Fresh Spring Rolls

Mar 29, 2012

I these spring rolls because I can eat more than only two without feeling guilty. Eggs rolls are delicious too, but since it is fried,  it looks better on my not-so-regular-food list. 



 Spring rolls have million possibilities, you can choose to go all meat or veggie or whatever combination your heart desires. I decided to take the veggie route with some avocados and chili sauce.


Avocados are always hard & miss but this time was just perfect...

Makes: 6 half spring rolls
Ingredients
3 rice spring roll wrappers 
10-15 vermicelli noodle sticks, boiled per direction
1 carrot & 1/2 cucumber, cut into matchstick 
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 freshly squeezed orange (may use lime/lemon)
1 tbsp sesame seed, toasted (optional)
2 tsp soy sauce
Salt, to taste

Directions
1. In a small bowl, mix carrots, cucumbers, half orange squeezed, soy sauce and salt.
2. Place wrappers in warm water until pliable.
3. Soak wrappers with paper towel until dry.
4. Place carrots, cucumbers, noodles, and avocados on the wrapper.
5. Wrap them tightly until everything seals properly.
6. Cut them into halves and put on a plate.
7. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top.
For chili sauce: In a ramekin, mix chili sauce and soy sauce together.

Note: It's a great appetizer and very flexible with ingredients. I did not have lemon/lime so instead I used freshly squeezed orange. The sweet, slight tangy flavor of orange blended very well with other vegetables and avocado. Adding toasted sesame seeds gave some crunch that was needed to compliment the soft wrapper, avocado and noodles on the inside. 




I struggled to wrap them tightly...



Mo:Mo Wrapping Tutorial

Mar 27, 2012

This post is for everyone who wants to learn how to wrap mo:mo (dumplings).

Here a  Mo:Mo Recipe from my previous post and enjoy this very short video.








Coca Cola Chocolate Cake

Mar 26, 2012
Well, this month I was going to forbid desserts altogether (I had it all planned, made sure the chocolate stash was clear before the end of February). But the mission FAILED completely! First there were cupcakes, then some people decided I had to cut birthday cake twice (in spite of knowing my dessert rule-almost feels like a conspiracy), then I discovered a Weight Watchers, apparently "awesome" cake recipe..It's like universe was telling me not to end this sweet relationship.




It's a box of cake mix and a can of diet coke. The recommendation is to use dark colored soda for chocolate cake and light colored soda for vanilla or white-cake. Nutritionally thinking-which I do more than half the time, it's a good way to cut down ~ 650ish calories from 3 eggs and 1/3 cup of oil. 

For crying out loud, I could not find a decent answer other than "soda moistens and helps with leavening" when replaced with eggs & oil. I guess I will take that for an answer, given my knowledge on baking!

So, is it a keeper recipe? Yes and No.

It was extremely delicate and did not hold very well--my  biggest problem! It was very moist and tasted pretty good. Few of my friends tried and they could not tell any difference except that they enjoyed "brownies" rather than a cake. If there is a way to make it little bit more dense, I would certainly make it again. If any of you got ideas, please share :)








Peanut Butter Hummus

Mar 22, 2012
Although it is more convenient to buy a jar of hummus to accompany veggies or crackers, I was not too excited to step outside on a rainy crappy day or days we have been dealing with..I had zero motivation to do anything but eat, apparently when its gloomy, my appetite becomes one bottomless pit--surprised?
 
The fridge and pantry were pretty deserted! I did some hunger-rescue food search mission but to no avail. Its funny how I do all the grocery shopping and I know what's left in my kitchen..still I secretly hoped there was some magic food/ingredients waiting! Well, there was one, a can of chickpeas hiding behind the empty cracker box. And the fastest, easiest route with chickpeas is hummus, or at least that's what came to my mind. Google, of course pulled up 100+ recipes in matter of sec only to find I do not have sesame seed for making tahini (sesame paste used traditionally for making hummus). But I stayed patient, typed two extra words "without tahini" and ta-da..another 100+ recipes :) and since I almost never run out of peanut butter, I decided why not give this a shot.



 Peanut Butter Hummus

The recipe is based on combinations of  >100 online recipes +  almost empty pantry + laziness to drive <0.5 mile = extremely delicious hummus and free math refresher exercise for all of you!

Ingredients:
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup, smooth peanut butter
~ 1/4 cup + 1 tps olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
paprika
warm water for blending
salt (optional-because peanut butter is already salty)

Directions
In a food processor, combine all ingredients except paprika and blend to a dip consistency. If it is too thick, add more warm water. Sprinkle paprika and drizzle 1 tsp olive oil at the end.


chickpeas: great source of fiber, protein & folate

Serve with veggies, pita bread, crackers (if you have any) or in my case- improvise!!
Cut up tortillas, spray some oil and sprinkle spice mix (dried basil, parsley, garlic power etc) , bake it in oven @ 325 F for 10-15 minutes or until crispy :)


Absolutely ♥ ♥  

Bread Breakup, Maybe?

