Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Veggie Tray Soup

After the holidays a lot of families tend to have left over veggies from a veggie tray. What better way to use them up than a veggie soup?

With carrots, cherry/grape tomatoes, broccoli and peppers, a great soup base can be made. Our dinner consisted of:

1.5 cups baby carrots
2 cups peppers
1/2 onion (added not in the tray)
3/4 box of pre-made soup Imagine Organic Soup, Creamy Harvest Corn,
(you can skip this but ours had to be used up)
Sour cream dip (this was made with Simply Organic Organic Dip Mixes Spinach Dip Mix Certified Organic but that's just what was in our dip!
4 potatoes
1 cup of dayish old rice
1 cup of dayish  old lentils

Also added:
Ground black pepper
1 cup water (to cover the veggies)
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp salt

Placed in the crock pot for 5 or so hours... and dinner was done!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Coconut and Cabbage - A savory sweet meal

One of the first "Indian" dishes I learned was a variation of this recipe. I went to a 3 night Indian cooking class (Maharashtra actually!) before I met my to-be inlaws.

High quality cooking oil of your choice
Black Mustard Seeds
Chili powder (if you like spicy, you can also just slice a fresh chili of your choice)
(1/2 cup, or more to taste)
Coconut milk (optional, I used 1/3 can)
1/2 head of green cabbage, shredded

In a pan, add oil
When oil is hot, add in mustard seed, allow to crackle
Put a "dash" of hing, stir
Add in onion, stir and cook until translucent.
Add in chili, stir
Add in shredded coconut and fry 1-2 minutes on medium
Add in coconut milk if you are using it
Add in tomato (you can use canned if you want, but drain), stir well, sprinkle turmeric.
Add in shredded green cabbage, stir. Cook until soft. Add salt to taste.

Served with Potato Shrimp Coconut Curry

Coconut potato curry - GOA - Comfort Food

Today's meal was definitely a comfort meal!
The beginnings of a great meal
Start with the following:
Oil of your choice, I used coconut
Ginger Garlic paste (or just ground ginger and ground garlic)
Tomato (not pictured)
Can of coconut milk
Molasses (teaspoon or so)
Potatoes (love soft fingerling potatoes)
Shrimp (if you choose, you can also use tofu, paneer or chicken)
Onion (I used a half, diced)
Chili powder (if you use Spicy Ginger Garlic Paste, chili powder isn't required)

(Optional first step, recommended if you are using chicken or tofu, marinate "meat" in a teaspoon to a tablespoon or ginger garlic paste and chili powder)
In a wok, add in your oil and quickly add in a tablespoon (or more) of ginger garlic paste.
Add in sliced onions, and stir to prevent sticking. Cook until translucent.
Add in molasses, mix well
Add in your potatoes and stir well.
Add in your spices and tomato, stir well
Add in coconut milk, stir and add in meat.
Cover and lower heat to medium /high. bring to a boil to cook meat. If using shrimp, do not over cook.
Add in turmeric and salt to taste.

 Served with shredded coconut cabbage, also Indian style. My 1 year old gobbled this meal up!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Upcycling! Gourd and lentil soup becomes sambar

Tuesday is my wonderful husband's night to cook. His only constraint was that I required him to use up the eggplant from this past weekend's Bountiful Basket offering. Knowing we had leftover lentils, he used the soup that I had made Sunday, added additional water, the cut eggplant, some spices and wallah (pun intended for those with an Indian leaning), dinner was served (with idli). Plus, I was able to quickly use cookie cutters and make our daughter's lunch for tomorrow!

Idli was from a packet - be sure to watch because some do contain hydrogenated oils!

