Pumpkin and Flax Seed Thuvayal (Chutney)

pumpkin, flaxseed thogayal1It is a challenge for me to include seeds such as flax seeds in everyday diet. So it feels good when I stumble upon a new idea to include something as nutritious as flax seed in as simple dish as thuvayal / chutney. Combined with pumpkin, this creates a super tasty and nutritious dish rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.

Thuvayal is a vegetable mash; kind of a thick chutney normally made from vegetables and(or) coconut, and eaten with rice. Thuvayals are wonderful in that they make it super easy to include any veggie in your meal. And flax seeds add a wonderful texture to the thuvayal. You should try it to feel the richness of the texture.

Ingredients

Pumpkin – 250 grams (de-skinned and chopped)

Flax seed – 50 grams (roasted)

Urad Dal – 1 tablespoon

Curry Leaves – 20 numbers

Tamarind – a tiny bit

Dry Red Chillies – 3 or 4 (according to desired level of spiciness)

Oil – as needed

Salt – to taste

Procedure

Dry roast the flax seeds and keep aside. Cook the chopped pumpkin without water either by flashcooking* or in an open pan. Heat enough oil in a pan. Add urad dal, chillies, tamarind and curry leaves. Once urad dal turns golden brown, take the urad dal, curry leaves out and keep aside.

In a blender/mixer jar, add the cooked pumpkin, roasted flax seeds, tamarind and chillies. Blend to a smooth paste. Now add the urad dal and just whirr for a few seconds. This adds crunch to the thuvayal. Finally, add the roasted curry leaves for garnish.

pumpkin, flaxseed thogayal-collage

*Flash cooking is an OPOS® technique of cooking food at the highest possible heat for the lowest possible time. This produces dramatic results. It heightens the flavour, colour, and texture of the food, and promises greater nutrition.

pumpkin, flaxseed thogayal

Know Your Ingredient

Flax seed,also called linseed, comes from a crop which is also grown for its fiber, linen. Linen is the oldest plant fiber grown by mankind. Flax seed is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids. It is high in fiber and low in carbohydrates, making it ideal for weight watchers. This also helps in lowering LDL cholesterol and supports heart health.

Flax seeds are high in antioxidants. A component called lignan in flax seed supports the growth of probiotics (good bacteria) in your gut, thus making your digestion better and immunity stronger. Flax seeds are the richest source of lignan. Sesame seeds come second only with about 1/7th of the lignans present in flax seeds. Lignans also help in treating hormonal imbalance. So, include flaxseeds in your everyday meal and reap its numerous benefits while enjoying its nutty flavor.

Type Seed
Form Whole, Dried
How to Buy Always check ‘best to use by’ date to ensure freshness. Prefer opaque packaging as light promotes spoilage in flax seeds.
Storage The whole seeds can be stored in a cool, dark place for a year. The ground / powdered flax seeds that are available in the market have to be refrigerated. When stored at room temperature, they go rancid within a few weeks.

 

Home made Peanut Butter

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Imagine a morning, you snoozed your alarm couple of times and for some odd reason it failed to go off again. You wake up well past your usual time and have nothing ready to prepare breakfast. The kids are also in a sleepy mode and whine at the idea of plain bread toast for breakfast. I’m sure most of you can relate to this.

Being the super health conscious mom, I try to keep homemade peanut butter in the pantry. It comes in handy in these situations and gives a perfect kick start to a busy day.

Once you try it at home, I am sure you will never go back to the store bought version for three reasons. 1. It is extremely easy and 2. It is super tasty and 3. It has absolutely zero preservatives, additives or added flavours.

Ingredients

Peanuts – 1 ½ cups (roasted and peeled)

Salt – ½ teaspoon (or more to taste)

Sugar – 2 tablespoons (adjust according to your preference)

Oil – 2 tablespoons (I used peanut oil)

Procedure

Blend everything in a mixer or blender until smooth. If you like your peanut butter chunky, keep aside half a cup of peanuts before blending. You can add this at the end and blend for just a few seconds.

If you don’t get roasted peanuts in a store near you, you can roast them yourself by spreading on a plate and microwaving on high for approximately 5 minutes.

