Thursday, June 26, 2014

Homemade No Bake Cereal Bars

The summer long weekend of July 4 is just around the corner. The weather is beautiful and we all have already made big plans to celebrate outdoors in parks, picnic or hikes. I love outdoors. One of the things I look forward to is the summer picnic foods. Putting together a tasty and beautiful picnic basket is so much fun. 

Outdoors is fun but exhausting so we need good food that gives us energy. Cereal or granola bars are great. Most of the store bought bars are loaded with corn syrup. So I like to make my own. I know what goes in and I control the ingredients and quantity. And once you make these at home, you will realize how easy are they to make and save ahead of time. The vantage of homemade cereal or granola bars is that you get to experiment with your favorite ingredients. Throw in your choice of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate and sweeteners. No artificial flavors here...Just the real deal.

The base of of my bars is dates...naturally sweet and a powerful food. 

  • high in dietary fiber to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL), 
  • high in iron to balance hemoglobin in RBC to regulate oxygen in blood,
  • high in potassium to regulate heart rate and blood pressure,
  • high in vitamin A, B, K

Eating dates in moderation can contribute to many health benefits, such as protecting against damage to cells from free radicals, helping preventing a stroke, coronary heart disease and the development of colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic cancers.

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup high protein cereal
**beware of high sugar cereal (I used Kashi Go lean Crunch. Processed in food processor)
1/4 cup organic almond butter/peanut butter
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup honey/agave
1/4 cup dried fruit
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup almonds
  • Prepare a 8 by 8 small tray or pan by lining with plastic wrap or parchment paper.
  • In a food processor, process dates for few minutes to get a dough like consistency.
  • In a pan over low heat, warm honey and nut butter. Stir continuously so they mix well. Remove from heat.
  • In the pan above, add all the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • Transfer the mixture in the small tray and press firmly to set evenly.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for 20-30 min to harden.
  • When done, cut and wrap individual bars in clear wrap and they are good to go.
Lets see if you can resist to save it for the next day ;-) But do save. Portion size matters for healthy food too!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Oven Baked Crispy Green Beans

Around the globe, people are becoming more and more aware about healthy eating and its benefits. The focus on healthy eating is also becoming noticeable during potlucks and other gatherings, through the choice of foods people are cooking. But still at most events, I notice that even if there are healthier entree options, the appetizers or sides are one of the most unhealthy. I guess it might be because all the focus and energy goes into making the main dish healthy and a great party pleaser. And by the time the host fixes up the sides, the focus is lost. Side dishes, if not more, but are as important as the main dish. The first thing your guests lay their hands on is the side dishes. 

Fixing up a healthy sides should be simple and quick. So when you are all tired after cooking an elaborate entree, you still can do justice to your side dishes. Throw in some sauteed sweet potatoes (click for recipe) with crunchy green beans. Their bright beautiful colors are great on the table and are full of nutrition. 

Green beans are naturally nearly fat free. They are high in Vitamin A&C, folate, manganese, potassium...all essential for body metabolism and cell regeneration. Eating 1 cup of green beans meets nearly half of your vegetable requirement for a day. 1 cup of cooked green beans is less than 40 calories with 2.5gm protein, 10 gm carbs, 1 gm of fat and 4 gm dietary fiber. 

2 cups fresh green beans....washed
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp grated parmesan (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat the oven at 425 deg F
  • Toss the green beans with oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder to coat nicely.
  • Cover a cookie sheet with a parchment paper and spread the green beans in a single layer.
  • Cook for about 15 min
  • Remove from oven and sprinkle parmesan cheese.
In your next party, set aside the chips and dip this time and try serving some healthy sides. Your guests will love you for this. Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Spinach Kadhi

Kadhi is a popular North-Indian food. It is a mild spicy sour sauce with yogurt and chick pea flour base. The texture of the base sauce and on what goes inside the base sauce depends on the regional recipe. Like Punjabi Kadhi is a thick base sauce with fritters. Gujrati Kadhi is thin base sauce with little sugar making it sweet and sour recipe. Sindhi Kadhi has base sauce and variety of vegetables. In a nutshell, with a great base sauce, pretty much everything that goes inside is added on flavor. Kadhi is usually served piping hot with rice or naan. The base in itself is very healthy as the only main ingredients are - chick pea flour, yogurt and water. 

In my home, everyone loves Kadhi. Though I have grown up eating more of Punjabi Kadhi, my fav is Gujrati kadhi or other variations I make by putting different vegetable combinations. I enjoy it as a soup. It is very comforting. One of my fav is Spinach Kadhi. It is quick, easy to make and very healthy.

2 cup fresh chopped spinach or baby spinach 
1 medium red onion
1 cup yogurt or greek yogurt
1/4 cup chick pea flour (Besan)
3 cups water

4-6 curry leaves
2 tsp black mustard seeds (rai)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1tsp ginger paste
1 green chili
1 Tbsp clarified butter (ghee)
pinch of asafoetida
salt to taste

  • In a bowl, whisk together yogurt, water and chick pea flour until smooth.
  • Heat a sauce pan, add clarified butter (ghee). When it melts add all the spices in the second section above and saute for a min. 
  • Add chopped onions and cook until translucent.
  • Add the the yogurt sauce base and bring to boil in medium high. Keep stirring during this time.
  • After a boil, put the pan on medium low and add spinach leaves. Cover and let it simmer until the spinach is cooked.
Serve with a plate of rice or if like me, just pour in a bowl and enjoy as soup.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rosemary Sauteed Sweet Potatoes

It is sweet potato time again on my blog. Sweet potatoes are probably the most healthy food served in a ThanksGiving dinner. Though it is becoming popular due to its amazing nutritional benefits, I still do not see people adapting it as a part of their regular diet. An exception could be sweet potato fries. In United States, what is sold as yams is botanically member of the sweet potato family. I had discussed sweet potatoes vs yams in detail in my past post here

Sweet potatoes are a great post workout food option. They are very low in fat and very high in several life essentials vitamins and minerals. That bright orange color does speak something to you. 1 serving of sweet potatoes provides 65% of daily vitamin C and 700% of beta carotene that converts in Vitamin A. They have low glycemic index which controls blood sugar spikes. This root vegetable has complex carbs which are good for the body. 

The above portion is less than 150 calories and packed with everything your body needs post workout. And it takes 12 mins...

1 tsp fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp scallions, chopped
1 medium sweet potato(yam in US), cut in 1inch thick rounds
1 medium red onion (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

  • In a saute pan, heat 1 Tbsp of EVOO
  • To the hot pan add cut sweet potatoes Toss to cover with oil. If using onions, add onion before the sweet potatoes to sizzle for a min followed by adding sweet potatoes.
  • Sprinkle all the spices.
  • Cover and cook on medium for 12-15 min.
  • Remove from heat, decorate with scallions and enjoy the beautiful plate of great healthy food.

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