted
Sesame seeds  -   2 tbsp dry roasted
Jaggery  - 1/2 cup  Powdered or grated
Cardamom powder -  1/2  tsp
Pure Ghee - 4 tbsp approx

Method:
Take a pan dry roast peanuts, cashews, almonds, sesame seeds, oats separately for few minutes  till golden brown. remove from heat and transfer into a bowl.

In a blender  coarsely grind all  the nuts and oats separately.

Grind or grate jaggery.

In a bowl mix  all the ground ingredients , add cardamom powder and ghee. Mix and
knead  all the ingredients well. Divide the mixture into equal portions and make  it like round balls (ladoos).

 This can be stored in a air tight container for more than a week.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tabbouleh

 
  In India, in the good old days people had an exceptionally healthy food. The most popular grains in those days were wheat, corn, rye, barley, jowar, millet, unpolished brown rice, straight from the mill were available in those days. They had healthy long life consuming these delicious grains.  Each variety of the grain offers different  taste, texture and nutrients covering the entire dietary requirements.  This naturally vitamin/ protein/ mineral/ fibre enriched grains are most forgotten in this new generation fast food days.
 
Recipes of our earlier generation
The most popular recipes using the ancient grains in those days were Jonna rotte from Telangana(  flat bread made with sorghum flour)
Ragi mudde from karnataka/ Rayalaseema ( steamed dough balls made with rye  flour) Ambali  ( nutritious drink made with ragi flour)
makki- di - roti from Punjab( flat bread made with corn flour)
Thepla from Gujrat ( flat bread made with whole wheat flour). 
We can notice that they never used lard or hydrogenated oils in their preparations. Our unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits are the  main risk factors for the Type 2 diabetes, cadio vascular diseases, obesity etc.
 
Kamut
A friend of mine is suffering from Arthritis .  Her doctor suggested her  to take Kamut bread, kamut flour as an alternate to the wheat based diet.  I never heard this word " kamut "- pronounced "ka- moot". After she started using it, she was much relieved of the pain.   When I did research about this ancient grain, I figured it out as the "magic grain".  Looks something similar  to wheat .  Originated from Egypt. KAMUT grain is one of the oldest known to man and has a great number of advantages over normal wheat for many people with wheat intolerance.  It is extremely gentle to the digestive system.  It is a good alternative for the wheat.

Kamut has no fructose. It has a rich, buttery flavour and excellent texture, crust and crumb. It has a sweet taste with no hint of bitterness. The grain is packed full of energy and highe  protein levels than wheat.

Kamut is higher in  minerals .It is rich in B-Vitamins (needed for energy release) and in iron and folic acid, (essential in red blood cell formation) . Kamut contains significantly more of the natural antioxidant, higher in vitamin E. This grain also contains more amino acids .
 
Bulgur, Couscous and Quinoa
I got this recipe from a Pakistani friend, who is an expert in middle eastern cooking. I discuss lot of cooking related topics with her and get great tips and suggestions.
In this recipe, traditionally bulgur wheat ( Bulgar wheat is the result of boiling, drying, and cracking wheat kernels) or couscous is used ( couscous is a form of wheat  with flour coating) But, I wanted to try to use some ancient grains  ( Quinoa) into this recipe and see how it tastes.  It turned out to be delicious.

 "Quinoa"  pronounced -  keen wah. Quinoa a versatile and delicious grain, it is the "mother grain".  It is a complete package of nutrients, meaning it has all nine essential amino acids, which boosts the immunity, improve muscle quality, and regulate hormone production. It's also a great source of high-quality protein, fiber,  riboflavin, thiamine, and niacin, which helps to metabolize energy.  Quinoa is called as "Sajjalu" in Telugu. Most of the ancient grains can be obtained from the whole foods, Health food stores in  Canada.  Sometimes it is also available in bulk barn. 

Parsley health benefits:
Parsley is the main ingredient in this recipe.  By the way, Parsley I used is from my own herb garden.
  • Parsley is rich in many vitamins, including Vitamin C, B 12, K and A. Parsley keeps the immune system strong, helps bones and heals the nervous system, too.
  • It helps flush out excess fluid from the body, thus supporting kidney function.
  • The folic acid in this special herb can help control blood pressure.
Tabbouleh
Ingredients :
Quinoa  - 1 cup cooked and cooled to room temp
Olive oil - 2 tbsp
Curly or flat Parsley - 2 cups, washed , stems removed and finely chopped
Fresh mint - 1 tbsp finely chopped
Tomatoes -  1 big size  washed, deseeded and chopped
Cucumber  - 1/2 , peeled, cored, and cut into small pieces
Red onion - 1 small peeled and finely chopped.
Fresh lemon juice - 3 tbsp
Orange rind - 1/4 tsp
Salt and black pepper

Method:
Cook quinoa like rice. Measurement: for  1 cup quinoa, take 2 cups of water.
Boil the water, add Quinoa and cook.  Lower heat and cook covered for 15 mins. Switch off the flame and  let is stand covered for another 5 mins. Remove the lid, fluff it gently with a fork.  You should see tiny spirals ,curling around the quinoa seeds. Let it cool down to room temp.

Dressing:  Prepare dressing by mixing lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and mint.
 
In a big bowl add chopped parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, onion  and cooked  quinoa. Pour  the dressing over the salad, and mix well. Refrigerate about 5-10 minutes before serving.  Serve it with pita bread, crackers, on a wrap or just as a salad by itself!

 


Let us broaden our food horizons and invite the ancient grains back into our lives for a healthier and longer life.