Trackback to Butternut Squash and lentil soup
Really all my hsuband did was add the vegetables (you can add your favorites, carrots, drumsticks (the plant, not from an animal), zucchini, etc do well) and packaged "sambar" spice! Allow to boil and ensure the vegetables are cooked and there you have a quick and healthy meal, upcycled from Sunday! YAY for leftovers NOT ending up in the trash.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Butternut squash and lentil soup

As part of our Bountiful Basket, we received 2 butter nut squash. While I love butternut squash, I tend to not cook them because I have to plan in advance. Thus, the plan to make this soup! :)

1-2 butternut squash
2 cups rinsed moong lentil (split pea will also do)
1 cup carrots
1/2 white onion sliced
Other vegetables or apples to your liking
Spices to taste, I used:
Bay leaf
Chili Pepper

Slice your squash and bake it open face on a foil lined pan at 425 for 30-40 minutes
While that is baking, pressure cook your lentils and vegetables. Alternatively, you can steam your lentils and vegetables.
If pressure cooking, two whistles will be fine. I tend to place my spices in with the items, but leave the garlic and bay leaf for frying to release it differently.

Once the squash is baked, scoop out the seeds and place in your compost (or trash). Then scoop out the flesh and place into a bowl. You can sprinkle with black pepper and or cinnamon if you like. If you are adding baked apples into your soup, that is yummy with cinnamon and clove!

From there, using a medium "soup" pot, add 1 tbsp oil of your choice, and add in your garlic, followed by other spices if you didn't pressure cook them. Once you smell the aroma, add in your bay leaf if you have one.

Next, add in your steamed/pressure cooked vegetables and lentils.

From there, add in 1-2 cups water and bring slowly to a boil. As it boils, add in the flesh of your squash (and applies, if applicable). Stir well and continue to stir so that there is a nice consistency.

If it is too thick for your liking, add more water, and continue to stir. When the lentils and squash are well mixed and you cannot tell which is which by texture, your lentils are ready to eat!

Served for my Three Year old (with "crab" salad)

Your Family’s Meal Schedule using Bountiful Baskets

I find that when I plan meals in advance, I spend less and my family eats better. This week’s organic bountiful basket, provided my family with everything from a medium eggplant to kiwis to leafy green veggies like kale and lettuce. In all, for $25 contribution, we received:
 6 organic oranges
1 medium organic eggplant
4 organic avocados
6 organic kiwis
1 bag of organic apples
4 organic green bell peppers
2 organic butternut squash
1 bag organic cherry tomatoes
2 zucchini
1 bunch organic kale
2 heads of lettuce
1 small box organic blue berries
(In addition we contributed for 2 boxes of pomegranates as well as the gingerbread cookies and gingerbread house kit, both free of hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup)
For this week’s meal planning, and to prevent waste, we’ve determined to use the above as follows:
Saturday – apples for eating as snacks
Sunday brunch -bell pepper in a potato/onion fry that went with some locally farmed eggs and avacado
Sunday dinner – butternut squash with tomato, dal and carrot as a soup, with a mix of lump “fake” crab meat, celery, green pepper, cherry tomatoes and avacado
 on a bed of lettuce
Monday lunch – cauliflower macaroni and cheese noodles with orange slices (left over butternut squash soup)
Monday dinner – (au pair cooks) zucchini caserole
Tuesday lunch – zucchini and tuna sandwiches and kiwi fruit
Tuesday dinner – (husband cooks) eggplant and chickpea Indian style
Wednesday lunch – 3 year old goes to school, so this is packed based on her preferences
Wednesday dinner – Shrimp biryani using bell peppers and a side salad using lettuce, tomato and onion
Thursday – lunch – 3 year old goes to school, so this will be packed based on her preference
Thursday dinner (au pair cooks) – pasta with “greens” mixed into store-bought sauce
Friday lunch – boxed “faux” sloppy joes and fruit based on what’s remaining
Friday dinner – kale chips and left over day!

If all goes well, I shouldn't have to shop for anything except possibly milk this week, which I pick up from a Milk Angel via!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Pesticides in your food - Clean your plate

For those who may not have their own organic backyard garden - plentiful enough to allow the family to be self sufficient food-wise (um, that would be all of us!), it is important to be aware of the impact of pesticides on our food sources.

