Friday, January 30, 2015

Going Carb Free For a Day - A Trial

First I want to apologize for the empty blog post. I did not realize I had hit publish. Here is the full post.

Indian diet has many positive elements with its emphasis on fresh produce, fragrant spices and a variety of tastes. The one problematic part of the diet though is the carbohydrate overload. Most of the curries, chutneys and stir fries cooked are best with and one derives maximum pleasure only when enjoyed with either rice or wheat breads.

While the carbohydrates heavy diet was good for our forefathers who worked from dawn to dusk and did physical work. Carbohydrates were necessary to give energy to the body. Fast Forward to today with most of our jobs being sedentary, eating habits though have not changed much, we still eat the same amount of carbohydrates and have upped the intake of sugar considerably. We sure know how hard it is to get away from a habit formed over a long time.

Besides my doctor brother insists that the Indian diet lacks protein another essential building block. Giving up some of the carbohydrates might make way for some of the required protein, green vegetables and fruits.

While I am certainly not overweight I have extra baggage in the mid-section and thighs and my body could certainly use less of sugar and unnecessary snacks rich in guess what - carbohydrates and salt. As I have confessed in these pages I am a compulsive snacker. I buy snacks saying it is for the kids and whenever I reach for a box of cookies or snacks in the store DH just smirks, he knows who will have their hands first in the cookie jar literally.



Remember on our recent trip to Costa Rica I mentioned staying in a jungle lodge and that a family runs the place. Anyway the lady mentioned about her unique diet and when asked shared with us a book she references for keeping her rheumatoid arthritis in check. She also spoke about how she who was unable to situp and stand without going through pain, is now able to do it without any problems. I read the book which was inspiring and I was determined to incorporate some of it into our diets here.

First and foremost is to add more fruits and vegetables. While I am not a big salad fan there are ways to make a salad palatable (avoid the lettuce!). Do not use store bought dressings that carry an overload of sugar and salt. Make your own, it is easy and light.

On this step towards cutting out some of the unnecessary baggage to cut out the junk literally is when I decided to embark on a no carbohydrate diet. I am planning to do this twice a week. No Carb Mondays and Wednesdays is the plan.


So how is the question,
  1. First and foremost do not skip any meals.
  2. Keep fruits and vegetables handy.
  3. Beans are your friend.
  4. So is Avocado and home made or plain Greek Yogurt.
  5. Do not, do not indulge in flavored yogurt, they have more sugar than desserts.
  6. Snack on nuts or fried green peas or wasabi peas.
  7. I did not say no to desserts did I?

I do not believe in dieting. I would love to fast for a day but I know I can't and perhaps I will end up indulging in something in a moment of weakness.
Here's is how I tackled my carb free day.

Disclaimer: This is not meant to be dietary advice but a slice of food that worked for me in keeping simple carbohydrates away.



Breakfast
  1. 1/2 grape fruit
  2. 2 Breakfast patties - Dr.Praeger's Spinach Pancakes
  3. Smoothie made with 1/4 cup of mangoes, 1/4 cup of blueberries, ice and water. (you can add 1 tbsp of basil seeds or chia seeds)
  4. Mid day snack - 1 cup of cucumbers and carrots





Lunch
  1. 1 cup of red kidney beans curry (Rajma curry)
  2. 1 Avocado with chilli sauce sprinkled on top
  3. 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt with a tsp of honey and a few blueberries



Evening Snack
  • a handful of fried green peas - Indian style snack



  • Dinner
    1. 4 chicken meatballs (Costco bought) in a tomato sauce.
    2. 1/2 cup of home made yogurt (if needed) - I skipped

    See when I had a plan there was no need for snacking, this I feel was the biggest revelation. At the end of the day I was not craving for anything and felt good about myself.

    One question you might have is how about all the store bought stuff with home made foods. So in place of the breakfast patties I can substitute a roasted or boiled sweet potato. These breakfast patties are very similar to the Indian cutlets so I can make some and freeze, this way they can have all the vegetables I want and leave out ones I don't want. A boiled egg or scrambled egg with peppers and mush room will be a good alternative as well.

    If I cannot get hold of Avocado I can replace with sweet potato or a bowl of mushrooms cooked any style I want.

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    Tuesday, January 27, 2015

    Fool Proof - Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

    Fried chicken is something that the kids like. While eating at Popeyes once in a while is OK but eating there whenever they felt like it would give me blood pressure in no time. So I had to figure out a way to make some seriously delicious chicken at home.

    Making deep fried chicken poses its own set of problems. So roasting is the compromise not on taste though. The chicken is marinated for a couple of hours at least whereas the vegetables don't have to be marinated. If you want to marinate it not to be done for more than 20 minutes.



    Some recipes roast the chicken and vegetables together. I prefer to roast them separately as the roasting time for both are different.


    Get the chicken drumsticks ready. Remove skin and place 2 slits. Prepare the marinade.
    Place the chicken and marinade in the ziplock bag and let it sit in the fridge. Get a baking tray lined with aluminum foil, spray and set the drumsticks on it. Bake in a preheated oven for 30-40 minutes till it is completed cooked, can be checked by using a knife to check if the meat is completely white. Red indicates that the meat has to be cooked more.
    Prepare the vegetables and bake them in the top tray for about 20 minutes.
    Serve the roasted chicken and vegetables just by themselves or with some tortillas.



