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Minestrone Soup-12a


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Minestrone Soup

This weekend, we happened to go to an Italian chain restaurant for a quick lunch while out for shopping. Since I had been craving minestrone soup, I ordered a bowl, but it was so rich that I wasn’t even able to finish it. I felt this awful heaviness afterwards. This is a soup that is usually very simple to make, filling, and not heavy. I knew that the next day, to fulfill my craving, I would have to make it at home. This soup is “very nourishing to the soul,” as my daughters phrase it :) My younger one likes to have a hot bowl of minestrone soup when she comes back home from school. It seems to relax her!

This is a very simple, rustic soup yet, very healthy and nutritious. Don’t worry if you are missing any ingredients; you can either skip or replace them with substitutes from whatever you might have at home. So definitely try this recipe, and I hope you can enjoy it with your loved ones!

Ingredients:

Carrots – 1 large, diced

Onion – 1 medium, diced

Green Bell Pepper – ½ diced

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Fresh Spinach – 1 cup chopped

Fresh Kale – 1 cup chopped

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Zucchini – 1 large, diced

Celery – 2 stalks, diced

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Potato – 1 small, diced

Garlic – 3 cloves, minced

Orzo (rice shaped) pasta – 4 oz. or about ½ cup (can be any other small sized pasta also)

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Organic Vegetable Broth (low sodium) – 1 box 32 fl. Oz.

Organic Fire roasted tomatoes (no salt added) – 1 can 14.5 oz. (even regular chopped up tomatoes will work in a pinch)

Red kidney beans – 1 ½ cup (cooked) or 1 can drained and rinsed

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Salt –  1 ½ t

Black Pepper – ½ t

Dried Basil – ½  t

Dried Oregano – ½ t

Extra virgin olive oil – 2T

Finely grated Parmesan – Optional for garnish

Fresh Basil – Optional for garnish (chopped)

Directions:

  • Warm a large pot. Add the extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion and sauté for 1 minute or so till onions are translucent.
  • Then add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds.
  • Add the rest of the diced vegetables except potato.

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  • Sauté them for 2-3 minutes till they soften a bit. Then add the potatoes.
  • Stir all the veggies for a bit then add the vegetable broth.
  • Then add the can of fire roasted tomatoes and 1½ cans of water.
  • Stir well and add the dry seasonings.
  • Cover and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  • Then add the beans and pasta. Stir really well.

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  • Cover and let it simmer for about 40-45 minutes, making sure to stir every 10 minutes so that the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  • Do a taste test now for any additional salt etc.

  • Enjoy with a warm Panini sandwich or some crusty bread!

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Nutritional Content:

Total Servings: 10

Per Serving: Calories 145 cal, Potassium 310 mg, Carbs 23.9 g, Fiber 4.6 g, Protein 5.3 g, Vit A 59.4%, Vit C 24.3%, Calcium 5.3%, Iron 10%

Homemade Salad Dressings PartI-4a


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Homemade Salad Dressings/Dips Part I

Usually when somebody decides to eat healthier or wants to lose weight, salads are the main go-to food item. With all the best intentions we load up our plates with colorful, fresh, crunchy vegetables, but then we ruin it by drowning it in preservative-laden dressings! If you ever try to read the ingredient list on these bottles, it’s mind boggling! I can’t even pronounce some of the words. Sometimes the calorific content of the dressings is more than the salad we just ate!

There is no doubt that bottled dressings are extremely convenient and I used to be just as guilty of keeping an assortment in my refrigerator :) But once I made them myself a few times, I realized they barely take 5-7 minutes to prepare! Using whatever seasonings I have on hand, it’s a no-brainer. These recipes use Greek yogurt instead of the heavy fat mayonnaise and have no added sugar, additives, or preservatives. Please try these 3 recipes that are most frequently used at our house and you will ditch the chemical bottles soon!

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip/Dressing

Ingredients:

Plain Greek yogurt – ½ cup

Dried dill — 1 t

Dried Parsley — 1 t

Rice vinegar — ¼ t

Salt — 1/16 t

Garlic powder — 1/16 t

Black Pepper — 1/16 t

Grated parmesan cheese — 1 t

Honey — ¼ t

Directions:

  •         Put all the above ingredients in a bowl and whisk till everything is well incorporated.
  •         The consistency at this stage is for the dip, if you want to use it as a dressing then dilute it by adding some water or buttermilk.
  •         This will last for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Homemade Salad Dressings PartI-2

Zesty Italian Dressing

Ingredients:

Extra virgin olive oil or Canola oil or Grape seed oil – ¾ cup

Rice Vinegar – ¼ cup

Salt – ½ t

Black pepper – ½ t

Red chili flakes – 1 t

Dried Oregano – ½ t

Dried Thyme – ½ t

Dried Basil – ½ t

Garlic powder – ¼ t

Directions:

  •        Put all the above ingredients in a jar/bottle/container with lid. Close the lid and shake really well.
  •        Refrigerate. Shake well before using. Should last a month or more.
  •        In case you don’t have any of the above seasonings, it’s okay to skip or reduce their quantities even.
  •        Keep in mind when you use extra virgin olive oil, it has a tendency to overpower. So if you want the dressing to be mild, use grape seed/canola oil.

