Thursday, 28 May 2015

Buddhism and Thukpa - Keep it simple

The fundamental precept of Buddhism is Interdependence or the Law of Cause and Effect. This simply states that everything which an individual being experiences is derived through action and experience. From this understanding are derived the Buddhist theories of consciousness and rebirth”. That’s how the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso explains Buddhism in his autobiographical book “Freedom in Exile”. If I were to simply decipher those lines written above, it’d be - whatever you do, its consequences will follow you. If you do good, then you’ll meet good and if you do something bad, then of course you know what. It’s Karma. Since this blog is about food - well I should say since I am a foodie - we’ll diverge slowly towards food. 
The way he described Tibet and its beauty is exceptional. Though I have never been to Tibet but I can somehow get a feel of that place - Mountains, snow, people still living that simple life contrary to their neighbor. Though Tibet has changed, thanks to China. I won’t get into political things. Tibet’s temperature - which is quite cold - gives it a unique cuisine. It’s mainly meat and butter - you need calories, a lot of calories and heat. Being Dalai Lama is about being simple, keeping simple and at times eating  simple and healthy recipes. As a kid, the 14th Dalai Lama loved the visits from her mother to the Potala Palace. This is a palace where he was kept separated from his family to become a spiritual leader in the future. Apart from motherly love, there is one more reason he loved such visits - Thukpa. Let’s make this Tibetan noodle soup and try to make it good else Karma will haunt us!
For Thukpa:-
Salt as required,
Pepper as required,
Coriander as required,
300 gms Rice Noodles,
100 gms sliced Carrots,
½ sliced Red Capsicum,
1.5 litres Chicken Stock,
300 gms diced Chicken,
2 pieces Green Onions,
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice,
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil.
For Spice Paste:-
1 chopped green chilli,
1 chopped small onion,
2 chopped garlic cloves,
1 teaspoon ground cumin,
1 pinch asafoetida powder,
1 teaspoon chopped ginger,
½ teaspoon ground turmeric,
200 gms chopped tomatoes,
¼ teaspoon ground timur powder.
Preparation Method:-
  1. First of all make spice paste. Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add spice paste and cook, stir for 7 minutes. Pour in chicken stock. Bring to boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add chicken thigh and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from stock and shred roughly.
  3. In the mean time bring 2 litres of water to boil in a large saucepan. Add rice noodles. Cook for 2 minutes. Place in huge strainer and pour cold water over it such that noodles don't stick to each other. Drain water and set noodles aside.
  4. Add carrot and capsicum to stock. Simmer for 3 minutes until vegetables are a bit tender. Add lemon juice and season to taste.
  5. Divide the noodles in bowls. Top with chicken. Ladle stock and vegetables over the noodles. Serve!

Healthy and Happy Eating!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Cheung Chau Bun Festival and the Vegan Recipe

Highlighting wild lion dances, vibrant parades, funny bun scrambling contest and showcasing bun towers, here comes the most lively and colorful Hong Kong Festival, the Cheung Chau Bun Festival. This festival portrays tradition and folklore of China. The centre of attraction includes giant bamboo mountains which are covered with homemade buns. These are set up at Pak Tai Temple, where the main celebration takes place. Like every other fest, this too has a story related to it. There was an island which was hit by epidemic ruining many lives. Finally the local people got in God Pak Tai. He eradicated plague and killed evil spirits. Hence Pak Tai Temple is considered as the most religious centre of the island. 
The festival's parade includes colorful lions, marching bands, martial arts activities, flowery floats, loud drums and cymbals. The most unique and thrilling activities includes adults carrying children on their shoulders, dressed up like mythological Chinese deities. Their dressing-up like this symbolizes driving away the evil spirits. Next is the peculiar Bun Grabbing Contest. A tower of 60 foot is made, all covered by buns. You have to grab maximum buns in 3 minutes, isn't it interesting? There are more fun activities to add on to this. During 3 days of the fest, entire island goes for a vegetarian diet. I am very fond of Chinese food. So let’s add some vegetarian yummzz from the land of China.
Vegan Mapo Tofu
3 sliced Scallions,
1 cup warm Water,
1 block diced soft Tofu,
2 minced Garlic Cloves,
1 teaspoon minced Ginger,
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil,
15 dried Shiitake Mushrooms,
1 1/2 tablespoon Black Bean Sauce,
1 tablespoon Cornstarch with 2 tablespoons Water.
For Sauce:-
2 teaspoons Sugar,
2 teaspoons Soy Sauce,
2 teaspoons Sesame Oil,
2 ½ tablespoons Chili Bean Paste,
½ teaspoon ground Sichuan Pepper,
1 tablespoon Chinese Rice Wine or Dry Sherry.
Preparation Method:-
  1. Soak shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup of warm water for 20 minutes. Drain mushrooms, squeezing excess water. Keep this water. Discard the stems and chop the mushroom caps. Now let’s prepare the sauce. Take a small bowl. Add in leftover water and all the ingredients mentioned under sauce. Keep aside.
  2. Heat a wok. Add oil. Add the mushrooms, black bean sauce and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Add scallion whites, garlic, ginger and stir-fry until fragrant for 1 minute.
  3. Pour in the sauce. Now add water. Bring it to boil, then simmer. Gently add tofu cubes. Allow the sauce to simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. In a small pan, add in the cornstarch and water mixture. Heat for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Add to the tofu gravy. Allow to simmer till the gravy thickens.
  5. Garnish with green scallions. Serve hot with rice!

