Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Yogurt Pie with Strawberry-Balsamic Topping

Okay, so I’m a wee bit embarrassed about the last post. 

I know you come here for the pretty food pictures and the (seemingly) healthy recipes...and here I was, being completely useless, whining and drowning in self-pity. Not to mention, shoving that ghastly picture of my bloated visage in your face. 

Not cool. Not cool at all.

But I’ll make it up to you, I promise. How? I have a master plan. A fool-proof plan involving crunchy oatmeal, creamy yogurt and…strawberries.

Do I see you smiling already? 

This is almost as good as the best cheesecake you’ve ever had, minus the butter in the crust, the cream and egg yolks, and lo, even the cream cheese!

Okay, so maybe we can’t call it a cheesecake…but you’ve got to trust me on this. If there is any way you are going to pass up on loading carbs with an actual cheesecake, this is it. This is you one-way ticket to low-calorie dessert bliss. (Melodrama, much?!)

 For starters, you have oatmeal instead of graham crackers. Applesauce instead of butter. And a fat-free, healthy crust which is just as crumbly as the conventional cracker crust.

For the filling, we have low-fat yogurt. Sweetened with vanilla and sugar, with some dissolved gelatine to hold its shape.

And then…STRAWBERRIES. Loads of them, macerated with raspberries, sugar, mint and balsamic vinegar. Sweet, sour, tangy goodness.

Go on, make a pie, share a slice, spread the love. 


Yogurt Pie with Strawberry-Balsamic topping

For pie crust:
1 and ½ cups old-fashioned oats
2 packed tbsps. brown sugar
¼ cup applesauce
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  •  Process the oats, brown sugar and cinnamon in a food processor for about 30 seconds until the oats are crushed and all of it is incorporated together
  • Add applesauce to the oats mixture and stir until it is coated evenly
  • Press mixture into a 8 or 9 inch pie dish and bake for 10-11 minutes until brown.
  • Take the pie crust out of the oven and let cool completely
For filling:
2 cups Greek yogurt (or normal yogurt drained of excess water)
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 envelopes of unflavoured gelatine
  • Dissolve the gelatin in three tablespoons of cold water
  • Boil water in a pan and reduce to a light simmer. Place a heat-proof bowl over the pan to create a double-boiler.
  • Empty the yogurt onto the double-boiler, add sugar, vanilla and stir until dissolved completely. Add the dissolved gelatin to the yogurt mixture and stir again until incorporated fully. Remove from heat and let it cool
  • Optional: For a richer filling (and a texture closer to that of cheesecake), you can whip 1 and ½ cups of heavy cream and fold in the whipped cream into the yogurt mixture. This would make the pie lighter and less dense. (I skipped this step as I didn’t want to keep it as healthy as possible- was already going crazy with the sugar, didn’t want to add cream to weigh on my conscience later!)
  • Pour filling into pie crust, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until the yogurt is set.
For topping:
2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved
1 cup raspberries
¼ cup sugar
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar (you could substitute it with lemon juice, if you don’t have vinegar at hand)
A few mint leaves
  • Take half of the strawberries and raspberries and mash them to an almost-pulp consistency with a fork.
  • Add the sugar, vinegar and julienned mint leaves to the mashed fruit and mix well.
  • Finally, add the rest of the fruit, stir everything together and refrigerate.
  • When the pie is set, cut wedges and serve with the macerated fruit on top.

Get cooking already!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Story of My Misfortunes

Have you ever kept exciting news to yourself, afraid to let it out into the world lest it get jinxed and things go inexplicably wrong when you least expect it? Are you the kind that treats good fortune with caution, keeping it under wraps, never indulging in it fully, lest someone someday casts their evil eye upon it, robbing you of your good times?

I wasn't. Up until last week, at least.

But I've learnt my lesson. There are evil spirits lurking in invisible corners round you, they do cast their malevolent eye on you whenever they think you might be enjoying yourself too much, and they are fully capable of jinxing situations in way that you would have never thought possible.

And in testimony to this undeniable fact is everything that has happened to me in the last one week. You already know the sob-story of my weight loss goals. And then, that trip that I'd been so excited about- didn't happen. Tickets booked, bags packed, hair done, hell, even the taxi cab to the airport booked, and then, lo, trip canceled due to some seriously crazy, unforeseeable circumstances.  So, I mop around for next few days, wistfully looking at my packed suitcase and conjuring up mental images of the mojito I might have been sipping by the beach, had things gone as planned. And then I think, hmmm, maybe a day in the city is just what I need to snap out of my moroseness, so I call a friend and plan to meet at Greenwich Village for burgers at the Corner Bistro.