Homemade Salad Dressings PartI-3

Cilantro Greek Yogurt Dressing/Dip

Ingredients: 

Fresh cilantro — ½ bunch

Plain Greek Yogurt – ½ cup

Grape seed oil – ¼ cup

Garlic cloves – 2

Roasted ground cumin — ¼ t

Red chili powder – 1/8 t

Black pepper – 1/8 t

Salt – 1 t

Directions: 

  • Put all the ingredients except the olive oil into the food processor and blend until smooth.
  • While the food processor is going, pour the grape seed oil slowly through the top opening of the food processor.
  • This will last for up to a week in the refrigerator. Mix well before using. This was inspired by the Trader Joe’s cilantro dressing. Works great as a salad dressing or as a dip with veggies or grilled chicken or grilled fish!

Homemade Salad Dressings PartI-4

Enjoy!

Amaranth Protein Bars-8a


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Amaranth Protein Bars

Growing up in India, I remember eating a local sweet from street vendors called “Rajgira ladoos”. They were perfect little balls of sweetness and crispness; an Indian slightly less-sweeter version of the American Rice Krispies. Amaranth is known as Rajgira in India and its greens are called Chulai(which are also eaten). It has been used to make sweets for everyday use and religious ceremonies also. It is eaten in various forms. It can be boiled, popped or ground into flour for various recipes.

Now, when I read about the various benefits of Amaranth, it seems amazing how things are coming back full circle. The wholesome simple foods of the past are all making a comeback, and I love it! It brings back a lot of good memories and helps pack a great nutritious punch to boot J In this recipe I have tried to combine the goodness of the amaranth with oats, nuts and seeds to make an excellent portable protein snack bar. I hope you all will like it the way everyone does in my house!

 Ingredients: 

Amaranth – ½ cup + 1/8 cup raw OR 1 cup popped

Organic Old Fashioned Toasted Rolled Oats – 1/3 cup

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Ground Flax – ¼ cup

Organic Oat Flour/All purpose flour – 1/3 cup

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Sesame seeds – ¼ cup

Peanuts – 1/3 cup chopped up

Pitted dates – 1/3 cup chopped up

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Organic Creamy Peanut Butter(with no added salt or sugar) – ¼ cup

Honey – 1/3 cup

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Directions:

  • Heat a pan with some height. It should be hot but not smoking. Add half of 1/8 cup amaranth and immediately cover with lid and let the grains pop like popcorn. Keep moving the pan so that it doesn’t burn. Once it slows, remove from heat and pour the popped amaranth into a bowl. Keep adding rest in small quantities and pop like that till you have 1 cup popped. It should take approximately ½ + 1/8 cups raw to get 1 cup popped. There will be few that won’t pop, but that is okay. Keep them, don’t throw them.

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  • Chop the peanuts with a sharp knife.
  • Also chop the dates.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients really well.

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  • Add the honey and peanut butter. Mix with a silicon spatula.
  • Then slightly wet your hands and mix everything the good old fashioned way really way to break down the large clumps.
  • I have used a 8”x8”x2” Pyrex glass container.
  • Line the pan with aluminum foil. Spray/grease with canola oil.
  • Put the mix in the lined greased pan. Put a cling film on top and press with a potato masher to get the mixture tightly, evenly pressed in the pan.

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  • Bake the mix in the oven at 3500 F for 15-20 min. Bake till the edges turn slightly brown.

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  • Just lift the entire baked mixture using the aluminum foil overhang and place on chopping board.
  • Cut into rectangular bars and then let them cool for an hour outside and later in the refrigerator in a closed box for another 30 min.

 

  • If you want them soft then keep them at room temperature with pieces of parchment in between to prevent them from sticking. If you prefer slightly firmer, refrigerate them. Enjoy!

Nutritional Content: 

Total Servings: 8

Per serving : 218 cal, Fat 9.8 g, Carbs 31g, Fiber 6g, Sugar 12 g, Protein 7 g, Iron 12%

Rainbow Salad-6a


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Barley Veggie Rainbow Salad

You can ask any doctor and you will get the same advice, it’s always better to get your vitamins and minerals through fresh wholesome food rather than pills. One should eat veggies and fruits from all color food groups to get a multitude of benefits. Not only are fresh fruits and vegetables a fantastic source of different vitamins and minerals but also a great source of anti-oxidants and fiber. So keeping this in mind I have created this Barley Veggie Rainbow Salad. Another Meatless Monday dish!