What are pesticides?
 Generally, pesticides are the poisonous items used to kill. They are often marketed as insecticides, herbicides, or other. Some may or may not be also toxic to humans as well. According to, A pesticide is a poisonous chemical or mixture of chemicals that is produced or manufactured for preventing, repelling, or killing any pest. 


Why should I care?
It is important to be aware of the chemical and potentially neurological effects on the body. Some are enzyme disruptors (which affects our neurological system, among other things), miscarriages, low IQ in children when pregnant women are exposed, carcinogens, or endocrine disruptors.  There is also a lot of research linking Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) with pesticides.

What can I do?
Know the source of your food and whether or not pesticides were used. If they were, then don't buy it. If you don't know the source, don't buy it. Buying ORGANIC food can also be helpful. In the US, certified organic means that any pesticides used are naturally derived and not synthetic. It doesn't mean pesticide free.

For more information on pesticides and the alternatives to Monsanto-ville life (there are other companies, but Monsanto is a big one!), visit the Pesticide Action Network.

For information on what is likely on your conventionally grown food, check this out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chard Veggie Pot - AKA: Cook me before I compost myself!

While we have a compost at home, we prefer to eat our veggies, not just throw them in the compost. Today's dinner comes courtesy of the deep need to use up our chard. Chard is super high in phytonutrients (think beta kerotine and lutein), high in vitamin K, vitamin A, antioxidants, iron, vitamin C and folate! It is also believed to protect from cardiovascular disease. Talk about a nutrient dense food!

My favorite way to have any type of chard is with caramelized onions.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2-4 cloves of crushed garlic
1 diced onion (white or red preferred)
1 potato (purple is great, if you have one, but we had a regular old baking potato in need of use!)
1 bunch of chard (any kind, we used red), bottom of stems removed, but reserved for cooking

Other vegetables to taste or need to cook. We used:
1/2 cup of sliced mushroom
1 yellow crook neck squash
2 tomatoes

Heat oil and add your crushed garlic. Quickly add onions and fry until starting to carmelize. Add in potato and chard stems. At this point I generally add chili powder, but it is not required. Continue to mix and add in your vegetables other than chard. To prevent sticking, add 1/4 cup water and stir well, especially if you do not have tomato.

Add in diced chard leaves and cover to allow chard to steam. Add salt to taste. You can add cheese to the top if you desire. Non-vegetarians may also enjoy cooked bacon in this dish, but that does increase fat and salt content, in which case do not add salt. This can also be a great way to use up salad left overs!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Key Lime Cheese Cake - Boosted with Flax!

What can I say, I grew up LOVING boxed cheese cake. It wasn't until I was in my early 20s that I discovered real cheese cake. You know, the kind with cream cheese and not just a packet of "no-bake" supplies! Once I discovered how easy it is to make real cheese cake, I've ventured into some variations.

One of my favorites is a twist on key lime pie, so let's call this Boosted Key Lime Cheese Cake.

Crust (unless you buy premade. If you buy premade, watch fro hydrogenated oils!)

2 stacks of graham crackers (again, make sure they're free of hydrogenated oils/trans fats)
1 cup melted butter or margarine (trans fat free of course!)
1/4 cup unwashed cane sugar

Crush graham crackers until nearly a fine powder. Alternatively, you can crush in a food processor. However, if you have your pie pan and it is deep enough, crush with a mortar or other device until almost uniformly "crumby." From there, sprinkle with cane sugar and toss slightly. If you're using a food processor, add in the sugar, then the butter and blend. If you're doing it by hand, add the melted butter/margarine evenly and move the crumbs into the melted butter/margarine so that the mixture sticks together.

Set aside.

