Superfood Amaranth stem in coconut gravy

IMG_1479Dear reader, my food life has changed a lot since I first started blogging. Then I was just a food blogger sharing my home cooking with everyone.

Now I cook for catering requests. And the requests just seem to keep on growing. I’m not complaining. I love cooking and serving people. And nothing gives me more happiness than a satisfied guest. However since I now spend my weekends cooking for others, I haven’t been able to write my blog for a bit. But today its time to share even though its midnight, Canadian time. My work laptop isn’t picking up the network & I made myself a strong cup of tea to work on a talk I have to give in Milwaukee on Wednesday. Sigh! I will probably pull an all-nighter tomorrow once IT figures out what happened.

On to sharing my amazing dish.

A regular guest picks up about 8-10 meal packages every Friday. This time I made a variety of dishes, including an amaranth leaf stir fry.

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Always respecting my food cooking principles as follows:

  • Food must be fresh
  • Food must nourish body
  • Food must be easy to digest
  • Food must satisfy taste buds
  • Food must not be made from processed foods
  • And last but not least food must have prana or life energy

When I made the amaranth leaf stir fry, I discarded the stems as it was nice to have a leafy stir fry. Today I had the stems look up at me from the fridge as if to say, take me, and make the best dish you possibly can.:)

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I love coconut in my cooking. In fact I would say I put coconut in almost anything. Its my cultural inheritance, its how my grandmother cooked. And I’m just following intuition. It tastes good, it feels good. But now research is coming up every day on the amazing benefits of coconut. Great cure for alzeimers. Its also now been proving to stimulate the growth of new brain cells

Do try this recipe, the coconut is so good for you. Amaranth is another superfood that I can simply not get enough of. Its called mulaikeerai in tamil cooking. And the variegated leaves are so pretty you’re bound to fall in love with this dish.

You need

2 cups diced amaranth stem, washed
¼ cup split chickpeas 
Spice Mix
¼ tsp cumin(cumin is a strong spice & you can opt to leave it out altogether)
½ cup grated coconut, fresh or dessicated
2 black pepper pods
½ tsp cilantro seeds
1 dry red chilly
Garnish
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coconut oil
5 curry leaves
Salt to tasteServes 3

How to

  • Wash amaranth stem thoroughly. It’s a green & has a tendency to have soil sticking to its roots.
  • Cut into small dice sized chunks & set asideIMG_0310
  • Wash and soak split chickpeas in ½ cup hot water for ½ hour. Rinse again before using.
  • Wash & soak ingredients of spice mix in 3 tbsp water. Let soak for about 10 minutes before grinding to a fine paste in food processor. Set aside.
  • Heat Pan and add 1 tsp coconut oil.
  • Add mustard seeds, when they splutter, add cumin seeds, curry leaves and then quickly sauté.
  • Now toss in the rinsed split chickpeas. Give everything a nice stir
  • Add in the chopped amaranth stem. Stir everything so that amaranth & chickpeas are nicely coated with coconut oil.
  • Add salt & let cook on medium flame. Watch the stove as you don’t want any burnt flavours. Chickpeas, amaranth & coconut are way too valuable to let go to burn. Try not to multi task when you are in the kitchen J easier said than done. But try to practice lots of mindfulness. I’m speaking from experience, as I have had knife cuts, burns, scalds, etc. since I was trying to use my other life multi-tasking sensibility in the kitchen.
  • Add the ground coconut spice paste to pan.
  • Let everything come to a soft boil so that any raw tastes from spices are gone.
  • Add salt and take off stove.
  • Optionally drizzle 1 tsp coconut oil on top before serving with steamed rice.

I served it with a tamarind okra sauce, steamed rice, roasted carrot chutney and chickpea eggplant baked fritters.

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Here’s my quiet Sunday dinner. Its patio season. I find every excuse to run outdoors & sit in my  warm  & fragrant with herbs & flowers back yard. Wouldn’t you do the same if you were snowed under for 6 months like we were:)

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Do you like my recipe. Then please do like my blog on facebook. And do comment below telling me what you enjoyed, my story, my recipe or my health tips or everything. Let me also know what other recipes you would like me to share. Would you like to me to do a step-by-step youtube video?

–charuyoga–

Buckwheat coconut milk pudding sweetened with country sugar

IMG_0174a dinner celebration! a dessert for my guest with a sweet tooth:) a recipe that I happened to think up just today:) I hadn’t taken strict measurements as I was just cooking, not planning to blog about it. But when my guest liked it so much that he went for it again as a midnight snack.. and when he requested the recipe, dear reader it was time to put pen to paper & share this sweet with you.

