Banana Kale Smoothies!

I love smoothies…nutrition in a glass and, if you want, you can make them work extra hard for you by adding protein powder or peanut/almond butter.  They are also a great way of getting bananas into my kids.  They both play basketball and hate eating bananas – a great post-workout recovery food.  Ina Garten’s Orange Banana Smoothie is a godsend since they lap it up.  I do take the pains of making fresh orange juice since it tastes infinitely better than store bought orange juice.  I am very smug about the tweaks I made to her recipe since the kids do not realize that they are getting chia seeds, kale and spinach in the smoothies.  Changes to her recipe:

  • I add a tbsp of chia seeds
  • Instead of using just fresh strawberries I use frozen mix of berries, kale and spinach that I get from Costco

I personally prefer diary based smoothies to juice based smoothies.  And lately I realized that I prefer the taste of almond milk/coconut milk based smoothies to diary based smoothies.  And a smoothie is a great way to incorporate kale into my diet.  I buy fresh kale, clean it and freeze it so it’s handy.  I can buy frozen kale but found that it is hard to use and a bit slimy.  The fresh kale that is frozen crumbles easily so it’s convenient.  This green smoothie, made more powerful with chia seeds and almond butter, is perfect for breakfast on the go or for post workout snack.

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Ingredients:

  • Banana* – 1
  • Kale – 1/2 cup
  • Almond butter – 1 tbsp
  • Coconut milk – 1 cup
  • Chia seeds – 1 tbsp

Method:

Blend everything till smooth and enjoy!

*Bananas should be just ripe.  Too ripe bananas have a strong smell and flavor.  One can’t run to the store 3 times a week to pick bananas that are perfect.  Peel and freeze bananas so they remain fresh.  Frozen bananas also make the smoothie creamier.

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Pura Naturals!

What caught my attention about these sponges is “no need to microwave or put in dishwasher”…I routinely throw my kitchen sponges in the dishwasher and then microwave them for 30 seconds once they come out of the dishwasher to kill the bacteria and odors.  So when I saw these sponges at WholeFoods I grabbed them to give it a try.  I researched the company only after I bought it and was quite pleased to learn that these sponges have a negative carbon print.  The technology – BeBetterFoam – was initially developed to clean up the BP oil spill and the company has since launched home and beauty products using the same technology.

The sponges I bought are soap infused and have citrus fragrance.  Once the soap runs out I can add any dishwashing soap I have.  I have been using this sponge for over a week and I am quite happy with it…absolutely no smell and dries out pretty quickly.  The only thing I would have liked is a scrubber since the sponge is too soft to attack stuck on food.  The company does have other sponges with a scrubber or this sponge can be used in conjunction with a steel scrubber.

Not sure how this will hold up but after a week the sponge is still fresh and has soap left.  Clean dishes and greener planet!

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Lazy Chicken Biryani!

This is my sister-in-law’s recipe and is my go-to recipe for a quick and satisfying meal. This is not the traditional “dum” way of making biryani with meat but it is simple to make and fast too. An authentic biryani takes hours to make but is worth the effort.  Meat is marinated in spices and is cooked in a heavy bottomed pan with half-cooked rice layered on top of the meat.  The whole pan is sealed so steam won’t escape – the meat thus gets cooked both from the heat on the bottom of the pan and the steam on top.  It is very flavorful and as I said is worth the time and effort but for the days that you do not have time but crave biryani this lazy recipe should do the trick.  Serve it with raita (yogurt sauce) and dinner is ready in under an hour.

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Ingredients:

For the biryani:

  • Onion – 1 big sliced
  • Mint leaves – 2 cups loosely packed (optional)
  • Methi leaves – 1 cup loosely packed (optional)
  • Frozen peas – 1/2 cup thawed
  • Ginger garlic paste – 4 asps
  • Whole chicken – 1 cut up in big pieces
  • Salt to taste
  • Red chili powder – 2 tsps
  • Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
  • Garam masala – 1 tsp
  • Coriander leaves – a few sprigs
  • Cashews – broken about 4 tbsp
  • Oil – around 4 tbsp
  • Butter – 1tbsp
  • Basmati rice – 4 cups
  • Whole spices:
    • Bay leaves – 2
    • Cinnamon stick – a 3 inch piece
    • Star Anise – 2
    • Cloves – 6 to 8
    • Whole cardamom – around 5

For the raita:

  • Yogurt – 2 cups
  • Red onion – 1 diced small
  • Green chillies – 1 or 2
  • Carrot – peeled and grated*
  • Cumin powder – a pinch
  • Salt to taste
  • A few grinds of black pepper