This salad includes Barley; a great cereal grain (also called “Jau” in India) which is an excellent vegetarian source of protein, fiber and lots of trace elements. Also included in this salad are Black Eye Peas another great vegetarian source of protein; and plenty of vegetables from a rainbow of colors! Add the lettuce, tomato and dressing only if you are planning to eat at that time or within next few hours otherwise it will leave water and become soggy. Feel free to have it as a complete meal or as a side salad :)

Ingredients:

 Organic Hulled Barley – 1 cup raw

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Black eye Peas – 1 can or 1 ¾ cups cooked

Carrots – 2 medium

Cucumber – 1 medium

Beetroot – 1 medium

Red radish – 1 medium

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Cabbage – 1/8 of a cabbage

Cilantro – handful

Tomato – ½ tomato per serving

Romaine Lettuce – 2 or 3 leaves per serving

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Dressing (per serving):

Extra virgin olive oil – ¾ T

Lemon juice – ½ T

Salt – ½ t

Black pepper – ½ t

Oregano – ½ t

Garlic Powder – 1/8 t

Directions:

  • Wash and rinse the barley a couple of times. Take 3 times water in a deep pan, add the barley. Once the water boils, put a lid and simmer for 35-45 minutes till the grain is completely cooked. Drain away the remaining water if any left.
  • Side by side you can cook the black-eye peas or; drain and rinse a can.
  • Grate the carrots, beetroot, cucumber and red cabbage.

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  • Chop up the cilantro, tomato and lettuce.
  • Once the barley and black-eye peas are cooked and cooled; put them in a large bowl.
  • Add the grated carrots, cucumber, beetroot, and cabbage to them. Mix well.

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  • For the dressing add all ingredients to a separate small bowl and mix using a whisk. That’s it!

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  • I usually take out the portion I am planning to eat and add the tomato, lettuce and dressing to that and save rest of the salad in a covered box in the refrigerator to prevent it from getting soggy. It keeps well for 2-3 days.

  • Enjoy!

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Tip: In case you want to skip the dressing, you can just add lemon juice and some chaat masala ( available at Indian grocery stores).

Nutritional Content: 

Total Servings: 5

Per serving : 232 cal, Fat 3 g, Potassium 221 mg, Carbs 43.3 g, Fiber 9.7 g, Protein 9.5 g, Vit A 98%, Iron 14%

 

This recipe was entered in the Simple and Season!

Carrot Cake-3a


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Eggless Carrot Cake

My mom makes this delicious, healthy, moist carrot cake! This is her recipe with only a few tweaks :) It is perfect to have on a cold, windy, rainy fall day….like today with a hot cup of tea. Most people like carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, but I guess I am an anomaly as I prefer mine without it. It is good with walnuts and even without. It is great to have as a snack, breakfast muffin or dessert. But all in all it is a fairly easy, versatile recipe and you can’t go wrong!

Ingredients:

 

All purpose Flour – 1 ¼ cup

Carrots – 1 cup grated

Baking powder – 1 t

Baking soda – ½ t

Cinnamon – ½ t (optional)

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Canola oil – 1/3 cup

Sugar – 3/4 cup (if you will be frosting the cupcake then 1/2 cup sugar is enough)

Vanilla extract – ½ t

Walnuts – ¼ cup (optional)

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Plain yogurt — 1 cup OR Organic Eggs Whites – 2 large

Milk – 1-2 T

Directions:

 

  • Preheat the oven to 3500
  • Grease and flour a medium sized round pan or put muffin liners in a muffin pan tray.
  • Add the sugar, oil, vanilla and yogurt/eggs in the mixer bowl. Mix till well blended.
  • Add the carrots and mix a bit.
  • Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and baking powder to a separate bowl and mix with a fork.
  • Add to the above wet mix in the mixer bowl.
  • Mix for a few seconds. Add the walnuts at end. Add 1-2 T milk if need be to make batter smooth.
  • Pour into the batter in the muffin cups 3/4th of the way and put it in the oven for 20 minutes (in case using a cake pan bake for 35-40 minutes).
  • Check with cake tester that middle part is dry and cooked.

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  • Put the muffin tray/pan on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes.

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  • Enjoy!

