Oh Chicken!

Feb 29, 2012

After meatless Monday, guess what I wanted for dinner? Chicken, chicken & chicken..I have been doing this meatless Monday for about three weeks hoping to get in more vegetables, beans & legumes but I do think about meat...

On most days, I eat rice & curry of some sort and I am little tired of it..Last night, I found some chicken thighs and vegetables waiting for me in the refrigerator and turned them into one easy, healthy dinner- Easy Basil Chicken.

Ingredients
3-4 chicken thigh with no skin
1/2 cup dried basil
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 tablespoon red crushed pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
salt & pepper to taste

Directions
Pre-heat oven to 375F
In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients to make into a paste
Add chicken thigh to the bowl and marinade it well
Place chicken thigh in a greased baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until it looks golden brown

Notes: Add vegetables such as onions, sweet peppers, mushrooms 5-10 minutes before the chicken is ready. Just drizzle some olive oil and some salt and pepper.



Whenever possible, buy chicken or any meat with skin removed or remove skin before you cook or bake. As much as it tastes good, all the fats are lodged in that skin which is probably not so good for your heart and overall health.

It paired well with rice and because of yogurt, the chicken was pretty tender and I enjoyed the mild aroma of basil...

Ultimate Banana Nut Bread

Feb 23, 2012
I had this weird craving for sweet bread for a while but I was having a hard time finding a recipe that was both healthy and used ingredients that I already had at home. So glad I stumbled upon this recipe, only one word to describe it - Amazing!!! 
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I have weakness for fresh baked breads, so I always try to find a healthier version without compromising on the taste..I have had some before that is either too dry, bland or  lumpy but this recipe, believe it or not, does not use any sugar, oil/butter or egg.. I was little wary in the beginning but that all changed quickly when I took the first bite-it is my ultimate banana nut bread :) 
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I adapted the recipe from www.lovefoodeat.com but tweaked it a little depending upon the ingredients I had at home. The original recipe calls for flax seeds which supposedly replaces eggs in the recipe. I got little experimental and took the risk without without any flax seed. The bread turned out pretty moist, was mildly sweet, and chopped walnut added some crunch to the bread which I really enjoyed..


    Ingredients
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 cups mashed banana (preferably overripe)
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (may use any other nuts) 
    •  6 tbsp water
    • 1-2 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

    Directions:
    1. Pre-heat the oven at 350 degree F
    2. Mash the banana well.
    3. In a big bowl add the flour with baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and mix well. now add the chopped walnuts and stir together. Add the mashed banana, add water and stir till it’s combined. It’ll be a hard dough but don’t be tempted to add any more water. Do not over mix. Just stir till it forms a hard dough.
    4. Fold this into a greased loaf pan and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
    5. Bake for 50 to 60 mins till it’s well risen, crusty and golden on the outside. A toothpick inserted right in the center has to come out clean and that’s when the loaf is cooked.
    6. Let the bread cool down completely. It’ll be sticky and hard to cut into when it’s still hot.



    Organic Mom Alert!!

    Feb 17, 2012
    We all know that arsenic is no where close to food, it is rather used for industrial purposes right...But yesterday's headline was pretty hard to miss-"Arsenic in Baby Formula".. So, if you have a toddler on a organic formula, you should probably read the ingredient list to see if they contain brown rice syrup listed first among ingredients.

    Researchers tested 17 infant formulas, 29 cereal bars and three types of energy shot drinks. Two infant formulas - one dairy based and the other soy based - listed organic brown rice syrup as their primary ingredient. They both contained arsenic levels 20 times higher than the other formulas made without organic brown rice syrup. Although they did not reveal which brand was tested for research purpose, ABC News conducted an online search for baby formula with organic brown rice syrup as the primary ingredient and found two products, Baby's Only Organic Dairy Toddler Formula and Baby's Only Organic Soy Toddler Formula, both made by Nature's One. The researcher said that there's no immediate danger in cereal bars and energy shot drinks. 

    Arsenic can be found naturally in water, soil, rocks etc..It can leech into our drinking water but thank god, our government is looking out for us by testing it. There is a data base for exposure to arsenic in drinking water but there’s nothing out there on food. May be it is time to look  closely into this and come up with a guidelines for arsenic exposure in food. Who knows how much arsenic we ate with our dinner last night?

    It is just frustrating to see how uncertain our food industry is today..We are surrounded with bunch of chemicals, every bite we take is full of MSG, High Fructose Corn Syrup, and we are feeding our child bowl of arsenic...Yummy...What a delightful meal!!!

    Arsenic is dangerous- it is a carcinogen and may also cause skin, lung and intestinal irritation as well as miscarriage and infertility.

    Source: ABC News, TodayHealth

    Plates of Nostalgia

    Feb 16, 2012

    It does not matter how odd, small or lame Salt Lake City or Pocatello may sound to most people out there but its the people, memories, struggles, and good times we all shared together that makes it meaningful and most importantly it helped shape us become who we are today....

    Candies certainly helped kill some boredom and anxiety while we waited to board our plane...



    On the plane, learned that Diet Cocacola supports a national awareness campaign-The Heart Truth  


    And finally The Most Awaited,  Big Moment...it started and ended with  good food,  great drinks  unlimited laughsss..


    ♥ Mo:Mo
    We all just need a reason to eat Mo:Mo


    Choila, typical Newari dish (Newar: ethnic group of Nepal).
    Grilled meat with tons of flavor. 