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Know Your Ingredient

Peanut, also known as groundnut, is one of the healthiest foods.  Peanuts are a good source of vitamin E, manganese, niacin and folate. They are also rich in protein and monounsaturated fats. This kind of fat makes it a great food for heart health. Among a host of other health benefits, peanuts offer an excellent source of resveratrol, a polyphenolic antioxidant which helps in cancer prevention, reduced risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.  So, what’s stopping you? Go indulge yourself with a handful of peanuts.

Type Technically legume; a nut for common culinary purposes
Form Dried
How to Buy Look for a fresh pack which has been stored in clean, moisture free environment. Check if the nuts are whole and are not cracked.
Storage Store in a cool, airtight container. Peanuts can be refrigerated for longer shelf life.

Roasted Peanuts and Pumpkin Soup

I first tasted this soup in an Italian restaurant and the flavour was just mind blowing. I had to come back home and search all of Google to get the various versions. Finally, I came up with my own version which is not just awesome but is also healthy and made from scratch. Okay, I know I am praising myself here. But, try for yourself and do let me know. I’m sure, just like me, you too would love this soup.

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Soup topped with crushed peanuts. Can you see charred bits?

 

Ingredients you would need:

Pumpkin – 250 grams

Roasted and de-skinned peanuts – 30 grams (or just a handful)

Garlic – 2 pods

Butter – 1 tablespoon

Onions – ¼ cup (sliced)

Oregano (or any Italian seasoning) – 2 teaspoons

Cream – 2 tablespoons

Milk – ¼ cup or as desired to bring the soup to the required consistency

Salt – to taste

Pepper – to taste

Bread croutons – for garnishing

pumpkin-soup-ingredients

Main ingredients at a glance

Procedure

Chop the pumpkins into medium sized squares. If you like the smoked flavour (I love it!), char a couple of pieces on an open flame after brushing with oil. Keep aside.

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Char your way to glory!

 

Add some butter to a small 2 or 3 litre pressure cooker. Lightly roast the garlic and onions. Add in the pumpkin pieces. Top up with ¼ cup of water. Close the lid and set the pressure valve. Cook for 3 whistles on high flame. Turn off the flame and let the pressure settle.

Add the peanuts to a blender or mixer jar. Blend till the peanuts are powdered fine. Add in the cooked pieces of pumpkin (including the charred pieces) along with the onion and garlic. Blend till everything comes together. Add milk and cream to bring the soup to the consistency you like. Add salt and pepper.  Serve with bread croutons.

pumpkin-soup-final2

Roasted Peanut with Pumpkin Soup. just the golden beauty without char!

 

Know Your Ingredient

Pumpkin is a highly versatile vegetable. Just cook pumpkin pieces and blend till smooth. Your pumpkin puree is ready to go into a whole lot of dishes. Pumpkin is used right from our South Indian sambar and kootu through many global cuisines (it goes into the making of pies, breads, soups and even desserts). Pumpkin is one of the most nutrient-rich easily homemade baby foods in the world.

Pumpkin is super rich in vitamin A (which aids in better vision and eyesight). The vegetable, being rich in potassium, is a great source of energy. It is also rich in Vitamin C, which greatly helps with immunity.  Eating this vegetable is a great way to lose weight as it is rich in fiber and low in calories.

Type Vegetable
Form Fresh
How to Buy Check for firmness of skin and flesh. If you are looking to buy just a piece cut out of the whole pumpkin, ensure that it was cut not more than a few hours earlier.
Storage Store the cut pumpkin without covering/cling wrap in the refrigerator. This way, it will not rot. While using, just cut the outer dried out layer and use the rest. It will be as good as fresh. Pumpkin puree can be frozen for almost a month. If you have lots of pumpkin, puree might be a good way to store it.

 

Barley Risotto

Barley Risotto

I tend to think of risotto as the Italian cousin to our very own pulav. The arborio rice used in risotto is a starchy variety which, when cooked, gives a beautiful creamy texture to the dish. When we think of an ingredient to replace arborio rice in risotto, nothing comes close to barley. This recipe helps barley to cook into a nice sticky texture, which in turn helps get the perfect risotto.