Enjoy the Chinese treat!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Wine, Baba Ghanoush and Baked Chicken - It’s Something

When was the last time you changed a light bulb? Today, yesterday, last month, a few months back or at most last year. These are the possible responses for this question. But there is a light bulb, which has been illuminating various places since 1901. Known as the “Centennial Light”, this bulb is currently housed in the Fire Department of Livermore, California. Due to its 114 years of service, this bulb is now very dim, but is still on. This will lead to food, wait! I’ve been planning for a trip to Del Valle Regional Park, near Livermore. I thought a bit of hiking might help lose those ‘thunder thighs’. However, this trip involves hiking, which eventually will lead to hard work, hence it’s still a plan. I was reading about Livermore and places to see around. This bulb topped the list with Wine securing the second position. 
Wine growing is a part of Livermore’s culture having wine tasting tours. With around 40 wineries, Livermore sure has a long lasting bulb illuminating its Wine history. Though I’ll be going with Sigalas Assyrtiko because of its acidic, salty and briny flavors. So now we have a bulb (which we can’t eat) and Wine (which we can’t eat) far an upcoming recipe. We need something to eat - Baba Ghanoush. This simple appetizer full of various seasonings and egg plant should go with wine. I know, baba ghanoush and wine is a bit eccentric combination, but then I thought to give it a try. Well I had some guest yesterday all of a sudden, I juz had eggplants and some chicken in the fridge. This bulb reminds me of The Smiths song - There is a light that never goes out. Put it on your iPod, grab your fav wine and crackers, bake the eggplant, bake the chicken, and voila, you came up with something!
3 Eggplants,
1/3 cup Tahini,
1/2 cup Lemons Juice,
3 tablespoons Olive Oil,
2 minced Cloves Garlic,
Kosher salt as required,
Ground Black Pepper as required.
Preparation Method:-
1. Heat the oven to 450 D.F. In the mean time, rub outside of the eggplants with olive oil. Add in a roasting plan. Roast eggplants well until the skin has charred (goes blackish brown) and the interior is tender for 20 minutes. Let the eggplants cool.
2. When cool, remove the skin and seeds, roughly chop the flesh. Add to a bowl. Blend in a food processor.
3. Into the processor bowl add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Also add on a few teaspoons of cold water. Process the mixture to a coarse paste. Keep adding a bit more water as needed to allow the mixture to blend well.
4. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crackers, baked chicken and wine.

Have a good day!

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Healthy Recipes for Kids Birthday Party

Angela is my neighbor and we spend a lot of quality time together, especially on weekends. Yesterday was her son’s birthday party. Kids await for their birthday party throughout the year. The joy on their face for this special day, makes us forget all the pain and stress in life. Tom turned 11 this year and just as all the birthdays, Angela wanted to make it special for him and so I. Since on weekdays we hardly have anytime, we have to go for quick and easy recipes keeping health into consideration as we all love our children.

Burrito - Kids love to pick this Mexican and Tex-Mex food. Whole wheat rolls with tempting filling such as diced grilled chicken, tomatoes, grated carrots and greens make an excellent healthy snack loved by people of all age groups. You can also stir-fry these veggies. Serve it with your favorite sauce. I usually pair burrito with my fav dip recipe, Vegan Walnut and Red Pepper Dip. You must give it a try as well.

Fruit Salad with Ice cream - Fruit salad with Ice cream is a good way to make your kids eat seasonal fruits. The recipe is quite flexible. Add in diced fruits (seasonal fruits) like watermelon, mango, grapes, bananas, cantaloupe etc. Take scoops of ice-cream and top on the salad. I usually use strawberry and butterscotch flavor. Serve in ice-cream bowls as shown. The bowls will be empty in no time. Kids will go bonkers over it!