You need
¾ cup country sugar (jaggery)
1 cup canned coconut milk
1 cup buckwheat
Spice Mix
½ tsp cardamom powder
2 threads saffron
for seasoning
tbsp cashew nuts
1 tsp almonds
1 tsp raisins

How to
• Rinse buckwheat in cold water.
• Then pour boiling water over buckwheat and let soak in 1 cup hot water.
• In hot pan add jaggery with approx ½ cup water and let heat till jaggery dissolves to make a nice watery paste.
• Add in the cooked buckwheat, no need to drain water.
• Add the can of coconut milk, lower heat and let everything come to a light boil.
• Add some more water if you like a runny texture for your pudding.
• Pound the nuts into coarse chunks in a mortar and pestle.
• In a hot pan, dry roast the nuts and raisins. Or if you prefer roast them in either butter/ghee/coconut oil. I used a bit of coconut oil, but you can easily dry roast them & still have the flavour.. Roasting brings out the flavour and nuts add a great texture to a smooth pudding.
• Top the pudding with nuts and raisins.

Note : Jaggery or gur is Indian unrefined country sugar extracted from sugarcane. You can find it sold in blocks in east Indian grocery stores. If you don’t have one close by, feel free to use regular brown sugar.

I initially planned to make this pudding with tapioca pearls. But my pantry didn’t have any. I found these buckwheat groats and remembered my Ukrainian friends at work singing the praises of buckwheat.

You can get a huge list of benefits from here.

I liked how buckwheats manage blood sugar levels:
The nutrients in buckwheat may contribute to blood sugar control. In a test that compared the effect on blood sugar of whole buckwheat groats to bread made from refined wheat flour, buckwheat groats significantly lowered blood glucose and insulin responses. Whole buckwheats also scored highest on their ability to satisfy hunger.

My dinner guests loved this dessert. And the one guest I made it for, the one with the sweet tooth even asked if he could have it again well after dinner. So that was a pretty successful brand new dessert I just made up :) Have you ever missed ingredients in your dream of a dish? What did you use as an alternative? Did you manage to dream up something that everyone loves now?

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I love no oil desserts that are incredibly tasty. And I plan to post this recipe on the let food by thy medicine facebook page.. Do check it out for amazing oil-free diet recipes, and the cool things people are doing to manage their diabetes..

Wishing everyone a terrific valentine’s day!

–charuyoga–

Valentine’s day -celebrate connection

valentine's day partner yogaValentine’s day is almost here.

It means so many things to so many people.. To some, it means an indulgence in sinful treats like dark chocolate (i’m a culprit, I confess:). To others its a frantic running around organizing a dinner date or romantic getaway with your partner. To others, its no reason to celebrate one day of love in a year.

But for me, coming from a country of many, many cultures, everyday living is a celebration. Every religion’s special holidays are celebrated universally by everyone. I was born in a hindu home, but my dad’s 2 best friends were catholic & muslim. This was a pretty common theme growing up and being exposed to all these different cultures. Every festival was unique. Even though each festival rolled around just once a year, they were different reminders to the various qualities of love. So I happily embrace valentine’s day as a reminder of love in our lives-be it from partners, friends, siblings, children, grandchildren.

What valentine’s day really means to me is connection. I’m so excited to add one more celebration to my growing list. Valentine’s day with its emphasis on love and especially romantic love touches all of us to our deepest inner core. In yoga, romantic love is worshipped and revered.. Its connecting with our romantic partner that we feel our connection to the source of all love, the divine. its when we feel whole & complete.

When I asked a child in my partner yoga class why she comes to class, her innocent response was ‘I want to feel more connected to my grandmother‘. Isn’t that the best reason to celebrate valentine’s day, even if you are not a materialistic kind of person:)

To celebrate this fun festival, I’ll be teaching 2 partner yoga classes:

valentines day

Come join us as we celebrate connection.. come even if you don’t have a partner. We’ll find one to partner with in class. I can’t wait for valentine’s day weekend to deeply connect with my class. And I can’t wait to have you join us. To sign up, write to me at apsaraaliveyoga@gmail.com or text us on facebook https://www.facebook.com/ApsaraAlive/

Lovingly

–charuyoga–

Mulligatawny soup

20160111_140328Brimming with luscious flavours, spiked with healing spices, you will fall in love with my variation on this anglo-indian soup. Muliga (pepper) + thanni (water) are the origins for this british soup that the brits borrowed from my rich tamil heritage:)