Key Lime Cheese Cake Mixture:
2 packages cream cheese (you can make this vegan by using vegan cream cheese)
3/4 c powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Juice of 2-3 key limes
1 heaping tbsp Ground Flax

Add items one at a time from first ingredient into mixer (or food processor) mix/process until smooth. Pour into crust. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Why flax? Flax helps boost the omega content of food, as well as fiber and protein. It also has a good amount of potassium

Friday, November 11, 2011

Packet chhole - Spicy chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

As a follow up to an earlier blog, sometimes it is easier and not too much unhealthier to semi-cook from scratch. While I love chana/chhole/chickpeas/garbanzo beans (depending on what you call them!), sometimes getting the right spice mixture can be difficult. A few years back we realized that Parampara no longer had hydrogenated oils (trans fats) in most of their mixes! (I hesitate to say any, since we haven't checked all of them!)

Here's a quick way to make some nice chick peas. Serve with an indian bread or rice and you'll be on your way to yum-ville!

Soak your chick peas overnight (or use a can, but verify the additives in these, often they contain preservatives and added sodium)

Use a decent oil (I used coconut oil, but canola may be used as well) and warm it slightly before adding in crushed garlic (2-6 cloves, to taste)
Add in diced red onion and fry until translucent
Add in your spice pack (or spices, see below) and stir will
Add in your chick peas
Add in three diced, seed in tomatoes (a can of tomatoes may also be used)
Bring to a boil, stirring to prevent sticking

Simmer for 20 or so minutes until chick peas are soft... and YUM. You're ready to eat! Garnish with red onion and coriander, if desired.

-Alternate home-made spices
  • Vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp. Turmeric powder
  • 1½ tsp. Red Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp. Coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp. Garam Masala Powder
  • 3 tsp. of Chana Masala Powder
  • ¼ tsp. Cumin Seeds
 Add vegetable oil to pan and fry in cumin seeds until fragrant. Add in other spices, minus turmeric, and fry on medium until mixed well. Cool and grind. Add these with turmeric in at "spice time" listed above.

If you find your food to be too spicy, add in yogurt (if you're not vegan) to bring down the spice level.

Packet meals - Things to watch for in packaged meals or seasoning packets

Many good meals can come from a packet mix. The big thing to remember is that sometimes the worst of "food" can come from the seasoning.

A few things to especially watch for in pre-packaged or "semi" home-made meals are:
- hydrogenated oils. These are also called "trans fats." Hydrogenization is a chemical process where unsaturated fats are processed and become saturated fats. It is not often that we see "fully hydrogenated" oils, so instead, these partially hydrogenated oils are especially dangerous because our bodies do not know exactly what to do with them. Instead, they stick and clog our arteries. So why do companies add hydrogen to their oils? So the oil will last longer and the food can have a longer shelf life. Since trans fats RAISE your bad cholesterol and LOWER your good cholesterol, it definitely affects your "ratio" and may be linked to multiple sclerosis, besides most heart-related illnesses.
- BHT and/or BHA also di-sodium EDTA . These chemical compounds are often added to foods that have fats to keep the shelf life. They may be considered anti-oxidants, but it isn't the positive sounding thing you'd think they'd be. You're likely to find these in popular breakfast cereals. So, what's the problem with these preservatives? They (likely) INCREASE the risk of CANCER. They may also be related to food sensitivity (I don't know about you but it seems most kids have some food they can't tolerate these days, where 20 years ago there was maybe 1 or possibly 2 kids in a classroom with any problems.  There is also research that suggests these items can affect behavior, especially with ADHD.

- Sodium. Sodium and salt are often found in extremely high levels in pre-packaged food. Too much sodium can affect your heart health. This WEBMD slide show is a pretty good one. With the level of sodium the average person should get in a day ranges from 1500-2300, imagine ones surprise when a serving of:

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese - 580 mg/serving
Betty Crocker - Cheeseburger Macaroni - 914/serving
Chicken Flavor Ramen Noodles - 891/serving

It can quickly add up!

