Nutty Fruity Granola

20181124_171121

My kids love all sorts of granola, especially with fruits and nuts. I enjoy a bit of it tossed on top of Greek yogurt and fruits. Store-bought granola can be a time saver, but they are usually very heavy on sugar/corn syrup (or another sweetener) and fat. Granola, which could be something healthy and good for you often takes a backseat due to the many bad calories.

20181124_152653

So, that nudged me to try a homemade granola recipe. This super easy granola recipe uses ingredients that you are likely to find in your pantry, along with a fresh apple to give that fall flair – albeit we are really closer to winter than fall!!

20181124_154105

The hardest part of this recipe is really keeping an eye on the oat mixture as it slowly transforms into granola. You do have to take a peek every 15 min or so, and slowly toss them around to make sure they get cooked evenly without getting burnt. What I truly loved about this recipe was how I could control the amount of added sweetness. Even though honey or maple syrup is better than refined sugar, it’s still calories. Also, by adding in some applesauce, I was able to cut back on the oil as well.

20181124_155443

I hope you will give this recipe a try. I really am not sure how long this would keep fresh, especially with fresh apples in it. I would think they should keep well in an airtight container for about a week.

20181124_171111

Fruity Nutty Granola with Apples

Ingredients:
2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
1 gala apple (or another firm apple of your choice), finely chopped
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 scoop vanilla flavored protein powder (optional)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt (I omitted this)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Preparation:
1. Preheat the oven to 275F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, measure out old fashioned oats, chopped almonds, , chopped apples, chia, protein powder and coconut. Mix in the spices, including salt, if using.
3. In a small bowl, combine honey, coconut oil and apple sauce.
4. Add the honey mixture to the oats mixture and mix thoroughly to ensure all ingredients are well coated.
5. Transfer the granola mix on to the pan and spread the mixture evenly. Place in the preheated oven. Bake for 45-60 minutes lightly turning over the mixture every 15 minutes.
6. Remove the tray from the oven and let the granola cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container.

Hope this granola brightens your morning a little – especially because they truly are low in sugar and fat.

Blackbean and Veggie Falafels

20181021_191709
I am glad to admit that I am not a purist. There is something a bit more personal and exciting about bending the norms a little. At least in the food we enjoy! Think about it…if you always followed the same cake or casserole recipe, won’t you be bored? That’s when we get creative with tossing in a little bit of this and that or “wing it” along the way.

These falafels are the result of going with the flow and keeping my fingers crossed that they won’t be a crumbly or horrible tasting mess. Inspiration for this recipe, which uses cauliflower, sweet potato and black beans came from watching the recent trends with cauliflower everything, including pizza crust! PIZZA CRUST! If cauliflower could be a pizza crust, it better be a darn good falafel. And it delivered!

Honestly, these falafels are a winner not not because they have a good doze of veggies, but also because they are oven-baked with a light drizzle of oil and not deep fried like the traditional ones. What is not to love about it, right?! These delicious bites held their shape, stored well for few days refrigerated and made a perfect match as a salad topper or filler for a pita. So, go ahead and make a batch! You can drop a thank you note later! ūüôā

20181028_192913

Blackbean and Veggie Falafels

  • Servings: 18-20 falafels
  • Print

Note about Prep Time: Prep time is about 20 min, refrigeration for about 30 min and cook (bake) time about 45 min.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups grated cauliflower

1 1/2 cups grated sweet potato

1/4 cup finely chopped onions

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 heaping teaspoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder

Salt to taste

1 14.5oz black beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup chickpea flour

1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Dry roast coriander and cumin seeds for 5 min over low heat and grind to a powder in a dry grinder or in a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
  2. In a saute pan, add 1 teaspoon olive oil and saute the vegetables, including onion and garlic. Add the ground spices, salt, paprika and cayenne. Let cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, mash the drained blackbeans. Add the vegetable mixture and chickpea flour and thoroughly mix in. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 400F.
  5. Take the refrigerated falafel mixture out and form into about 1 to 1 1/2 inch balls.
  6. Arrange on a parchment lined baking tray and drizzle with remaining olive oil.
  7. Bake for about 25 min. Turn over and continue to bake for another 20 min till firm and golden.
  8. Serve immediately in a salad or as a wrap. Refrigerate remaining falafels.

