Soulful and Soupy: Veggie Chili

A warm soup on a cold day – pretty much how heaven must feel! As an omnivore, chili is my fave because because it of its depth of flavours, chunkiness and ability to constitute a full-fledged meal.

Of course most traditionalists would scorn at chili without beef but veggie chilies are fast becoming the rage and for good reason — meaty veggies such as mushrooms and butternut squash, coupled with a well-spiced bean broth could get a carnivore lining up for seconds.

Here’s a super simple no-fuss recipe I follow that is a hit with both my baby and baby daddy: 

For four large meal-sized servings,

You will need:

One cup of red kidney beans, soaked and cooked (you could use canned)

Two cups of chopped veggies – butternut squash, beans, mushrooms, corn

Half an onion, chopped

Two small pods of garlic, chopped fine

Two tomatoes, diced 

Oil

Salt 

Hot sauce

Cumin powder – one teaspoon

Handful of cilantro / coriander leaves, chopped for garnish

Handful of grated cheese of choice for garnish

Baked tortilla chips, also for garnish  (optional)

Chopped green onions for garnish (optional)

Water

Method of preparation: 

Coat the bottom of the pan with oil. Add on the onions and garlic. Once the onions cook to translucence, add in the diced tomatoes. Put the lid on and let the tomatoes cook down into a sauce. For this, medium flame is ideal and occasional stirring necessary.

Once the tomatoes cook down, add in the veggies and a cup of water and cook with a lid on. After about 20 mins, add in the cooked kidney beans with about a cup of the water they cooked in. Season with salt? hot sauce and cumin. Cook with lid over a low flame for 2o mins. If you wish for a thinner sauce, add in some water. Also, taste adjust for salt and spice.

Garnish with any or all of the following: chopped coriander leaves, chopped green onions, grated cheese and baked tortilla chips.  If you wish to bulk up the meal, add in some cooked rice.  

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Ayurveda : the goodness of turmeric

By Shalini Kolluri

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My grandma used to say that there was nothing this golden spice couldn’t do. Coming from India, turmeric was used as a home remedy for almost every little ailment. It made frequent appearances in curries, soups and herbal ointments. Initially, I detested this spice as it is the source of some of the most stubborn stains I have seen in my life. However, this wonder spice has grown on me over the years. If used carefully and appropriately, you couldn’t have a healthier ingredient in your kitchen.

Turmeric powder in ayurveda is often referred to as the ‘Queen of Spices,’ its main characteristics are its unique aroma, a sharp taste and a golden-yellow color.

According to the Journal of the American Chemical Society, turmeric contains a wide range of antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticarcinogenic, antimutagenic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Turmeric has been used as a substitute for saffron (an old world spice) in Europe for over 700 years. One of the main healthful  chemical in turmeric is curcumin (a curcuminoid), which gives turmeric its yellow color. Western scientists first isolated the curcumin molecule in 1815, obtained its crystalline form in 1870, and determined its overall structure in 1910.

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Turmeric is native to South Asia, particularly India, but has been cultivated in many warm regions of the world such as – Indochina, Peru, Haiti, Sri Lanka and Jamaica. Peru is the leading exporter and Iran is the largest importer of this spice.

Besides being a coloring and flavoring agent in Indian food, it has numerous medicinal applications in Ayurveda since 5,000 years. It has 46 different synonyms in the Indian languages, including: ‘pitta’ (yellow), ‘Gauri’ (brilliant), and many other words.

It has been shown to treat skin, heart, and liver and lung conditions. In the same vein, they’re thermogenic, meaning they naturally support your metabolism to help you burn calories. You feel satisfied more easily, so you eat less. Studies show that consuming certain herbs and spices before each meal can potentially reduce your caloric intake.

It is also loaded with many healthy nutrients such as protein, dietary fiber, niacin, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc. Due to all these factors, turmeric is often used to treat a wide variety of health problems.

The science behind Turmeric:-

Scientists are beginning to understand the importance of turmeric in modern disease. In both India and Pakistan, where curry/turmeric is a dietary staple, boast much lower incidence of cancer than in other countries where turmeric is not regularly used.

I read that the ongoing studies have shown that curcumin inhibits an enzyme called Topoisomerase, which stops cancer cell growth and proliferation.