Other items to watch for in packet meals are:
artificial colors (especially red dye #40 if you suspect or have anyone in your household with ADHD, troubles concentrating or other behavioral issues), fiber (a "good" meal should have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving, many packaged meals have none), whole grains.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Home-made veggie pizza or Naan Pizza

What started out as naan for dinner yesterday became pizza today! Find me a kid who doesn't like to make their own pizza and I'm sure we can find a way to change that. Besides fun, making your own pizza, especially the dough, helps ensure that you're avoiding the unnecessary and health-damaging trans fats. If you make more from scratch, especially the sauce (which I didn't) you can also help regulate the sodium intake for your family.

Crust (Naan) Recipe:

  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt, room temperature (I used organic sour cream this time)
  • 2 tbsp canola or coconut oil
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Flax seed (if desired, this helps increase omegas (essential fatty acids), protein and fiber and MANY vitamins) 
  • Hemp seed (if desired, this helps increase omegas (essential fatty acids), which are very heart healthy and extremely easy to digest)
Activate yeast in warm water and allow to froth.

Add that into your sifted (in all honesty, I don't sift) flour and salt mixture.
Add in your seeds if you have them and slowly mix these items together, adding your oil and sour cream as well. Many times I add all at once, but it can affect how your yeast activates and of course the dough rising!

Using a dough hook, mix until it forms a ball. Take out the mixing hook and gently poke your dough - it should not be too sticky and should have a bit of give. If it is too sticky, add a small amount of flour and mix on a low speed to combine. You don't want to over mix! If you mix by hand it will be cumbersome, but you can mix by hand as well. I LOVE my
KitchenAid 4-1/2-Quart Ultra Power Stand Mixer, Empire Red though!

Once mixed, cover and let stand/rise for approximately 90 minutes. If your home is cool (say below 75 degrees, or if you used any cool ingredients, you may want to place the bowl, covered, in a warmed, but off, oven.

When the dough is around double in size, you are ready to make your crust/naan. To make as a naan, use slightly less than a tennis-ball sized "grab" of dough, and roll slowly in your hand and then "pull" the pieces slowly apart to make it almost tear-drop shape. Place on a baking pan, and bake at 425 for 8 minutes.

To make as a complete crust, flour your pan and working from the center, do your best to flatten the dough. You do not need to pre-bake the crust for the pizza.

Now for the fun part. TOPPINGS! We mostly stick to vegetarian. Add your selected items, place in a 425 oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on toppings and thickness of the dough... If you are using raw meat, be sure it is fully cooked.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Cheating" Saag Paneer with Urad Dal- Indian cooking

Saag paneer with urad dal
 First, I must admit I cheated and used a packet (but the saag was organic and fresh, and the paneer had to be cut up hehe)

In a small blender, blend fresh shaved (or packet, unsweetened) coconut about 3/4 cup, 1 chili pepper, and a bunch of fresh cilantro into a pulp

Soak 1 cup urad dal for 6 hours
Steam for 25 minutes in a steamer (alternatively, you can also put one part soaked dal with 1.5 parts water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 minutes, ensuring the dal doesn't stick to the bottom)

In a pan, fry mustard seads in oil, add hing
Add 4-5 curry leaves and stir in a dallop of crushed garlic, fry for a few minutes, strirring
Add a small dalop of crushed ginger, stir
Add the blended mix from above, stir well
Add a dash of turmeric
Add soaked dal and bring to a light boil
Add salt to taste just before serving 
For Paneer
16 oz frozen, defrosted spinach
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (or 2 tbsp each (to taste) of the same, crushed)
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 tomato, diced (or blended)
1/2 teaspoon hing
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon

canola oil

In a large skillet, heat a small amount of oil. Add the muster seeds and once they start popping add the hing. saute the onion until translucent and then add the ginger-garlic paste and chili. Add the rest of the spices, spinach, water,and tomato  and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the paneer and yogurt and bring to a slow boil until paneer is warm.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Vegetarian Mexican Night - with a twist

Every other Sunday night has turned into "Mexican" night at my home. Sundays I have enough time to cook more than a dish or two and, in all honesty, I love Mexican food!