Pan-Grilled Tilapia with Garlic Rainbow Chard

20151031_194819

I love greens! Spinach, kale, collard, mustard…but I had never tried chard before! So, I was super excited when a colleague brought in a couple of bags of “excess” produce that she had from her membership in the¬†CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). My “loot bag” included a large earthy turnip, a big bag of peppery arugula and a beautiful bunch of sweet rainbow chard! I must say, there is something about the rainbow chard…its deep green leaves with colorful veins and stems in purple, orange and green is definitely a thing of beauty!

20151031_190421  20151031_190625

Driving home, I made a mental note of how I was going to use up all that beautiful, fresh produce! I decided on South Indian style mixed vegetable and lentil stew (sambar) with the turnip, thin crust pizza (I used a prebaked crust made of whole wheat and kamut flours) with pesto, mushrooms and arugula and…tilapia with rainbow chard saut√©ed in extra-virgin olive oil with a healthy doze of minced garlic!

20151031_191206  20151031_192149

This tilapia/rainbow chard dinner is a snap to prepare. It requires very few ingredients and takes about the same time as watching a pot of water come to boil and cooking a box of pasta! Instead of a bowl of plain, cooked pasta in less than 20 minutes, you get a beautifully plated! I sort of missed the summer BBQ flavors and opted to go with that for this dish! The chard is super simple to make – just garlic, pinch of salt and bit of olive oil! I think the green is so delicate that anything beyond this simple combo might just overpower its natural flavor and taste!

20151031_194847

Isn’t everyone talking about the health benefits of eating fish! So, go for it! Grab yourself a few filets and whip up this dinner in a snap!

Pan-Grilled Tilapia with Garlic Rainbow Chard

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Ingredients
4 Tilapia filets, skin removed
1 tablespoon BBQ seasoning or other seasoning of your choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch of rainbow chard, chopped up
3 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt

Preparation
1. Lay the tilapia filets on a large plate and coat both sides with the BBQ seasoning.
2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
3. Place the fish in the hot skillet and “grill” for 4-5 minutes on each side. The fish is done when you can flake it easily with a fork.
4. Wipe down the pan and return to heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the rainbow chard and garlic and saute for 3-4 minutes.
5. Serve the fish immediately over a serving of sautéed chard for a simple, healthy and delicious meal!

Lighter Chocolate Chip Bread

20150717_060203

Chocolate! What is not to love about it!!!

This recipe is a spinoff from the original recipe for Cinnamon-Swirl Chocolate Chip Bread¬†by Sally’s Baking Addiction. The first time I baked this bread, I must confess I felt like I was transported to a great pastry shop somewhere! The smell of chocolate and cinnamon permeated the entire house and had my kids dash to the kitchen wondering what was baking!

Original Recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction

Original Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction

To top it off, I took some of the bread to work that morning (yes, the bread still slightly warm…needless to say, everyone raved about it and I obviously gave credit to Sally. I knew after the first loaf that this recipe was going to be keeper, but I wanted to find a way to “healthify” it up a little!

I thought cutting down the sugar content was quite easy to accomplish. Sally’s recipe calls for 1/2 cup of sugar with cinnamon to use in the¬†cinnamon layer. Personally, I could do without¬†it! So, there it¬†is – my first¬†calorie-saving¬†switch was to eliminate the cinnamon sugar layer and instead use 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in the batter!

20150716_200228  20150716_200355

Calorie-saving tip #2 – replace some of the oil with unsweetened applesauce!¬†I substituted half the oil with the applesauce and you wouldn’t miss much of the moistness! Next time, I am going to¬†try it with pureed prunes instead of applesauce¬†to see¬†how it turns out! I would imagine¬†it will result in an equally delicious loaf with darker color! Yum!