Sweet and sour Meatballs - Ah! Here it comes. Do not make this recipe too spicy. You can prepare the meatballs in advance. Prefer baking the balls rather than deep frying them. Also you can fry the paste a day before birthday party. I prefer Italian style of preparing the sauce for meatballs. It consists of onions, carrot, celery, parsley, garlic, tomatoes, basil, black pepper. Enjoy the yummzz!

Strawberry Cake - The classic combination of plain vanilla cake, fresh strawberry and smooth cream never fails. I love bakery products, especially when they are homemade. The aroma of the bake is simply irresistible. Nevertheless, cake can be prepared a day before the birthday to save time, it all depends on our resisting power that we don’t eat it the moment it is cool. Kids love it.

Vegetable Rice Noodles - Rice noodles is a good way to treat yourself instead of the refined flour noodles. It’s an excellent meal for birthday party. It is gluten-free recipe as well. Mix in the seasonal veggies with bit of Vinegar, soya sauce, sweet chili sauce (kids will avoid chili sauce) and tomato sauce. The bowl of noodles will be over in no time for sure.
Happy Birthday!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Stuffed Apple and Cranberry Pork for Mother’s Day

You filled my days with rainbow lights,
Fairy tales and sweet dream nights,
A kiss to wipe away my tears,
Gingerbread to ease my fears.
You gave the gift of life to me
And then in love, you set me free.
I thank you for your tender care,
For deep warm hugs and being there.
I hope that when you think of me
A part of you, you'll always see. 
Hey pals, how was your Mother’s day? Mine was really a special one. Hope you enjoyed the Strawberry Layered Crunchy Cake on Sunday. I and my sister gifted mom tiny but an elegant pair of diamond earrings and a red color silk scarf on this auspicious occasion. What did you gift your mother? Both gifts were adored by her. To make the day even more special, I prepared her favorite recipe, Stuffed Apple and Cranberry Pork. The dinner table really looked sumptuous with tangy Pork, mushy Cake, seasoned Garlic bread and blood Red Wine. Here it goes..
Stuffed Apple and Cranberry Pork
For the Pork Loin
Salt to taste,
4 lbs Pork Loin,
Pepper to taste,
1 tablespoon Olive Oil,
2 minced Garlic Cloves,
Sliced bacon as required,
1 tablespoon chopped Thyme,
1 tablespoon chopped Rosemary.
For the Sauce:-
1 cup Vinegar,
1/4 teaspoon salt,
3 diced red onions,
olive oil as required,
1/2 bottle Lager Beer,
1 1/2 cup Brown sugar,
1 teaspoon Cinnamon,
1/2 cup chopped ginger,
2/3 cup dried cranberries,
1 teaspoon Mustard Seed,
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves,
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper,
3 lbs peeled and chopped Granny Smith Apples.

Preparation Method
  1. Cut a pocket through one end of the tenderloin. Place the centrist downwards. Don’t slice through the other end. Season in and out properly with salt and pepper.
  2. Mix rosemary, thyme, garlic and oil in a bowl. Spread the mixture over pork. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. For the sauce, heat olive oil in saucepan, add onion and cook until brown. Add ginger and apples. Cook for 2 minutes. Combine remaining ingredients and lower heat.
  4. Allow to cook. Reduce until thickened. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Stuff sauce into tenderloin. Wrap with bacon.
  5. Using a roasting rack and baking sheet, put pork into 350 D. F oven. Remove from oven. Don’t remove foil till 10 minutes. Slice and serve with red wine.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Mother’s Day Special and Crunchy Strawberry Cake

Here is Cake, for a special day,
Just for you on Mother’s Day.
I must have been born beneath a lucky star,
To have a mother as nice as you are!