Today's dinner did NOT include beans, but I often add beans to "Mexican night."

We had excess butter nut squash so we added that into both our fake meat mixture and also our vegetables. The scoop on butternut squash (according to " food is very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese."
For rice, I found some clearance special of Bhutanese heirloom rice. A medium grain rice, it is slightly sticky and is said to be high in fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients and is actually wheat-free. To make the rice, I added two parts water to the rinsed rice along with a cup and a half of salsa. Boiled for 30 minutes, it was perfect!

I love mixing multiple vegetables in some guacamole mix and crushed garlic.

In here you see green and yellow bell peppers, fresh tomato, the aforementioned butter nut squash, yellow and green squash, onion, mushroom and a bit of oil at the bottom of the wok to prevent sticking.

In regard to yellow squash, which I love, but I think is under utilized, "This food is low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Protein, Vitamin A, Thiamin, Niacin, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Magnesium, Potassium and Manganese. It is one of the "three sisters" of Native American cooking, the other two being rice and beans.

This dish is quite easy to make - it really is about giving the onion and garlic a few minutes to mingle together in oil before adding the rest of the vegetables. I then add a bit of salsa and/or spice packet, stir gently and cover. After 15-20 minutes of waiting (and watching to ensure they don't stick), it really is an almost fix and forget!

I know some who are adamant against soy proteins, but for transitional or mixed vegetarian homes, it is a compromise that many choose to make. For me, I start with a tad oil, the "meat" and then add some salsa. I also added the butter nut squash and it changes the texture ever so slightly, but rolled up, burrito style, who can tell?
I've also added fresh tomato to bring in a bit more lycopene. My kids are great with texture.

Here's an example of what I serve my 18 month old. I give a bit of everything, and go from there. I don't want to overwhelm with too much of any one food. I know, for example, that my son loves noodles. However, there are no noodles tonight. I don't cook them special, and I don't cook separate for my 1 and 3 year old kids. They eat what we eat around 85 percent of the time. For lunch it is a lot of quick noodle-type meals (I cook some but mostly our child-care provider cooks). For this meal, my son loved his mushrooms and guacamole (really just avocado with a very small amount of seasoning from a packet. My daughter was more into the tortilla stuffed up with a bit of organic sour cream to "seal" the edges and a bit of everything rolled up. We didn't add cheese today to our food since we had plenty of other fillers and my daughter decided cheese was a lot of her lunch!

Note: If you use prepared tortillas, be especially diligent to watch trans fats. Most also are made of bleached flour, so that's another cautionary part of doing semi-home-made!)

Eggplant with Lentils - Indian Style

Indian eggplants (cut vertically)
Cooked yellow dal
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
half handful curry leaves
2 red chili peppers (to taste - cut)
1 tblsp masala (sweet)
1/4 teaspoon hing (astaphoria powder)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin powder (or seeds)
red chili powder to taste
garlic to taste
one spoon to taste jaggery (molasses)
one spoon to taste tamarind
shredded coconut (if desired,)

Fry mustard seed in oil until it snap, crackles and pops
Add curry leaves (if they're wet, watch out!)
Add mixture of dry powders
Mix well

Add eggplants

Add molasses and tamarind
Stir well, cook for 7-10 minutes
Add cooked 1 cup dal and 1/2 cup water
Bring to boil
Add salt and chopped coriander to taste
Serve with rice

Welcome to healthy creative cooking for families

Time is a commodity many of us would love to see more of, but the fact is, it is limited. Often, I find myself wanting to make healthy and creative meals for my family, but may resort to something easy. Still generally nutritious, but not as consciously creative as I'd like.

This blog intends to be a place where I can categorize for you a variety of meals that my kids love and generally have more nutrition than an average home-cooked meal.

Thank you for joining us on this journey! We welcome your comments, ideas and followers! If you try one of the recipes posted, please let me know how it went for your family! If I link to another site, please give them a look as well, as I attempt to give credit, where credit is due!