20150716_201156

Final nutrient-boosting tip¬†(#3) – substitute 3/4 cup of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat. Yes, yes, white flour baked goods are delicious, but at least I feel a bit better knowing almost half the flour is whole-wheat! ūüôā

"Lightened Up" Version - Can you tell the difference except for chocolate chip topping vs. chopped chocolate?

“Lightened Up” Version – Can you tell the difference except for chocolate chip topping vs. chopped chocolate?

This recipe is pretty simple to put together. As usual, measure out the dry ingredients, whip up the wet ingredients and fold in the dry into the wet making sure not to release your stress during the mixing process! ūüôā Gentle does it! My recommendation is to¬†save your stress release for another bread recipe that calls for extreme amount of kneading! Gentle mixing results in a lighter bread that is not tough! And oh, another word of caution…this bread takes a long time to bake – almost an hour! So, you have to be patient!

20150717_060136  20150717_060244

Enjoy!

Lighter Chocolate Chip Bread

  • Servings: 12
  • Print

Ingredients
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup mini or regular semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 egg at room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce-oil mixture (I spooned in applesauce halfway up a 1/3 measuring cup and topped with oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Optional:
2 tablespoons of sweetened coconut flakes
1 tablespoon of chocolate chips

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350F; Spray a nonstick loaf pan with cooking spray on all sides and set aside. Alternatively, you can lay a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan and spray over the sides of the pan. Parchment helps to remove the loaf easily from the pan.
2. Measure out the dry ingredients and sift into a medium bowl.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the egg. Mix in the sugars till all lumps are broken down. Stir in the buttermilk, applesauce-oil combo and vanilla.
4. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients, along with chocolate chips taking care not to overmix.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Top with some sweetened grated coconut (optional) and additional chocolate chips.
6. Bake for about 50-55 minutes till the bread is baked all the way through (confirm with the usual toothpick trick!).
7. Remove from oven, let cool in the pan completely. If you are in a hurry like I was the first time I baked, let cool for 10 minutes in the pan and carefully remove taking care not to scorch yourself (not advisable). Transfer to a cooling rack.

Bread will stay fresh in a tightly closed container at room temperature for about 5 days.
Enjoy!

Hearty and Healthy Kale Salad

20140427_130123

Green may not be my favorite color, but I love greens – the eating type! Spinach, collar, mustard, kale, turnip…When it comes to spinach and kale, I enjoy them in every which way. So, when it was time for a light and quick lunch over the weekend, I was motivated by my sister to prepare a kale salad.

I had kale on hand along with bunch of salad-type veggies. So, a quick look through the refrigerator and pantry resulted in me laying out kale, radish, red onions, purple cabbage, fresh orange, fresh lemon, canned chickpeas, feta cheese, leftover turkey bacon and boiled eggs! It’s gonna be delish!

20140427_102700  20140428_180201

I have heard people complain about kale being difficult to digest. Although I haven’t found this to be an issue, I figured I will look into it. After a brief cyber consulting, I decided to do a flash-blanch of the leaves prior to preparing the salad. Briefly saut√©ing or blanching kale not only helps with easier digestion, but also softens its earthy, slightly bitter taste. Additionally, it also makes it easier to make kids eat it too!

20140427_125947

Feel free to add in any salad vegetables of your choice. You can also add in cooked quinoa, barley or couscous in lieu of (or in addition to) the chickpeas. Similarly, replace boiled egg with grilled chicken breast or salmon. Let your creativity run wild – I guarantee you will enjoy the finished dish!

Lastly, I really think the quick salad dressing made using orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and dash of crushed cumin seeds is just perfect for this salad. Again, feel free to substitute another dressing of your choice. This salad is satisfying, delicious and packed with chock full of nutrients! Enjoy!