Great plan, you'd think? What better way to cheer up than chomp down some greasy food and wash it down with beer? Aha, not so easy. You forget that I'm not exactly in the good books of of Lady Luck right now. Not surprisingly, we get lost, and go around the village in circles in the hot sun for TWO and a HALF hours. (Damn, I need to get that smartphone!).

And then, out of the blue, an unexpected stroke of good luck- in our quest for the Corner Bistro, we had stumbled upon another NY landmark that we'd been planning to visit for ages- the Magnolia Bakery, with their world-famous cupcakes! And that too, without the mile-long queue that is characteristic of most of the landmark eateries in the city. Burgers- forgotten. Cancelled trip- a thing of the past. Weight loss goals? Um, i have no idea what you are talking about. We closed in on the cupcakes with single-minded focus. There was not even the usual deliberation as to choose between flavors, we just picked everything we wanted to. It took us less a minute to polish of the last of the cupcakes. And it took exactly half that time for my body to react to them. In about thirty seconds time, my face had puffed up like a melon, my eyes like slits under the burgeoning eye-lids. Some crazy allergic reaction to egg yolks. Twenty four hours of popping pills, itching and near-blindness later, my eyes still look like this:

Still waiting for Lady Luck to relent.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Vegan Carrot Cakelets

It's like my body just decided to grind to a halt mid-way, stubbornly refusing to move forward. Two weeks of more-earnest-than-ever working out and conscientious eating, and ONE pound lost. Which translates to- three days to go and six pounds to lose. Which translates to- impossible, end of story. This would be the time to crack open a bottle of hard liquor, wallow in some serious self-pity and cry myself to sleep.

But strange as it might seem, I can hardly stop myself from grinning ear to ear all day these days! Despite all the despair on the weight-loss front, life's looking pretty sunshine-y at the moment! :) Why, you ask?



 Sorry, not a cookbook. Not yet, at least. Ermm... no, not a novel either. Not that i wouldn't want to. But for the time being, this is just a couple of my recipes from the blog. In the Mumbai edition of The Asian Age. But needless to say, i was inordinately stoked at seeing my name in print, and have been walking around with my head in the clouds for the past couple of days!



And oh, after so, SO long! Cold weather and I don't seem to see eye to eye, so I'd been house-bound all through winter. But now that spring is finally here, I'm all ready to fish out those linen shorts, sunglasses and flip flops and hit the road! And to make things even better, I'm going on this trip with an old friend of mine, who I met in NY after a long gap of eight years! Lots of walking, talking, giggling, catching up, fooling around, and late night gossip sessions lined up for next week ...can't wait!

#3 (saved the best for the last!)

I hit upon the ultimate SNACKING JACKPOT yesterday!

Call them chewy cookies. Or cakes with a bit of crunch. They are pretty, tasty and addictive. Moist and delicious. And unbelievably quick and easy to whip up in a hurry. Not to mention, one hundred percent healthy.  Impossible? Ha, what do you know.

Carrots, oats and whole wheat flour. Rum-soaked raisins. Vanilla, cinnamon and cumin for flavour. Held together with applesauce and honey. Rounded off with a tablespoon of coconut oil. No unrefined flour, butter or eggs, but just as delicious. Tell me the health-freak in you isn't doing cartwheels already!

Peel carrots and grate them fine. Plum up some raisins in hot water, or if you anything like me, in some good liquor, preferably rum.

The original recipe called for all coconut oil, but when I made it that way, the smell and taste of the oil overpowered all other flavors in the cookie. After a couple of trials, i have concluded that applesauce works best, with just a tablespoon of coconut oil in the end, just to give it a slight hint of the aroma and flavor. But if you are a fan of coconut oil, go ahead an do away with the applesauce entirely.

Sift all dry ingredients together, add the carrots and raisins (drained), pour the wet ingredients into the mixture and stir until incorporated fully. For bite-sized cookies, make balls of one tablespoon of batter apiece and lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten slightly to form the shape of a cookie.  Bake for twelve minutes in an oven pre-heated at 350 degrees farenheit. Allow to cool for ten minutes and then- stuff.your.face.