The active properties of curcumin are best called ‘protective properties’ as they prevent deterioration of food and possibly help prolong our life span.

Down below, I’ve listed two common home remedies using turmeric.

  • Apply a paste of turmeric on the skin before bed, and wash off in two minutes. In the morning remove any remaining yellow tinge with a paste of chickpea flour and sesame oil. Since, turmeric has anti-bacterial and astringent properties, it greatly enhances your skin tone and adds a notable glow. But, keep in mind that you don’t keep it on your skin for over 2 minutes as it can stain your skin deeply.
  • A pinch of turmeric is added to a mug of hot boiled milk and mixed. I never add sugar to this but, the taste of turmeric milk eventually grows on you. This is said to relieve minor coughs and a running nose. Turmeric consumed this way is said to have great benefits for people with arthritis.

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Precautions while using turmeric

1) Pregnant women are advised not to use turmeric. Turmeric being an anti-inflammatory agent can contribute to stomach ulcers.

2) Normally turmeric in food is safe. However, since it acts as a blood thinner, those who require surgery must stop taking any form of turmeric – food or supplements a couple of weeks before surgery.

3) It can also react with diabetic medication and medication taken to reduce stomach acid.

Turmeric powder is extracted from its root. This humble spice with its sunny color has innumerable benefits when used right. I sincerely hope that you find good use for it.

Down below, I have provided a link describing the step wise process to remove a turmeric stain,  in case you get unlucky while using the yellow spice. I suggest you use an apron while using turmeric.

http://www.wikihow.com/Remove-Turmeric-Stains

Hope this was informative. I hope you fall in love with turmeric just as I did!

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beet stir fry – Indian style

By Shalini Kolluri

I love beets. They look great, they add a natural sweetness to any salad and they are packed with awesome nutrients.

Before I get into the scientific facts that make beetroot one of the most nutritious vegetables there is, here is a fun fact – Beets are nature’s Viagra! The ancient Romans used it as an aphrodisiac. Beets contain a high amount of boron which aids in the production of sex hormones. Besides, the nitrates in the beets increase the blood supply to your genitals which in turn increases your sexual appetite.

This mechanism of action is very similar to that of a Viagra. The nitrates are converted into nitric oxide which expand your blood vessels so you can enjoy more oxygen, nutrients and energy. Did you know that 70 ml of fresh beet juice can lower your resting blood pressure by 2%?!

The sugars in the beet are smart carbs. A cup of cooked beet has only 60 calories and loads of fiber. Not only is it sweet, it is also very similar to chocolate. It contains very high levels of tryptophan that helps combat depression and creates a sense of well-being similar to chocolate! Pregnant women can also benefit largely from this wonder root as it is rich in folic acid and iron content.

I hope I’ve managed to convince you that beet isn’t a special occasion dish and that it should make an appearance on your plate almost every day.

Though I love my beets in salad, I also like preparing them the Indian way. Its earthy sweetness and rich color makes cooking them as well as eating them an absolute treat. Hope you enjoy eating this version of beetroot. Let me know if you like it.

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Ingredients:-

1 beet (big), peeled and grated

½ tablespoon turmeric

1 small red onion, minced

1 tablespoon grated coconut

1 tablespoon olive oil

5-6 curry leaves

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon mustard

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon red chili powder

2 teaspoons coriander powder

Salt to taste

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Method:-

In a skillet, heat the oil on medium.

When the oil is sizzling, add in the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Wait till the curry leaves look slightly fried before adding in the minced onion.

When the onion turns golden brown, add in the grated beet and turmeric.

Mix the ingredients in the skillet and add a few drops of water to ensure that the beets do not stick to the pan. Cover with a lid and keep stirring every few minutes.

Cook on medium for 15-20 minutes till tender.

Turn off the heat and add salt, cumin powder, coriander powder, grated coconut and the red chili powder. Mix thoroughly. Serve with rice or Indian flat bread (roti).