Hearty and Healthy Kale Salad

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Print

Ingredients
3 cups of kale leaves, stems removed and torn into bite size pieces
1/2 cup sliced red cabbage
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onions
1/2 cup thinly sliced red radish
2 sweet oranges, segments removed and juices reserved for dressing
2 – 3 slices of cooked turkey bacon, chopped
2 boiled eggs, chopped
2 tablespoons of crumbled feta cheese, optional

Dressing
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons of fresh orange juice (from above)
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds (or 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder)
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed or ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preparation
1. Blanch kale leaves very quickly by dropping them in boiling water and immediately removing them. You can transfer them to an ice-cold water bath, but I skipped this step. Transfer the drained leaves to a salad spinner and remove any remaining water.
2. Place the leaves in a large bowl. Add in remaining salad ingredients and toss to evenly distribute.
3. In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients thoroughly.
4. Drizzle over salad and serve immediately.

Crispy and Healthy Pizza

20140301_191550[1]

I like pizza. I don’t know if I love it, but I certainly enjoy it every now and then. Having said that, anytime someone suggests a carryout pizza, I am usually not keen with the choice. I just don’t feel good about chomping down on a slice of a typical carryout pizza – with a massive crust made with all white flour, tons of cheese (I wonder if it is all 100% dairy based), so-so sauce and a smattering of toppings that you may or may not really care for – leave alone worry about the calories! So, that pretty much leaves me with wanting (and in a peculiar way, longing) to make home-made pizza that not only tastes good but better for you!

20140301_152742[1]              20140301_153049[1]

I like to try out different recipes for the crust, preferring to use a combo of flours. This recipe, to everyone’s delight, turned out to be soooo good – crispy and chewy with a nutty note. I wish I had some whole wheat flour on hand to replace some of the all-purpose flour with (what a crime!). Next time! Anyway, if you are the type that loves this type of crust, forget about the Chicago-style deep dish crust, and give this one a try. I think your body will thank for it as well!¬†ūüôā

20140301_185349[1]  20140301_185918[1] 20140301_191133[1]  20140301_191126[1]

Crispy and Healthy Pizza

  • Servings: 6
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

Pizza crust
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (replace some of the white flour with whole wheat if you would like)
1/2 cup soy flour
1/4 cup ground flax
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 packet active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon wheat bran
1 tablespoon olive oil

Pizza toppings
1 cup pizza sauce
1/2 – 2/3 cup part-skim mozzarella (for one pizza)
1/2 -2/3 cup sliced fresh mozzarella (for other pizza)
1/2 cup diced chicken breast
1/2 cup diced green peppers
1 cup broiled or sautéed broccoli florets
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
2 slices of cooked bacon slices, crumbled

Preparation
1. Mix all purpose flour, soy flour, ground flax, salt, yeast and sugar in a stand mixer or a large bowl (I went with the bowl this time around).
2. Add the olive oil, followed by warm water in a slow stream and mix to form a dough.
3. If the dough is too sticky, add a tablespoon of all-purpose or whole wheat flour. If it is too dry, add a tablespoon of warm water.
4. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes to make a smooth dough.
5. Coat a large bowl with the additional tablespoon of olive oil. Place the dough ball there and toss to coat with oil.
6. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and leave in a warm, drought-free spot till the dough doubles in size.
7. When ready to prepare the pizza, preheat oven to 500F.
8. Punch down the dough and divide into two parts.
9. Sprinkle a cookie sheet or pizza stone with wheat bran (or cornmeal if you prefer) and flatten one part of dough to a thin crust, about 1/4 inch thick. You can flatten using the tips of your fingers. Repeat with the other part of the dough.
10. Bake the crust for about 7 minutes. Remove from oven.
11. Spread about 1/2 cup of pizza sauce of your preference. Sprinkle with part-skim mozzarella cheese or sliced fresh mozzarella. Follow with toppings of your choice. I used a combination of broiled broccoli, green peppers, baby bella mushrooms, green onions, diced cooked chicken breast and bit of cooked and crumbled center-cut bacon.
12. Bake the pizza till cheese melts and toppings (fresh veggies and pre-cooked meats) are heated through (about 5-7 minutes).