I was introduced to barley by my physician who explained its various benefits and asked me to take it. I started consuming the water boiled with barley and later moved on to using the grains as a salad. Recently, one day, I suddenly had this brainwave, and thought, “why not make barley risotto using the OnePotOneShot method?”. So I did, and voila!, what a brilliant dish it turned out to be!1468542726428

Ingredients

Barley – 1 cup

Sweet corn kernels – ¼ cup

Basil – ½ cup (chopped)

Garlic – 2 to 5 pods (minced)

Water – 4 cups or more

Oregano – for seasoning

Olive oil – 1 tablespoon or more

Butter – 1 teaspoon

Cheese – ½ cup (grated)

Salt – to taste

Crushed almonds and chilli flakes – to garnish

In a pressure cooker, brush the bottom with butter and olive oil. Layer sweet corn, garlic and basil over the greased bottom. Top it with washed barley grains and water. Add salt. Drop the cheese into the cooker. Shut the cooker, put the valve on and cook it on high for 3 whistles.  Expect to be amazed when you open the cooker. You should be looking at the perfectly cooked, gooey, creamy risotto cooked in one shot. Garnish with whatever you like. And, don’t forget to enjoy!

Variations

Add veggies of your choice

Add flavourings of your choice

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Know Your Ingredient

I cannot brag enough about the health benefits of barley. It is nothing short of a so-called super food.

Barley is a versatile cereal with a nutty flavour. It is rich in fibre and a good source of various nutrients like manganese, selenium, copper, phosphorous, magnesium, niacin and vitamin B1.

Barley helps control constipation and lower cholesterol. It also lowers the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. It also prevents gallstones because of its high insoluble fibre.

I always make it a point to include barley grains in my mix for multi grain roti flour (yep, I grind the flour at home… that’s a topic for another post). Barley flour can be added to any bread or cake flour to get an interesting, sweet, nutty flavour to these baked goodies. The grains can also be added to soups and salads to give a rich texture. Go ahead; improve your health by including barley in your diet.

Type Grain
Form Whole
How to Buy Make sure the grains are free of moisture and are stored well
Storage Store in a cool, dry place. If you live in a warm, humid area, you can refrigerate it.

 

For more info on barley:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/295268.php

http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/health-benefits-of-barley

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=127

 

Green Peas Crispies (Microwave)

photo 1

Sunday and snacking don’t go together for me. I’m talking just about the preparing part and not the eating of course. So when it comes to Sundays and snacks, I have got to make it in advance. So this recipe comes in handy.

I was inspired by Jenna of Delicious Daydreamers. She had posted the roasted chick pea and we had even discussed if it could be done on a microwave. So last Saturday I tried it using the microwave and it turned out super crisp! The lazy me, I reserved it for Sunday snacking without the hassle of even going into the kitchen. Not that it is difficult to do it on a Sunday, but having something healthy to snack without entering the kitchen is surely tempting.

Ingredients:

Whole dry peas – 100 grams

Oil – 2 teaspoons

Salt – as per taste

Seasoning/spices (you may experiment widely with this)

I used:

Chilli powder – ½ teaspoon

Turmeric powder – ¼ teaspoon

Cumin or Jeera powder – ¼ teaspoon

Coriander powder – ¼ teaspoon

photo 2

Soak the peas in water for 8-10 hours. Drain the water and dry it on a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Spread it on a plate and microwave on high for about 2 minutes. Take it out and add oil, salt and the various spices and microwave on high till it is crisp. You might have to wait until it cools down to check if it has turned crispy. If you feel it is not as crispy as you want, microwave for a few seconds more for it to reach the perfectness that you expect. It took 8.5 minutes in my microwave with 100% power (i.e. 900 watts).  Adjust the timing according to your microwave, but be careful, since even 1 minute more than necessary in the microwave could turn your beautiful roasted peas into burnt ones. So it is always better to set a shorter time in the microwave, check the crispness of the peas, and then put them back if they are not done.

Crisp and healthy snack is ready to serve.

Know Your Ingredient

Dried whole peas is the fully mature, dried form of fresh peas. This legume, like others, is very rich in soluble fibre and hence helps lower cholesterol. Dried peas are the perfect substitute when fresh peas are not available.

Type Legume
Form Dried
How to Buy Pre-packed dry peas are available in stores. Check for impurities and bugs before buying.
Storage Always store in an airtight container in a cool and dry place. Refrigerate or rather freeze them to increase the shelf life drastically.
Usage Soak them for 8 -10 hours before cooking. If you don’t have that much time, soak it in hot water for 2 -3 hours.