Mar 20, 2012
Its hard but not impossible..

I am thinking about breaking up with store-bought bread! As I am already madly in love with this homemade banana nut bread, may be its about time..A recent report from CDC found that bread and rolls are the top source of sodium in America’s diet, not chips or pretzels. Thanks CDC, it's helped me take decision about bread sooner.

You  know, I like to get proactive (only) when it comes to food, so to avoid any future bread shortages, I made a fresh batch of whole wheat bread inspired from this blog but made very few changes.
I promise I read my ADA journals and not just wrap bread!


Whole Wheat Bread

Ingredients
  • 3 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 3 tsp sugar 
  • 3 tbsp whole milled flax seeds (flax seed 101) 
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 cups of club soda, room temperature
FYI: Flax seed can be used as an egg replacement! To replace one egg:1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds and 3 tablespoons water. Stir together until thick and gelatinous.


Directions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375F
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients and combine well. 
  3. Pour 2 cups of cub soda and combine everything well.
  4. Fold the dough into a greased loaf pan. 
  5. Sprinkle some more flax seeds and sesame seeds on top. 
  6. Bake at 375F for 45-50 minutes till the toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Wait for the loaf to cool down a bit before you cut into it.
Storing it? I wrap bread in aluminum foil and place it on top of the fridge. Since it does not last more than few days, I do not exactly know the shelf life.

The bread came out little underdone so I had to put for additional 5-8 minutes. It's pretty wholesome but little bland for my liking but again I like peanut butter or honey with everything!

Okay, I am little crazy (my brother agrees too and asked me, "you not gonna grow your own rice, are you?"), I am not a total nutcase. It makes me feel better knowing that every bite is merely 6 ingredients vs. who know what.


It is not feasible to do everything from scratch, grow vegetable garden or have a farm. But if I can spare countless hours on face book, I am sure I can fit baking something simple as this one somewhere. Or I could continue stalking on facebook (now common don't lie) while the bread is in the oven!






Word of Advice: Just do not get carried by wedding and spring break pictures while the bread is in the oven! 


I am sending this recipe over to Cooking With Wholefoods where the chosen ingredient is whole wheat flour. For other delicious recipes from fellow bloggers, click here:

 and also don't forget to visit Kiran's blog for further information about this event.

New Potato in Town..

Mar 19, 2012
Sunday Blues are regular with me..mostly its all about folding and ironing never ending pile of clothes..but yesterday was different for once. You know this whole craze about "no white diet" which means eliminating everything that looks white- rice, white bread, potato, pasta, sugar and so forth. I don't get all black and white deal but I know this for sure-cauliflower despite its white head has found its new calling-every one is raving about comfort of mashed cauliflower and surprisingly delicious cauliflower pizza crust-none of which I have tried so far..But I thought why not embrace some changes around here (i.e. no folding or ironing on Sunday) I made cauliflower kebab instead of good old potato kebab..



Cauliflower is one versatile vegetable; needless of say it is high in fiber, non fat, high in vitamins such as C & K..


Cauliflower Kebab

Yield: 13-15 kebab
Ingredients
1/2 cauliflower head, steamed & chopped
1 potato, boiled & mashed
1/2 onion, chopped
1 carrot, steamed & chopped
2-3 tablespoon all purpose flour
2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon mint chutney (optional)
salt & chillies per taste
any oil except olive & mustard for pan frying

Directions
1. Make sure all the vegetables are steamed (except onions) and chopped to same size.
2. In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients. The mixture should be somewhat solid.
3. Make palm size patties.
4. In a non-stick pan, heat oil and place patties and let it cook for 5-7 on each side or until brown.
5. Serve hot with ketchup, mint or any other chutney.



Overall was a great recipe especially, with all the different vegetables there was some crunch in every bite. I would say even better than some of the potato kebabs I have had before. On my first attempt, I struggled to keep the patties together,  so I added some more flour. Otherwise, its fairly easy to make, could be served as an appetizer or on a side.



Cupcakes, Done!

Mar 10, 2012

...After the epic failure of red velvet cupcakes,  I get stressed when it comes to baking, and this time was no different..I made cupcakes for 1 year old boy's birthday party, but the good thing is, it was a major success..These simple, fun cupcakes made my day because not only kids but everyone really enjoyed it..

 If you are a novice baker like me but want to impress the crowd, try this delicious 

I made 3 batches ~ 38-40 cupcakes the night before and stored it in airtight container. It was very moist the next day. Instead of lemon zest, I added orange zest and doubled the amount of vanilla extract because I wanted it to very vanilla-iy..and the frosting was store bought- cream cheese frosting..









Is Organic the answer?

Mar 7, 2012
Organic trend began within last few years or so and they were found only at health stores but now cant pass an aisle without spotting at least 2-3 organic products at the supermarkets..some supermarkets even have separate section for organic & natural products ! And this has created a lot of confusion among us buyers because there's conventionally grown bananas at $0.69./lb and $1.19/lb for organic ones..well they are both bananas, same amount of calories, sodium-free, good source of potassium, but which one should you choose?