Vegan Carrot Cakelets
Recipe adapted from ohsheglows

  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour 
  • 1/4 cup regular oats 
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4-cup slivered almonds 
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrots, packed 
  • 1/4 cup raisins, soaked in water/liquor (preferably overnight) 
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)(i like mine really sweet) 
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce (could be substituted with coconut oil)
  •  1 tablespoon coconut oil (need not add if you substitute applesauce with coconut oil)
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  •  Pinch of cumin
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper 
  2. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, cumin, baking powder, salt, and oats in a large bowl. Add in the almonds, raisins, and shredded carrots 
  3. In a small bowl mix the honey, applesauce, brown sugar, vanilla, coconut oil and freshly grated ginger. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until combined 
  4. Take one heaped tablespoon of dough at a time and shape into balls. Flatten slightly and lay on the lined baking sheet 
  5. Bake for about 12 minutes and cool for 10 minutes on a baking rack.
Enjoy! Meet you back here in a week's time, all tanned and happy (and atleast a couple of pounds heavier, going by all the junk food that is on the radar!).Till then, take care and be good. Toodles!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easy Gazpacho

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.

I haven't been to the gym in a week. I've fallen way behind schedule on my weight-loss goals. I've consumed unpardonable amounts of butter and sugar in the form of cakes, cupcakes, pretzels and sweetbreads. I've remorselessly sunk my teeth into juicy hot dogs and burgers. And cheesy pasta. And worked my way through bags of chips. Drunk galleons of wine. And beer. And coke. Not to mention, coffee. With milk AND sugar.

I'd been inordinately proud of the progress I'd made in the last month. Sure, eight pounds in a month doesn't sound like much, but for a person who has only put on weight in the last twenty five years of her life, it is nothing short of ecstatic to know that her body can move in the other direction as well. Plus, whatever little success I'd had was made even  sweeter by the fact that , this time, I'd actually accomplished it on my own terms, without following some crazy diet, depriving myself of the food I love or working out till I my lungs imploded on themselves everyday.

It is all a rosy picture while it lasts. But like I've realized the hard way, one tip in the wrong direction, and it all comes down like a stack of dominoes. And before you know it, you haven't worked out in a week, have fed your body with all kinds of junk and are four pounds behind in your weight-loss goals. Fifteen pounds in two months seemed like an easy target a fortnight back. Not so much anymore.

BUT. No time to mop around. Need to make a quick comeback. I have another two weeks to go for my two-month deadline and seven whole pounds to lose. Off to the gym RIGHT NOW.

And oh... a giant bowl of gazpacho for dinner.

Easy Gazpacho

This is possibly the easiest soup recipe ever. No boiling, cooking down or blending. Chop a few veggies fine and drown them in some spiced up tomato juice. And it's the best option when the weather is playing the kind of tricks it's playing nowadays - going from 50 degrees to 82 degrees farentheit in half a day's time. Nothing like cold soup on a hot day!

This one is adapted from Ina Garten's recipe, but tailored down to suit a weight watcher's needs. Meaning, easy substitutes for expensive ingredients and one-tenth of the amount of oil that she uses!

1 seedless cucumber
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 red onion
3 cloves of garlic
3 cups of tomato juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
Juice of one half lime
A sprig of coriander
Salt and crushed black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Chop all the vegetables into chunks and pulse them a couple of times in the food processor along with the fresh coriander and garlic until they are all chopped fine. (You could do this with a knife as well but it takes forever. On the other hand, if you like a more hearty texture, you can go ahead n just chop all the veggies like you would do for a salsa)

2. Mix the tomato juice, lemon and lime juice salt and pepper and add it to the vegetable mixture. Drizzle olive oil on top. Garnish with slices of avocado or bread croutons.

The longer it sits, the better it tastes. So if you are making it in advance, make sure to add the croutons just before serving so that it doesn't get soggy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A [very] long post, a pretty salad, and... awards!

For one glorious day, all kinds of weight-watching, calorie-counting, gymming, non-snacking and salad-chomping was put on hold.

It was the Malayali New Year, Vishu, my favourite festival of the year!

Come April, and the whole of Kerala wears a festive look in anticipation of Vishu and Easter. The schools are closed for summer, mango and jackfruit trees are laden with fruit, and most importantly, every garden, backyard and bend in the road greets you with an explosion of sunshine yellow: the konna flowers that bloom only during this time of the year. You see the konna tree laden with festoons of brilliant yellow, and you know Vishu is just around the corner!