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dish love : fishs eddy

By Shalini Kolluri

I believe that food shouldn’t only appeal to your taste buds but also to your eyes. You don’t have to be a culinary genius or a trained chef to make sure your food looks appetizing. This includes simple things like playing with the right color combinations or choosing the right dishes to serve your food. For example, a white square plate used for serving your kebabs or tomato sauce can make sure it stands out in a back drop of white drawing more attention to you food. Another favorite of mine is the wooden plate, it not only makes a colorful salad look great, it also looks good with what ever you chose to set on the table.

As a dinner ware and cutlery enthusiast, I love shopping for glass ware and plates in NYC. I was super excited to stumble upon this rad store on the corner of 19th and Broadway called Fishs Eddy.

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We do dishes’, declares a sign at Fishs Eddy and a visit to the Union square emporium proves that this statement is truer than true. Dishes and glassware are piled high, and browsing around the shop is like a treasure hunt, discovering gems of wit and quirky humorous displays. Their trademark humor has helped make this brand unique. When I visited their store this weekend, I came across some really funny hand painted wooden blocks.

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The shop started almost thirty years ago by husband and wife, Dave Lenovitz and Julie Gaines. Julie, a painter, met Dave, an antique dealer. They got together and leased a cozy shop near Gremercy Park. They filled it with dishes and cups found in the basements of supply shops and goods from manufacturers going out of business. Soon, they developed their own product working with overseas factories to replicate the double fired, heavy gauge dinner ware that they are famous for. They developed their own iconic designs such as that of the New York skyline pattern. They also used their products to market their own brand of political satire.

There are local artists showcased in the gallery as well. A lot of designs come and go, but the most popular ones stick around. Most of them are New York based designs and some are not.

I will definitely go back there when I need to pick up presents for birthdays and Christmas. This place is filled with cutesy cute and funny dishware that will make any dinner ware lover such as me very happy.

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The staff is sweet and customer focused. Always smiling and eager to help.

FYI, if you are visiting and don’t have the desire to lug your purchases back home, they have most of their products available on their website.

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Easy Breezy, not-so-cheesy, fish Quesadillas 

By Mini Kolluri

  

As a Canadian mom, I often feed my daughter quesadillas – much easier to make than the other toddler favourite pizza and much less effort. My quesadillas are not authentic Mexican but they are layered in their composition and have a depth of flavour that makes them both comforting and delectable. And what’s even more awesome is that they achieve their flavour without compromising too much on nutritional value.

There’s whole grain goodness, a lean protein and plenty of vegetable and the cheese is but a binder and a bait for the little ones. For the fish quesadillas we are about to make I used wild tilapia, mostly because my daughter eats them with enthusiasm but feel free to use other white fish that could have higher omega-3 content and lesser scope for contamination.

For two medium-sized fish quesadillas,

You will need:

Two whole grain tortillas

A generous handful of mild cheddar, Monterey Jack or mozzarella or ideally a mix of at least two

One tilapia fillet or other white fish

Half an avocado

Lime juice

A little onion and tomato, diced

A few leaves of cilantro, chopped

Salt

Ground Pepper

A small pod of garlic

Three tablespoons of all-purpose flour

Oil

Method of preparation:

Marinate the fish in salt, pepper, lime juice and a dab of minced garlic. Let it soak up flavours for about half an hour. If you are in a rush, use it immediately.

Then, dust a cutting board with flour. Place the fish on the flour and press lightly so it gets coated on one side and then the other with flour. 

Coat a skillet with oil and heat. Once it’s hot enough to seat the fish, place the fish in and cook over medium heat. Flip the fish in about two minutes to the other side. Once both the sides are golden brown, take the fish out and place over a tissue and gently remove the excess oil. The fish should be crisp and golden brown.

Dice up a little onion, tomato, avocado and cilantro. Shred a handful of cheese. Turn on the skillet again. If there isn’t oil in the pan, add a tablespoon of oil and spread with a ladle. Add in the tortilla. Place diced fish, veggies, herbs and cheese in layers on the bottom half of the of the tortilla. Fold to form a semicircle. Press lightly with a plate. Flip and cook till both sides brown slightly and the cheese melts. Cut in halves and serve.

 healthy quesedillas, kid -friendly quesedillas,   fish quesedillas, tilapia quesedillas 

 

Red bell pepper spread

By Shalini Kolluri

As someone who wants to be on a strictly plant based diet, it doesn’t matter that my sandwich doesn’t contain cheese or mayonnaise. Sandwiches are little adaptive parcels of culinary goodness that overcome all hurdles.