Last night I happened to rear end a car while driving home on the blusteriest of winter days.. My car buffeted, I was on the streetcar tracks, it was icy, my car screeched to a halt trying to not ram into the car in front that was trying to turn left. But, the elements, the road conditions got out of my hand. I lost control. After a long night of getting towed to the collision center, when I reached home, I kept reliving the episode, quite shaken at the turn of events. Still grateful that I was spared and only the car was a write off. This morning 20160111_140427when I woke up, I felt as if I had gone through a big fever or something, I felt the need to heal. I had made this batch of mulligatawny soup the night before for a friend with a fever and had some left over. Just the perfect soothing, nurturing, spicy, healing soup my mind and body needed. I remembered my grandmother making a variation of this soup and recalled the ingredients from memory. It was finger lickin good!

You need
¼ cup toor dal or pigeon peas (optional)
½ cup tomatoes
1 cm fresh ginger crushed

 

 

Spice paste
1 tsp yellow split peas
½ tsp tamarind paste
2 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp curry leaves
2 dry red chilies
Salt to taste
Spice oil
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp curry leaves
Pinch hing

Garnish
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro

How to

• Cook toor dal if using with ½ cup water. I like to use it to add some protein into this soup. Puree and set aside.
• Heat pan for spice paste. Dry sauté(no oil) the spice paste ingredients. When roasted light brown grind to a thick spice paste with 2 tbsp water. Set aside.

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• Heat pan. Add coconut oil. Add mustard seeds, when they splutter toss in curry leaves, hing and turmeric powder. Add tomatoes & lightly sauté till cooked.
• Now add in the toor dal, 1 cup water, fresh ginger & tamarind paste.
• Let everything boil together.

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• Add in the spice paste & allow to come to another boil so there are no raw spice smells.
• Garnish with fresh cilantro.
• Serve with rice. I like to use sona masoori rice that is short grained & not sticky for this soup..

Oh!. The comfort of mulligatawny soup. For a few minutes I was transported to my grandma’s kitchen. Nurtured and healed through my car adventure. Hope you enjoy this well kept secret recipe. Doesn’t the broth look pretty and nourishing? I’d love to hear how you enjoyed it. What do you eat when you need nurturing? What’s your favourite go-to comfort food ?

20160111_140427–charuyoga–

Festive baby kale Christmas salad

20151219_163740Vegetarians –check, Vegans – check, Rawtarians – check, meat eaters – check. Everyone will be happy with this colourful festive baby kale Christmas salad.
I wanted to make this layered salad for a Christmas potluck & really, really wanted to capture the festivities of the holiday season. My neighbourhood is so bright and sparkly with lights everywhere. So I got into the mood and made this super easy to make salad.20151219_164329

You need
2 cups beets, cooked, peeled and cubed
2 cups fresh strawberries
2 cups organic baby kale
1 cup grated carrot
2 cups avocado
Spice oil dressing
2 tbsp fresh lemon/lime juice
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 dry red chilies
1 tsp urad dal
2 curry leaves
Serves 8

How to

• Wash beets thoroughly. Boil till tender. Peel and cube.

 • Wash strawberries, Cube same size as beets. Wash and cut kale. Wash avocado. Seed and cut. Squeeze In 1 tbsp. lemon juice so that avocadoes keep their bright green colour.  Set aside.

• Heat 1 tbsp oil and saute kale till wilted. Rawterains can leave out this step.

• Layer beets in outer layer first in bowl
• Next layer kale just inside beets
• Then layer strawberries
• Next layer avocado
• Top with grated carrot.
• Squeeze in remaining lemon juice.

• Heat 1 tbsp oil. Toast sesame seeds, urad dal, curry leaf and red chillies. Pour spice oil over salad. Stir everything together just before serving. Serve chilled.
suggested toppings/ substitutes
try replacing strawberries with apples.
add pumpkin seeds, raisins, cranberries to spice oil to up the festive look.
20151219_163817what’s your go to Christmas salad recipe? Try this one, guaranteed crowd pleaser. Everyone will also love its visual appeal:)

–charuyoga–

Roasted butternut squash, pear, apple soup in turmeric & garlic spice oil

IMG_0004I’m so excited. I got a new dslr camera. After a long time of wishing I could post blogs daily. But unable to as my smart phone while does a pretty good job, can’t really capture the yumminess of meals I’m making daily.