Method:

Biryani:

  1. Wash rice and add it to a rice cooker that is big enough to cook up to 8 cups of rice.  Add 6 cups of water to the rice**
  2. Heat 2 tbsp of oil and butter in a wide pan.  Add bay leaves and the rest of the whole spices.  Cook until the spices are aromatic and add cashews; cook until cashews brown and add the spices and oil to the soaked rice and mix well.
  3. Add the rest of the oil to the same pan and when the oil is hot add the sliced onions. Cook until the onions are browned and add ginger-garlic paste.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for a minute; add frozen peas and cook for a minute or two; add both mint and methi leaves and saute until the leaves wilt
  4. Add washed chicken, turmeric powder, salt, chilli powder and coriander powder.  Increase the heat and cook chicken, while stirring, so it is browned on the outside around 5-7 minutes.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let the chicken cook for another 10 minutes.  Add garam masala and coriander leaves; cook for a couple more minutes on high heat
  6. Add the cooked chicken (there should not be a lot of water in the chicken) to the soaked rice and mix well.  Add a cup of water to the pan, scrape up the browned bits and add to the rice
  7. Mix really well, adjust the salt and turn the rice cooker on
  8. While the rice cooks keep stirring it often so the meat doesn’t settle on top.  You can also add juice of one lime if you wish
  9. When the rice is done you may have to mix it again just so the meat is not all lumped together at the top.
  10. Serve it piping hot with raita and lime wedges!

** Not all rice are created equal 🙂 Some may require more water and some less.  Please adjust water according to your rice.  Usually basmati rice needs about 1 1/2 cup of water to 1 cup of rice.

Raita:

  1. Mix finely chopped onions, slit green chillies, grated carrot, salt, black pepper and cumin powder in a bowl.  Let it rest for a couple minutes while you beat 2 cups of yogurt till it is creamy.  You can add a few tbsp of water to make it smooth
  2. Add yogurt to the onions and carrot and adjust salt
  3. Garnish it with coriander leaves or mint leaves and serve

*Cucumber can be used instead of carrot.  Make sure to deseed the cucumber.  Grate it or dice it thin and add it in place of carrot.  Raita can be made plain without carrot or cucumber but I feel good about adding carrots/cucumber … get some veggies in!

 

 

Black bean quesadillas!

Quesadillas are so simple to make and so satisfying.  They are one of my comfort foods…also my go to option when I am lazy or need to get food on the table in under 10 minutes.  If I am in a hurry I make them with plain cheese and chopped bottled jalapeno or canned black beans mixed with cheese and salsa.  Mostly I make them with filling made from black beans and red bell peppers.  This takes a bit more time but you can sneak vegetables in and also add a lot more flavor. I also prefer using lavash roll up bread instead of tortillas.

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Ingredients:

  • 13.4 oz canned black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow bell pepper
  • 2 green chillies diced (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin pwd
  • 1/4 tsp coriander pwd
  • A couple sprigs of coriander leaves
  • 1 – 2 tbsp oil
  • 4 lavash roll ups or 4 tortillas
  • Shredded cheese (mexican blend) – about 2 cups
  • Bottled jalapeno – finely chopped about a tbsp

Method:

  1. Heat oil in a pan and add onions and green chillies; saute for a few mins until onions become translucent
  2. Add bell pepper and cook until peppers become soft but still have a bite to them
  3. Add the beans and mix well
  4. Add salt to taste, cumin and coriander powder and cook on low flame for a couple minutes; add coriander leaves, mix well and turn off the heat
  5. Heat a wide frying pan; spread about a tsp of butter on one side of the tortilla or bread and place buttered side down on the pan; turn down the heat to medium low
  6. Spread about 1/2 cup black bean filling and 1/2 cup of cheese on half of the tortilla and fold the other half over
  7. Cook on one side for about a minute; flip and cook on the other side for about a minute.  The tortilla should be crisp and the cheese just melting
  8. Transfer to warm plate or serve immediately with sour cream and salsa

Rainbow Trout!

I met a dear friend for dinner at Seasons 52 over the weekend and we ordered wood-grilled rainbow trout with golden beets salad.  The fish was so succulent and delicate I had to try it at home…pan seared instead of grilled. I thought fried trout and salad would make a nice dinner but when I went to the grocery store to pick up fish I couldn’t resist baby purple potatoes and rainbow carrots.  So dinner ended up to be pan seared trout with roasted purple potatoes and rainbow carrots!

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Recipes are from Food Network and Food.com and can be found here: Pan seared trout, roasted purple potatoes and roasted rainbow carrots!