Sandwich spreads are a big reason why this lunch still makes me smile.  Overtime, I have worked on many recipes and by far, this one is my favorite.

Red bell pepper when roasted has a fruity sweetness that gracefully balances the pungency of the garlic and the tomato.

I have always wondered why the red peppers taste entirely different from their green counterparts. Turns out that green peppers are harvested way before they ripen. They are slightly bitter and the least expensive of all the peppers.

The green ones turn yellow and the yellow ones turn orange. The yellow and orange peppers are sweeter than the green ones. However, the ripest of the lot are the red ones. Pimento and paprika are made from the red peppers.

This dip has a shelf life of 3-4 days when refrigerated. Although, it’s best when eaten fresh.

Bon appetit!

Ingredients:-

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large tomato ( chopped into pieces)

1 red bell pepper ( chopped into pieces)

1 green chili

1 cup cilantro

1 clove garlic

1 red onion ( small)

1 teaspoon honey

salt to taste

Method:-

Heat oil in a skillet on medium high

Add in the chili, garlic and onion. Saute’ for 5 minutes.

Once the onions turn golden brown and the garlic is fragrant add in the tomato and bell pepper.

Cook on medium till the bell pepper pieces are soft for 12-14 minutes.

Remove from stove and cool the mixture. Add in the honey.

Grind the cooked mixture of ingredients in a food processor/ blender into a coarse paste.Transfer the purée in to a bowl and use as spread/dip.

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Grilled rustic bread with a tomato topping

By Shalini Kolluri

Grilled rustic bread can support a variety of toppings. However, the cherry tomato and olive topping is my favorite. Not only is this recipe quick and relatively easy, it is also light and full of flavor. One bite into this delicious appetizer and you can appreciate how beautifully the flavors and aromas work together.

Dill – This is a unique plant as its seeds and leaves can be used for seasoning. This herb originated in Russia and Scandinavia. Over time, it has made several appearances in today’s fusion food and central European cuisines. It contains a full array of nutrients such as, fiber, sugars, sodium and amino acids. The wispy and fern like leaves have a soft and sweet taste.

I prefer using dill in this recipe as it subtly compliments the other ingredients used here. You could substitute it with thyme or basil too.

Hope you like this recipe. Let me know what you think.

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Ingredients:-

8 slices of rustic bread (1 inch thick)

1 clove of garlic (cut in half crosswise)

Salt

½ cup olives (sliced)

1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in halves

Dill springs (for garnish)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Extra-virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon Chili flakes (optional)

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Method:-

Heat grill to medium. Toast the bread slices until golden brown, for 4 minutes on each side. (or you can toast the slices on a skillet on medium-high for 2-3 minutes on each side.)

Remove the toasts from the grill and immediately rub with cut side of garlic head. This brings out the fragrance of garlic.

Drizzle the olive oil generously on the toast. Sprinkle with salt and oregano.

Toss tomatoes and olives with vinegar, a drizzle of oil and chili flakes.

Spoon onto toasts and garnish with a few dill springs. Best served immediately.image

Sesame asparagus

By Shalini Kolluri

Did you know that water makes up 93% of asparagus? It is low in calories and low in sodium level too!! Okay, now that I’ve got your attention, let me be a sweetheart and give you some more good news.This wonder vegetable is a great source of vitamin B6, dietary fiber, folic acid and potassium too!

Asparagus is most commonly eaten in Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Germany and Turkey. Although, the first time I ate it was at a local restaurant in China town.I remember being  blown away by its subtle and unique taste.

Freshness is key to the perfect flavor of asparagus. It is always good to check if the stems are firm and have a velvety sheen. The tips should always be firm and intact. Trimming off the rough ends before cooking is advised since they don’t get tender like the rest of the vegetable. Asparagus does a great job of working with various flavors and absorbs the essence of garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame or lemon. The best way to know is to start experimenting with different kinds of flavors.

The wonder that is sesame oil –

Sesame oil can improve heart health by reducing the risk of coronary damage and lowering your blood pressure when it’s high. Not only is it a great anti-oxidant and anti-cancer agent, it also makes your skin glow like nothing else! Receiving massages with sesame oil is really popular in India. According to ayurveda, this practice, is supposed to increase the blood circulation to your skin, calm your nerves and sleep better at night!