Hence the canon dslr. I’m an absolute novice when it comes to devices. Yes, I often get asked by friends when I visit them. Oh you are a techie instructor. My printer isn’t working. Can you take a look at it? Never one to step away from help. I’ll gladly look at your printers, but there’s not much else I can do about it, I’m afraid. I teach software so if there’s a computer language out there that you need help with, I’ll gladly roll up my sleeves & find the answer for you, but appliances, devices, cars can be a tad frightening for this techie girl:)  

Speaking of which, you are absolutely going to love today’s post. I’m sure you’ve had butternut squash soup. Its not a newcomer to the world of soups.

IMG_0008But wait till you try my variation. An apple, a pear, a full head of garlic, and of course my special spice oil will really bring a fresh take on an old classic.

You need

1 medium butternut squash
1 medium cripps apple
1 red bartlett pear
1 whole head garlic

 

Spice Mix

½ tsp turmeric powder
2 dry red chilies
¼ tsp cumin
Salt to taste

Serves 4

How to
Wash butternut squash thoroughly. Cut into big chunks. Place in baking pan.
• Wash apple and pear, remove seeds and cut into chunks. Place in baking pan together with whole head of garlic.
• Brush 2 tbsp oil on the squash, apple, pear and garlic & toss veggies in pan till everything is nicely coated with oil.
• Bake in 3500C oven for 1 hour or till veggies are nicely roasted.
• Let cool and remove peel from squash. Some people think its ok to keep the peel on. I’m never sure. Since my food handling certification, I learnt how squash is not always grown in the most sanitary of conditions & can come in contact with contaminated soil. So wash thoroughly if you are not using certified organic. And because its tough to peel when raw , peel comes away easily after roasting. Peel roasted garlic.
• Keep skin on roasted apple and pear.
• Heat 1 tbsp oil in pan. Add cumin, turmeric, red chili & roasted garlic & sauté lightly.
• Now add the roasted squash, apple and pear. Add in 2 cups water and heat lightly for spices to integrate into the soup.
• Turn off heat. Puree soup in food processor.
• Serve warm with roasted chickpeas as garnish. Yum !

Health Benefits
Butternut squash is fantastic in anti-oxidants. Its one of the richest sources of plant based anti-inflammatory nutrients such as omega 3s and beta-carotene. These are important for a strong immune system to help protect against colds and flu.
Apples are great for you. Though they don’t contain a lot of iron, they do help in iron absorption.
Garlic’s key ingredient, Allicin. is responsible for lipid-lowering, anti-blood coagulation, anti-hypertension, anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-microbial effects.
Pears are a good source of fiber.
Turmeric is anti-inflammatory.
Cumin is a digestive.

With this whopping list of goodies for your health, plus an amazing taste explosion with my take on butternut squash, what are you waiting for? Hurry, get yourself a squash & make this soup soon so you too can taste this divine goodness and all the health that goes with it.

Please send along advice, tips n tricks to make my photos pop. I would greatly appreciate anything you can share with me re taking the best pix of food.

What do you think. Do you like the dslr pix? Do they come out clearer than my previous smart phone pix?

–charuyoga–

Chickpea Basmati Pulao – One pot dish

20151125_201938When it gets cold and all you want to do is snuggle up to warm tastes with least effort. 
Its time for one-pot meals to make their appearance.
No fuss, easy to make, spicy, warming, comforting – hope you enjoy my take on classic pulao

You need
4 tbsp. roasted chickpeas
2 tbsp. fresh spinach
2 tbsp. carrot slivers
2 tbsp. cauliflower
½ cup basmati rice
Spice Mix
2 whole brown cardamoms
½ tsp turmeric powder
4 cashews split in half
4 green chilies, slit
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp fresh garlic
2 cloves
Salt to taste
Serves 2

How to
• Heat oil in pan. Add all spices and sauté till spices release fragrance.
• Add cauliflower and carrot and let lightly cook.
• Meanwhile rinse basmati rice thoroughly several times in cold water. Drain water & set aside.
• Add rinsed basmati rice to pan along with chopped spinach. Sauté everything and add salt to taste.
• Toss in the roasted cayenne chickpeas. (Apsara tip – no time to make the roasted chickpeas. quick substitute – use canned as a last resort. otherwise. soak 2 tbsp. chickpeas overnight, and drain before adding at this stage)
• Add ½ cup to ¾ cup water. Depending on how aged your basmati is. The older the basmati the more water it will drink, but it will also be more fluffy & each grain will stand out beautifully without sticking together. New basmati needs lesser water.
• Let come to boil and then turn heat to low and cover. Pulao will continue cooking process for about 5 minutes or so & then turn heat off. Let rest covered for about 5 minutes, before removing lid.
• Fluff with fork.
• Serve with a dollop of yoghurt.

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–charuyoga–