    Roasted Chicken and Vegetables
    Preparation Time:15 minutes + 2 hours marination time
    Cooking Time:30-40 minutes
    Ingredients
    1. 8 drumsticks - remove skin, wash, pat dry the moisture and make slits on the drumsticks on either side
    2. Vegetables - Green Beans, Radish, Carrots and Grape tomatoes - slice the radish into round, cut the carrots as stick and split the tomatoes in half
    3. Marinade for the chicken
    4. 2 tsp of soy sauce
    5. 1 tbsp yogurt
    6. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder
    7. 2 tsp turmeric powder
    8. 1 tbsp tom tom sauce (or any stir fry sauce or just leave it out) OR 1 tbsp of tomato paste
    9. salt to taste
    10. 1/2 tbsp of olive oil
    11. 1/2 tbsp grated ginger + 1/2 tbsp grated garlic
    12. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together. Take the drumsticks in a ziplock bag, pour the marinade shake so it is well coated and keep it in the refrigerator for at least couple of hours or even longer.
    13. For the Vegetables
    14. Mix all the vegetables except the tomatoes in a tsp of oil, black pepper and a tiny bit of salt.

    Method
    1. Pre heat the oven to 400F. Line a baking tray with foil and spray with oil. Set the marinated drumsticks on the tray and bake for 30-35 minutes in total. Turn half way through and bake till it is cooked completely. When poked with a knife there should be no red inside.
    2. Place the vegetables on a greased baking tray in a single layer and bake on the top rack and they should be done in about 15 minutes or so.
    Serve with corn tortillas on the side.
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    Sunday, January 25, 2015

    Corn Tortillas - Chola roti

    Making Corn Tortillas at home has been a long time wish. On our trip to Costa Rica corn tortillas invariably served during breakfast became a favorite - soft and light what is not to like?

    Friday's morning forecast said wintry mix Friday night into Saturday, that meant if it was a little over an inch of snow we'd be stuck in the house unable to go anywhere. These are days I look forward to even though I hate the snow, because they are perfect to try out recipes that have been on the to-try list. So I bought a big bag of maiz harina or (Maize) Corn Flour. As snow predictions in the DC area go it is correct about 25% of the time. So by night the forecast had changed to icy rain but in the morning there was nothing sticking on the ground. So corn tortillas had to wait.



    Anyway this morning presented a good enough chance to try the corn tortillas. Compared to learning to make chapthis or rotis with wheat flour making corn tortillas are very easy. The poori press came in very handy to press the tortillas because being gluten free the corn flour does not lend itself to being rolled without breaking apart.

    I followed the recipe on the Meseca flour bag and it worked pretty well Corn Flour is not be confused with corn starch which is used to thicken sauces and coating for deep frying. This Corn flour is ground corn used for making tortillas or other breads. The Indian Makki di roti which is the staple in rural parts of Punjab is very similar to the corn tortillas.

    Take corn flour and salt in a bowl, add about 1/4 cup of water and mix it into the flour.
    Add more water a little at a time till the flour comes together into a smooth dough. Not too dry or too wet.
    Keep covered with a damp towel till ready to use. Take a small lime sized ball of dough and place it in between 2 sheet of plastic on a poori press or tortilla press.
    Press to circular discs of about 3-4 inches in diameter. Transfer the pressed tortillas onto to a heated griddle.
    Cook the tortilla on one side till it starts to get spots or rise a little bit.Flip and cook on the other side. Keep warm wrapped in a towel till ready to eat.



    Corn Tortillas - Chola Roti
    Preparation Time:5 minutes
    Cooking Time:20 minutes
    Ingredients
    1. 2 cups of corn flour
    2. 1/2 tsp salt
    3. 1/2 cup of water

    Method
    1. Add the salt to the corn flour and slowly add the water while mixing the flour and water with the tip of the fingers till the dough comes together.
    2. The dough should not be tool dry or too wet. Keep covered with the damp towel till ready to use.
    3. Keep two thick pieces of plastic ready. I just split a zip lock bag by cutting into two.
    4. Take a small lime sized piece of dough and roll into a smooth ball.
    5. Heat a griddle and using the poori press, press the ball between the 2 pieces of plastic into a flat disc.
    6. When the tortillas have been pressed to the desired thickness transfer them onto the heated griddle.
    7. Cook on one side for a minute till bubbles start to appear. Flip and cook on the other side for another minutes.
    8. Keep it warm in wrapped in a cloth towel till ready to eat.

    Serve with roasted vegetables ,chickens, red beans and rice for that matter any curries of choice.

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    Thursday, January 22, 2015

    Okra - Lady's Fingers with potatoes - Dry Stir Fry

    I like the name ladies fingers for the vegetable much better than its name I refer to it most often now - okra. Okra has long been a favorite vegetable when stir fried just with onions and green chilies like this recipe or this one cut lengthwise.