    How do you say NO to late morning Chai?


    We all had to eat lunch at our all time favorite  Ming's Cafe, a Chinese Restaurant. We all agreed to one thing- No matter which Chinese restaurant we go to, it does not taste the same as Ming's...The food was still excellent and very reasonably priced..

    My Favorite Chicken Curry




    Most of us ordered what we always have been ordering and the funny thing is everybody else remembered each other's favorite! 

    Dosa for brunch? Yes Please..



    And soon before we realized it.. the weekend was over!!

    Photo: coffeloveronadmission
     Bittersweet Goodbyes with Frappuccino



    ...although we all live in different cities & have been apart for a year or so.. it's amazing to see how easily we click...Guess, that is what great friendship is all about..Already looking for yet another weekend of the familiar faces, goofy acts, and heaps of memories to cherish...




    MSG: Is it really that bad?

    Feb 9, 2012





    Monosodium Glutamate or MSG. There is some chilling in my refrigerator from last night's Chinese take-out and as I look around my kitchen, I see more..bag of Tostitos, cans of soups, sauces and let's not even go into the freezer! Within past decade or so, MSG has become one of the most popular food additive in our food industry.



    MSG is the salt of amino acid-glutamic acid. This glutamic acid is a non-essential amino acid meaning our body is capable of producing it. But the MSG that is synthesized outside the human body is believed to be slightly different and thus has caused so many controversies and confusion among consumers.

    It is simply a white powder, by itself has quite an unpleasant taste. When used in desired ratio, MSG is believed to bring different taste profile that is different from four classic taste: sweet, sour,salty and bitter; something called umami. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) ingredient since 1958.


    Although FDA says it is safe for human consumption, there has been many anecdotal reports of adverse reactions to MSG such as nausea, headache, hyperactivity, sweating etc which is also known as MSG Symptom Complex. However, no research have yet found any definitive link between MSG and these symptoms. Due to this reason, FDA requires food companies to list MSG in their label. Therefore, it is very important to read the food label especially if you are sensitive to MSG as our manufacturers are very smart when it comes to labeling. 

     Some common MSG synonyms are: yeast food/nutrient, anything hydrolyzed/hydrolyzed protein, gelatin, soy protein isolate, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate  

    So, whats the big deal with MSG?

    Besides the sensitivity to MSG, it is viewed as toxin and is believed to cause many health related issues such as brain damage, asthma, obesity, and diabetes to name a few. As of yet, there are no human studies that have shown conclusive evidence on the ill-effects of MSG. 

    Most of the food that contains MSG is processed, pre-packaged which also happens to be relatively higher in calories, fats, and sodium. It does not surprise me to see people blaming once again on just one ingredient to cause multidimensional problem of obesity & diabetes. 

    The amount of MSG that is in our food is safe for human consumption. More long term human research is needed in this area to see if MSG is really as bad as it is believed to be. 

    BUT, if you are sensitive to MSG, read the labels carefully, and while dining out, request your food to be made without MSG or ask your server for MSG free options. And even if you are not sensitive to MSG, it is always better to use fresh ingredients and avoid frozen, pre-packaged food as much as possible!! 

    Photos from google images 

    Homemade, Flavored Paneer

    Feb 1, 2012
    Paneer, otherwise famous as Indian Cheese is pretty versatile.. used in a lot of classic Indian dishes such as palak paneer, panner tikka, and my favorite shahi paneer curry! Unlike most cheeses out there, paneer does not involve rennet- an enzyme used as a coagulating agent during cheese making. Also, it does not melt when heated..

    Paneer
    Source:   images.wikia
    I am not much of a paneer eater, but every now and then I eat if it is cooked in a really good curry. Paneer, by itself does not have much flavor and has somewhat tough texture! It can be fried, curried, grilled and used mainly in appetizers, entrees.

    I have seen my mom and grandmother make paneer but never thought about flavoring it.. simple, yet genius- whoever thought of it. I got inspired by a chef from Brilliant Restaurant in West London- voted for Chef Gordon Ramsay's Best Restaurant and adapted the recipe based on available ingredients.

    Ingredients:
    1 gallon whole milk
    2 lemons, seeded, squeezed or add until milk curdles
    1/2 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
    1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
    1/2 teaspoon curry powder (optional)


    Directions:
    1. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk on medium flame
    2. Once the milk starts to boil, add cilantro leaves, crushed pepper and curry powder and stir slowly
    3. Reduce the flame and slowly pour lemon juice and gently stir
    4. Once milk fat and whey separates, turn off the heat (whey: white/grayish liquid left after milk curdles)
    5. Drain the whey using a strainer and cheesecloth
    6. Wrap the cheese curdles tightly in cheesecloth and squeeze out all the liquid
    7. Press the cheesecloth  using a heavy object overnight ( I placed pan filled with water on top of cheesecloth)

    Notes: 
    1. Herbs such as mint, parsley can be substituted instead of cilantro  
    2. For curdling the milk, vinegar or leftover whey from a previous batch can be used. I  do not recommend using lime juice from bottle :(  it did not curdle very well on my first attempt  
    3. Storage: Cut paneer into desired shape or leave it as block and refrigerate in airtight container or freeze it if not using within 1-2 weeks
              
    Curdled Milk



              

    Final Product