So, last Friday, P and I switched off our alarms at the crack of dawn, and stumbled out of the bedroom, our eyes still tightly shut, across to our puja corner, so that we might open our eyes to this:

An auspicious sight to begin the New Year, in the hope that the rest of the year turns out equally good. Figurines of all our favourite gods for divine presence throughout the year, fresh fruit and rice (denoting fresh produce of the harvest) for prosperity, new clothes, gold and money for good fortune and riches. All these in the ethereal glow of a traditional lamp lit with ghee. Of course, had we been back home, this tableau would have included a giant jack-fruit and ripe mangoes from our backyard, and an excess of the konna flowers, which we didn't have here in the US. 

After breakfast, cooking ensued. The house was filled with the smell of coconut oil and curry leaves. Coconut in all its glory- freshly ground with green chillies and cumin for avial, dry-roasted and ground with other spices for sambhar, fried with mustard seeds and curry leaves for elissery, and coconut milk for payasam… you get the drift! (Sorry, no photographs, I was too busy cooking and eating!)

Vishu was indeed a grand affair. But now that it has come and gone, and the excesses of the day are threatening to form a fresh layer of fat around my waist, it is time to detox! And what better way to detox but to go back to chomping down some crunchy veggies again?!

I call it my Ultimate Summer Veggies Ribbon Salad. I know, complicated name, huh? Thankfully, the salad itself isn't as complicated- all you need is some fresh, colorful summer vegetables, and a peeler.

(Wasn't the best photo I took, but i somehow like how the light from the window falls on the veggies- sort of like the vegetables lined up like a prisoners' drill and the peeler hovering over them like a jailer!)

May I take the opportunity to introduce you to my trusty peeler, Mr Spuds? A little cockeyed, but still my hero, nevertheless! ;)

Of course, you could do this in one-tenth of the time using your food processor, but I just happen to luurve hangin’ out with ol’ Mr Spuds!

UH, dunno if I can say the same about Spuddy here, though! :P  

Anyways, job done, and you have a bowl of colourful ribbons that attack your eyes with all the subtlety of a brilliantly-hued rainbow.

Now, for the dressing. Many a lovely salad has been brought down by the wrong dressing. It would be a crime to use something heavy like mayonnaise or sour cream for a salad that so great in its own right. What you need is just the right amount of tart and spice that will lift the natural flavours of the vegetables without bogging them down with gloopy dressing. So, I went with a vinaigrette of lemon juice and olive oil, with salt, pepper and just a hint of cumin at the end. Why cumin? Because that was the one ingredient that went well with all the veggies I had. If you make this with a completely different set of vegetables, go ahead n change the ingredients in your dressing too! 

Summer Veggies Ribbon Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

3 cups of vegetables of your choice, in thin long ribbons. (I used green, red and yellow peppers, carrots, asparagus and cucumber)
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon cumin powder
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Mix the lemon juice, salt, pepper and cumin together in a bowl, and drizzle in the olive oil slowly while stirring the mixture with a whisk/fork until an emulsion is formed. 
  2. Toss the festooned vegetables together, and pour just enough dressing onto it to cover all the vegetables lightly. 
  3. If making the salad in advance, prepare the vegetables and vinaigrette separately and toss together just before serving 
  4. Garnish with some whole cumin (for crunch) and serve. Enjoy!  

And now, for my favourite part of this post, which I've saved for the last….the AWARDs! I was thrilled to bits when I read Ankita’s comment in my last post saying that she had a bunch of awards waiting for me in her blog! Thank you SO much, Ankita! Being such a newbie-foodblogger, every comment, every follow and every award, means the world to me! :)