Usually, the conventionally grown produce and other products are less costly but does that mean organics are much safer, more nutritious to you and your family?

Source: Google Images
Organic basically refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products like fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy etc. They use natural pesticides, manure, and give animal organic feeds, allow them to access outdoors. Whereas in conventional methods, chemical fertilizers are used to promote plant growth, herbisides are used to  manage weed growth and animals get hormones, antibiotics and other medicine to prevent diseases and growth spurt.

Remember to check the USDA Organic Label. USDA has established a certification program that requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards.

Products that are completely organic — such as fruits, vegetables, eggs or other single-ingredient foods — are labeled 100 percent organic and can carry the USDA seal.

But if the food contains more than one ingredient, such as breakfast cereal, can use the USDA organic seal but depending on the number of organic ingredients, it could be either 100 percent organic or just organic (products must be at least 95 percent organic to use this term).

Do 'organic' & 'natural' mean the same thing? 
No. They do not mean the same. In order to say 'organic', they have to meet USDA requirement while as of now there no standard definition for natural.

Are organic products more nutritious? 
The answer is still not clear. Many studies have looked into organic and conventionally produced food and found comparable nutrients but the research still continues for more concluding evidence.

You may choose organic over conventionally produced food products for many reasons including superior taste, pesticides, environmental concerns, food additives and that's great! But one downside to organic is the cost which is not affordable to most of us. Whatever you choose to eat for you and yourself, always keep these things in mind:

-Select a variety of foods from different sources in order to get better mix of nutrients
-Buy fruits and vegetables in season
-Read, Read & Read food labels and ingredients list carefully
-Wash, scrub, and clean fruits and vegetables under clean, running water

Remember, organic does not automatically mean it is healthy, read the labels because it could still be loaded with added sugar, fats, and sodium.


March is National Nutrition Month-as if I have not already told you all but still once again- whether your plate is full of organic or conventionally grown foods, be mindful of what is in your plate.


Debunking Food Myths

Mar 3, 2012
This is the first week of National Nutrition Month and I think this is a perfect time to look at some myth that relates to nutrition. Nutrition is a very grey area and it sometimes frustrates me as well when I can't find clear cut answer but I am going to try my best to address myths that I come across the most!

-Eating more protein will lead to bigger muscles: Protein is necessary for us about 10-35% of total calories but that varies depending upon different situation! Well, eating too much in unnecessary because it the resistance training exercises in which you use your body weight helps build your muscles and not extra protein. Try to get your protein from actual food sources such as: meat, poultry, nuts, dairy rather than spending hundreds of dollars in protein shakes and bars.

-Eating after 7 PM will make you fat: So not true. Our body does not automatically start storing fats after 7PM.  It mostly depends on what and how much you eat throughout the day. If you want to lose weight, instead of eating 1 or 2 big meals a day, spread your meals throughout the day so that you do not overeat in the evening. Also, try to increase your activity to burn some extra calories.

-Egg yolks are bad: Many people throw away egg yolks because it is thought cause high cholesterol. Egg yolks do have cholesterol but now research is showing that the dietary cholesterol does not have much impact on blood cholesterol. Egg yolks contains fat-soluble vitamins-ADEK and half your daily requirement of choline-essential nutrient for the brain. Proteins & fats from eggs for breakfast will keep you full and prevent you from overeating.

 -Ground turkey & ground chicken is better than ground beef: Not necessarily. Ground turkey and chicken can be made from any part of birds including dark meat and skin. Therefore, always check the nutrition label for the fat contents of meat and poultry before purchasing.  
Starting March 1, 2012 FDA has made it mandatory to provide nutrition label (in meat package or available in the store) for raw, ground, meat and poultry.

-Eating gluten-free is healthy: Gluten-free has become a very hot topic and many people claim to  lose weight eating gluten-free. Gluten-free products are made especially for people who have Celiac Disease. Gluten-free diet eliminates a lot of processed food and it could be the result of that rather than eating gluten-free processed food.

Get Your Plate in Shape

Mar 1, 2012
Finally, the long awaited March (after an extra day) is here.. and the whole month we are going to celebrate National Nutrition Month. This year's theme is "Get Your Plate in Shape" reminding everyone to be more mindful of the foods we eat.


We all know what should go into our plate right but we have speed bumps along the way such as time,energy, motivation, grocery available etc. It is a constant battle, some days we win and other times we promise to do better from tomorrow.

This month I encourage everyone to look at every meal you put together for at least couple meals, couple days or even the whole month and ask yourself this- What am I really getting from this plate? Am I getting all the nutrients-carbohydrate, protein, fats, vitamins & minerals? What am I missing from the plate?

The goal is to get every one thinking-pause before you grab your fork and start digging in! Not every meal is 100% perfect and nutritionally balanced but over time you can slowly get your plate in shape.

Here some points for starters:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make at least half your grains whole.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk. 
  • Vary your protein choices. 
  • Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars.

Enjoy your food but eat less.