I prefer doing most of my stir frying with sesame oil. Hope you love this recipe as much as I do.

Ingredients:-

1 splash of olive oil

2 teaspoons sesame oil (heat pressed)

1 pound fresh asparagus trimmed (cut off the rough ends)

½ tea spoon kosher salt / Himalayan black salt

4-5 teaspoons water

A pinch of ground pepper

¼ teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)

Method:-

In a non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil over high medium-high.

Add the asparagus into the oil and then add the salt and pepper to this.

Cook, stirring often, for 4 minutes.

Add the water, and continue to cook until easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, for another 3 minutes.

Sprinkle the sesame seeds and the remaining 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and serve.

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Bitter melon love

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By Tenzin Kheshong

Bitter melon is a hard vegetable to sell to someone who hasn’t eaten it before. It’s not one of those vegetables that people easily fall in love with. It’s an acquired taste, I tell my husband. Unfortunately he doesn’t buy (or bite, rather) that theory. It doesn’t help that the melon looks as it does. Nonetheless, I have tried to cook it more often at home so that he slowly gets used to its taste and we lead a somewhat healthier life.

20151023_154347The first time a non bitter melon-eater tastes it, they will probably swear it is their last time too. I don’t blame them. I felt that way too when I first started eating it. Even now, I can’t eat it any other way but fried. The crispiness takes away a bit of the bitter taste in the mouth. But I didn’t like that fact that it was soaked in oil. Frying it sort of defeats the purpose of this very healthy vegetable.

I knew bitter melon was good for diabetes. But a simple search on the web shows that this vegetable is great for treating many other ailments – from cancer to digestion. This website has more details of the health benefits of bitter melon.

Last spring my aunt visited my sister and me and she brought with her, a new, healthier bitter melon recipe! Ever since then, I’ve changed the way I cook this vegetable. Just a little salt and butter is all it takes. Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:

-Bitter melon

-Salt

-Butter

Method:

  1. Cut the bitter melon into thin slices
  2. 20151023_154247I add the salt at this stage and let it rest for at least an hour (so that I can squeeze out a bit of the juice and the bitterness later)
  3. 20151023_155124On a non-stick pan, add a small amount of butter. I add enough to coat the pan when the butter melts.
  4. If you are okay with all the bitterness of the vegetable, you can add it to the pan at this stage. But I squeeze out the juice a little (it’s more palatable for my husband) and then add it to the pan.
  5. 20150329_140952On medium flame, let the bitter melon cook. Spread it across the pan so that it cooks evenly. Stir it as a few times to cook both the sides of the bitter melon.
  6. 20150528_111018It should take about 15 to 20 minutes to become crisp.
  7. IMG_2529Notes:

-To me, this recipe tastes best eaten immediately because it is still crisp.

-I always make this a side dish. The taste can be overpowering even for me, so I blend the strong flavor of this vegetable with a main course.

-If you are trying bitter melon for the first time, I suggest you don’t buy too many. Maybe two is enough just to get a taste of the vegetable. But I assure you, as you eat it more often, you will soon start enjoying the bitterness.

Cashew onion dip

By Shalini Kolluri

I usually prefer eating my roasted potatoes with the creamy cashew onion dip.

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A well made cashew dip can serve as a starting point for those of you who just like me, want to start weaning off cheese.  Although it isn’t the perfect substitute, it is still finger-lickin’ good. Once you get the hang of making a basic dip, it is so much fun to start playing around with different flavors. You could make a basil cashew dip or a garlic cashew dip depending on your taste. I’ll be happy to include a few different versions of the cashew dip later on in the blog.

Ingredients:-

1 cup cashews soaked for 2 hours

½ teaspoon lemon juice

½  hot green chili (or 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes)

5 tablespoons plain water

Cilantro (washed and chopped for garnish)

½ small red onion

Salt to taste

Method:-

Put all the ingredients except the water and cilantro into the blender / food processor and pulse.

Gradually add the water into the mixture depending on how thick you want your dip to be.

Once the desired consistency is reached add in the cilantro.image