So, as per tradition, I need to spell out 7 facts about me. Here goes:
  • I love experimenting in the kitchen but I have a mental block against randomly bringing two different cuisines together- you would never find me making/posting stuff like macaroni upma, or Thai-style lasagna. I feel like each cuisine has a definite allure of its own, and arm-twisting it to fit flavors from a completely different style just kills its spirit altogether!
  • I’m a baker at heart. If I had it my way, I would be up to my earlobes in flour, eggs, butter and sugar from dawn to dusk, and spend the rest of the day eating what I made! Cakes, cookies, cupcakes, scones, crumbles, crisps, pies: these are the stuff my dreams are made of! But sadly, now that I’m in weight-watching mode, I’ve kept the baker in me on a tight leash. No more baking till I reach my weight loss goals!
  • I heart potatoes. If the world was coming to an end, I’d lug home a sack of potatoes and roast them with garlic and rosemary for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all meals in between until judgement day. 
  • Oh, actually, scratch the last one out- I’d probably save at least one meal a day to have my favourite dish in the whole wide world – Olan. It’s a keralite vegetarian dish in which beans and pumpkin are stewed together in spicy coconut milk gravy. Out.of.this.world! Gives me goosebumps to even think about it!
  • Some women have shoe fetishes, some are crazy about bags. Me-I’m crazy about stationery. Drop me at a Staples outlet and I’d be like a kid in a candy store! Colourful post-its, felt pens, marker pens, fancy notebooks, clip boards, white boards, magnetic boards, I drool over them all! :)
  • I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to movies! Chick-flicks and Bollywood love stories rule my DVD collection and Netflix queue!
  • Phew! Last one. This is much harder than I thought. Okay. I’m a HUUUGE Harry Potter fan. Way more than you can possibly imagine. I’ve read the entire collection at least ten times, and still read it religiously at least once a year. Hate the movies, though!
I’d like to pass on this award to some of my favourite food bloggers…

Rules to claim and share these awards:
  • Thank and Link the blogger who has given you the award.
  • Copy and paste the Logos in your blog.
  • Pass these on to 15 other Great Blogger friends
  • Comment on the most recent post and let the nominated blogger know of the award
Phewww! That was such a long post! Till next time then, and bon appetit!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fruit Salad with Green-tea Jelly

What? It's cloudy again? Weather gods, send us some sun please!

And to make things worse, its friggin' HOT! Which means, the option of sipping hot chai all day is pretty much out of the window. What i need on a day like this is something cool and refreshing, but bright enough to beat the gloom outside.

Like...oranges. Sweet, cool, refreshing but zesty and bright. Perfect.

But of course, you didn't come all this way to hear me tell you to go eat oranges. Oh, no. I've got something extra special for you, which is....(pregnant pause for effect)


Full to choking with antioxidants and all good things in general. But lets face it, on its own it.tastes.like.HAY.
Which is is why we infuse it with a little mint. And later, a wee bit of honey and lemon juice to perk it up further.

And while we are waiting for the tea to steep, why not sprinkle soak some some gelatin and dissolve it in the hot tea? Pale, delicate, milky cubes of flavored green tea. Genius? Genius.

What next? Salad dressing. Easy peasy. Another tablespoon of honey, some orange zest, orange juice and freshly ground black pepper. Done.

Now for the real deal. Greens: Crunchy iceberg lettuce. Citrus: Orange (Duh!). Other fruit: Whatever you can fish out of your fruit basket- all i had was strawberries. And then, if you are a texture junkie like me, some granola, or toasted almonds for crunch. Pour dressing, toss and finally, top with cubes of green tea jelly.

Fruit Salad with Green-tea Jelly

For Green tea Jelly:
2 cups water
3-5 mint leaves
2 green-tea bag
1 and a half tbspn honey
Juice from half a lemon (the last two can be adjusted according to your taste)
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  1. Boil water with the mint leaves, dip the teabags in the boiling water and allow it to steep for a few minutes.
  2. In the meantime, sprinkle the gelatin in a little cold water and allow it to soak.
  3. Discard teabags and mint leaves, and add the honey and lemon juice to the tea.
  4. Add the gelatin to the hot tea and stir until mixed properly.
  5. Pour the tea into a flat pan (I lined it with cling-film so that i could take jelly out easily)
For Dressing: 

I tbspn honey
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tbspn orange zest
1 teaspoon of fresh crushed pepper
  1. Mix all the ingredients together

 For Fruit Salad:
1 cup chopped lettuce
2 oranges
5-7 strawberries
1/2 cup granola or toasted almonds
  1. Chop lettuce; peel and segment oranges; halve strawberries
  2. Mix the greens, fruits and granola together, pour dressing and toss. 
  3. Top with green tea cubes before serving.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A quick question....

Shiva from FatChicGoesSlim (check out her blog-pretty awesome stuff in there!) commented that the Follow button in my blog didn't work for her... It seems to be ok at my end, but has anybody else had this problem? Could you please let me know?

Scroll down to read my recipe for the day... And if you like it, do drop a comment- would love to hear from you! Enjoy!