    Whenever I stir fry okra I think of my friend who moved from Maharashtra to my home town. Chapathis or rotis were not a popular lunch box item those days. While this friend always brought chapathis with these amazing side dishes but the one I remember most was the okra stir fry.

    I was reminded of that when I started making this recipe. While the two recipes linked above will work perfectly with soft and airy chapathis today's recipe will be even better.

    In a cast iron smear with oil and dry roast the okra till it is almost cooked. When the okra is sauteing in another wide mouthed pan heat oil, add seasonings followed by the green chilies and onions.
    Cut the potatoes into small thin strips. Add to the sauteed onions and stir fry for 4-5 minutes.
    Add the chili, turmeric, cumin powders and salt, followed by the tomato paste and saute so they are well mixed. Add 1/2 tbsp of water if required while the potatoes are cooking
    Add the roasted okra and let the potatoes and okra continue to cook for another 7-8 minutes till both vegetables are cooked and it is nice and dry.



    Okra with Potatoes -Stir Fry
    Preparation Time:15 minutes
    Cooking Time:30 minutes
    Ingredients
    1. 1 lb of okra/lady's fingers, cut the tips outs and chop into small thin rounds
    2. 2 Potatoes peeled and cut into thin slices
    3. 1/2 cup of diced onions
    4. 4-5 green chilies slit
    5. 1/2 tbsp chili powder
    6. 2 tsp turmeric powder
    7. 1/4 tsp cumin powder
    8. 1 tbsp tomato paste
    9. 1/2 tbsp oil
    10. seasonings: cumin and mustard seeds

    Method
    1. In thick bottomed pan or cast iron pan coat with oil and add the cut okra and saute with regular stirring till most the slime is gone and the okra is almost cooked 8-10 minutes.
    2. While the okra is roasting heat another saute pan and add the remaining oil and when hot add the seasonings. When the mustard pops add the onions and green chilies and saute till they are translucent.
    3. Add the thinly sliced potatoes and saute for another 4-5 minutes.
    4. Add the turmeric, chili, cumin powders and salt, mix and add the tomato paste and mix again. Let it cook till the potatoes are almost cooked. Add 1/2 tbsp of water if required.
    5. Add the roasted okra and continue to saute for another 7-8 minutes till everything is cooked and is nice and dry. Once the okra is added do not add any more water.
    6. Serve as a side for chapathis or any rice dish.



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    Tuesday, January 20, 2015

    Millet (Pearl and Finger Millet) Roti (flat bread)

    In my quest to limit the amount of wheat I came up with a variation to the regular old wheat chapthis to include millets and the end results was tastier than the original. The good thing is compared to even a few years ago millet grains and flour are readily available in most Indian grocery stores here in the US.

    I bought a bag of bajra flour (pearl millet/cumbu) to use for making dosai. I usually mix the bajra flour with idli/doasi batter that is sour. Trying to make chapthis with the bajri flour was the next logical step. In Rajasthan where bajri roti is a staple it is made with all bajri flour and that was not the roti I was trying to make. I have used a combination of pearl and finger millets along with wheat flour.


    Take the chapathi flour(atta) in a bowl. Add the finger millet flour (ragi mavu).
    Add the pearl millet(cumbu mavu).
    Add the whole wheat flour, the curd and salt.
    Add 1/2 cup of water first and using your fingers mix the flour with the water to make a stiff but pliable dough.
    The dough should not be too wet or too dry. Apply oil on top and let it rest for at least 20 minutes or as much as 2-3 hours.
    Take a small lemon sized piece of dough and roll it out into a 3-4 inch diameter circle.
    Heat a griddle and when hot transfer the rolled dough and let it cook till bubbles start to appear. Smear some oil,
    flip and cook on the other side.

    Adding the millet flour makes rolling the chapathis much easier and they are also much softer than plain wheat flour chapathis when cooked. A little care is needed while rolling out the dough as there is not much gluten and it does not stretch and tends to break if rolled too much.



    Millets Chapathi/Roti
    Preparation Time:15 minutes + 20 minutes rest time
    Cooking Time:20 minutes
    Ingredients
    1. 1 cup chapathi flour (atta)
    2. 3/4 cup of finger millet flour (ragi mavu)
    3. 1 cup of pearl millet flour (cumbu mavu)
    4. 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
    5. 2 tbsp of plain yogurt/curd (avoid for a vegan version)
    6. salt to taste
    7. 1/2 tsp of oil

    Method
    1. Whisk the flours together along with the salt. Add in the curd and add about a 1/4 cup of water.
    2. Mix in the flour with the water so the mixture comes together into a stiff but pliable dough. Take care not to add too much water while making the dough and not too little that it is dry.
    3. Apply the oil over the dough and let it rest for 1/2 hour or as much as 3-4 hours.
    4. Take a lemon size ball of dough and roll it out into a circle about 3-4 inches in diameter. Use some dry wheat flour to dust while rolling.
    5. Heat a griddle/tawa and when hot transfer the rolled chapthis on to the hot griddle. Cook on one side and when bubble starts to appear flip and cook on the other side. Apply oil if needed.
    Serve with curry of choice.

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