He wanted to be an artist but was rejected by the prestigious Art Schools in Vienna. His mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. He came back from Vienna for her. In his book “Mein Kampf” he says that he honored his father but ‘Loved’ his Mother. Yes, know who I am talking about - Adolf Hitler. The reason I brought this incident up is, that no matter what you are for the world, there is one person who reminds you of how tiny you are when it comes to her and where you come from - Her Womb. Pardon me for being dramatic. I have developed this penchant for drama, thanks to what I am watching these days - Game of Thrones. Sometimes it’s really difficult to understand Mother, but as we grow up, she becomes the only person we understand most. She’ll make fun of you, thrash you at times too which is followed by a flood of love and kisses. That’s what makes every mother a bit Weird- which is cute. She’ll scold you for a mistake, but if someone else scolds you- let it be anyone- that person will have a really bad time from your mother. That’s how mothers are. 
At times they prove their capability of doing things which will either straighten you up or will put in that path, like Toya Graham. She thrashed her kid in front of the national media as she saw him with a stone in his hand, at the Baltimore riots this April. Well, it’s not the sky which is limit for her, may be it’s the outer space or something beyond. My mother was upset with me as I didn’t tell her about my first boyfriend in high school. She didn’t scold me, but this saddened her a bit. Writing of this incident takes me back to that time where I can feel the aroma of Strawberry Cake. I tried this cake recipe for her, to see that wavy smile on her face. I was a bit clumsy back then, she said the cake was fine - mothers are always fine when someone else cooks for them - but could have been better. Today let’s try Strawberry Cake and bring a smile on every mother’s face.
Strawberry Layered Crunchy Cake
For the Vanilla Cake
6 Eggs,
1/2 cup Milk,
1 cup Sugar,
2 cups All Purpose Flour,
2 tablespoons Vanilla essence.
For the Corn Crumbs
1/2 teaspoon Salt,
3/4 oz. Cornstarch,
4 teaspoons Sugar,
11 tablespoons Butter,
6 cups Crunch Cereal
For Presentation
1/2 cup White Chocolate,
1/2 cup Strawberry Reserve,
2 cups sliced fresh Strawberries.
Preparation Method:-
  1. Prepare a classic vanilla cake. Take a bowl. Assemble all the ingredients given under cake. Bake at 350 D. F for 20 minutes. Cut into three layers as shown.
  2. Prepare corn crumbs. Take a food processor. Grind cereal completely. Combine cereal, cornstarch, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add melted butter. Toss well. Squeeze the crumbs with your hands. Make small clumps.
  3. Bake until the crumbs turn golden brown for 15 minutes. Cool completely. Once the crumbs cool, melt the white chocolate.
  4. For assembling, take the top most layer and uniformly spread Strawberry reserve on it as shown. Stuff in between the layers, the corn crumbs, melted white chocolate and sliced fresh strawberries. Serve!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Know What you Eat with Ingredients Handbook

Go for meditation and try your hands at healthy food” said my niece when I told her about my stressful routine. I guess everybody has this routine which is an add on to the already full plate of issues.
Taking her advice, I started with it. She showed me an app named Ingredients Handbook (Available on both Appstore and Playstore). I suggest you guys must check it out. It is all about ingredients and their values. I realized that cooking is a way to channelize my energy. Looking at the hot steam of rice is more meditating to me than a proper meditation. It is the perfect way to use that extra energy in cooking rather than acting weird with your family. Cooking doesn’t mean that you have to use all the spices and cook something great, it’s about knowing the value of each ingredient you use. Simple dishes are a therapy for you.  You should go for something healthy like herbs, oil and roots, which are plenty in this app.  I’ll let you all know the ones I have used.
The ingredients in the app have been effectively categorized for the ease of the user. Lemon balm is one such herb which I use regularly. Chop the leaves and add them to the salad. These leaves help in reducing the stress level. Then comes Basil which is a sacred plant in India. Pasta seasoning with basil will give it a strong and a different flavor. Rich in antioxidants, basil prevents a lot of diseases. What if your someone helps you boost your blood pressure? Well, parsley can be of help. Rich in a lot of vitamins parsley can be used in tea or green sauce with nachos. 
In addition to this, Nutrient Chart checks the nutritional values of all Ingredients. Sitting on the chair at work place for long hours can result in digestion issues like heartburn or upset stomach which will result in irritation. So don’t pour out your irritation on others and go for peppermint based mocktails. Getting up early, leaving for work and then driving back home - when do you work out? Actually you don’t, even I don’t get time on weekdays. Muscle pain is inevitable under such circumstances. Rosemary can relieve you with that. You can either add it to marinated chicken or olive oil. 
This is not all, check the benefits, excessive hazards, deficiency hazards and much more relating to 1000 such ingredients. Traveling comes with pollution. Pollution enhances acne. Thyme oil can help you reduce this. You can stuff your turkey with thyme leaves and enjoy health. Losing appetite is one of the reasons why people take stress. Have something, that might calm you down. Fennel seed soup can help you in getting hold of your appetite. Must have seen “Olaf” (the snowman type character in the movie “Frozen”) playing with dandelion seeds while dreaming of summers. You wouldn’t have imagined how useful those dandelions could be. Go for sauteed dandelion greens which will result in a cleansed system and improved digestion. Beat the boredom and explore your knowledge with QUIZ. 
There is much more to learn about the food you eat. Try this Ingredients Handbook app and say yes to a “Healthy Life”. It really works!