 

Nutritional Content:

 Total Servings: 12 muffins or 8 slices of a cake

 

Per serving (muffin): 174 cal, Fat 7.2 g, Potassium 94 mg, Carbs 24 g, Sugar 14 g, Protein 3.2 g

Per serving (cake slice): 261 cal, Fat 10.8, Potassium 141 mg, Carbs 36 g, Sugar 21 g, Protein 4.8 g

 

 

Veg Chili-1a


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Meatless Monday: Tofu, Quinoa and Beans Chili

We all know from the countless scientific studies that constantly inundate us that eating vegetarian meals all or most of the time can prove extremely beneficial for us. The benefits of making this dietary change vary all the way from avoiding various lifestyle diseases to having some anti-aging effects. When I say vegetarian, I don’t mean buying processed, pre-packaged vegetarian meals; I mean eating real vegetables! You can buy them pre-cut or frozen to speed up the process, but it’s always preferable to cook from scratch so that you have control over the ingredients. By doing this, you can make sure that you have fresh, organic vegetables free from pesticides. You also avoid all the chemicals, preservatives, excess sodium and sugars in processed, pre-packaged foods.

With that in mind, I have been giving recipe makeovers to a lot of dishes we like at our home. Chili is one of those favorite fall/winter dishes which is extremely popular at our house.  Cooking chili fills the entire house with its amazing aroma! Plus, if you make this in bulk you have the benefit of having plenty of leftovers for next week’s lunch :) I know it’s a big transition to replace the ground meat in the chili but definitely be sure to give it a try, because it has so many nutritional benefits. Who knows – you might even like it more!

Ingredients:

Organic Firm Tofu  (1 pack) – 14 oz

Cooked Quinoa – 1 cup

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Red Kidney Beans – 2 cans drained and rinsed or 3 cups cooked

Onion – 1 medium diced

Mushrooms – 6 mushrooms diced

Green Bell Pepper – 1 medium diced

Garlic – 3 cloves minced

Veg Chili-5

Crushed Tomatoes – I large can 28 oz. or you can crush your own to reduce sodium

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Extra Virgin Olive oil – 2 T

Cumin – 1 ½ t

Low sodium Chili seasoning – 2 T or according to your taste (to make your own chili seasoning see recipe below)

Salt – 1 ½ t or according to your taste as there is salt in the Chili Seasoning also

Cilantro (optional) – handful chopped up finely

Grated Cheddar Cheese (optional) – according to taste

 

Directions:

  • Take the tofu out of packaging, drain it and freeze it overnight.
  • Next day thaw it and drain it again.
  • Then put in food processor and mince it.
  • If we were to do that to fresh tofu, it would become like a paste. But when done after it has been frozen, it makes granules which can then be cooked in various ways.

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  • Heat a large pan, and add 1T oil to it. Once oil is heated add cumin seeds to it.
  • Once the cumin is crackling, add the onion, garlic, green peppers and mushrooms. Sauté for 3-4 minutes till onions are translucent. Then remove them to a bowl.

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  • In the same pan add remaining oil. Once it is heated, add the crumbled tofu and sauté for 3-4 minutes till turns slightly brown.

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  • Then add the sautéed vegetables and cooked quinoa and cooked beans to the tofu. Mix well.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes and add 2 cups water or adjust according to the consistency you would like.

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  • Add the seasonings.
  • Let it simmer for at least 30 minutes so that all the flavors come together.
  • Garnish with cilantro and grated cheese and Enjoy!

Veg Chili-2a

 

Nutritional Content:

Total Servings: 10

Per Serving: Calories 159 cal, Fat 2.3 g, Potassium 504 mg, Carbs 24.5 g, Fiber 6.1 g, Protein 11.1 g, Vit C 38%, Iron 18%

 

Homemade Chili seasoning:

1 T red chili powder

2 t ground roasted cumin

1 t dried oregano

1 t salt

1 t red chili flakes

1 t dried onion powder

½ t garlic powder

 

Protein Brownie-18a


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Protein Chocolate Chip Brownies

When I crave something sweet, I prefer that it has at least some nutritional benefit to offset my guilt afterwards :) So either the dessert will have plenty of fiber, low sugar, low calories, or some protein. In this case, these moist, decadent chocolate chip brownies fulfill multiple requirements! Not only are they low in sugar, fat, and calories, but they are also a decent source of protein too, making them perfect!

You can swap the semi-sweet chocolate for mint or dark chocolate and sprinkle mint chocolate chips on top for Mint Chocolate Chip protein brownies! Feel free to add sliced almonds or walnut pieces for an added crunch. I hope you will try these and enjoy them like everyone in my house does :)

Ingredients:

Chocolate protein powder (I used Vega plant based protein smoothie choc-a-lot but you can use any other protein powder) – 1 scoop

Oat flour – ½ cup

Almond flour – ½ cup

Organic egg whites – 3

Brown sugar – ¼ + 1/8 cup

Baking soda – ½ t

Canola oil – 7 T

Salt – ¼ t

Semi- sweet Chocolate chips – 5 oz.

Vanilla extract – ½ t

Mini Chocolate chips – 1 T

Directions:

·         Preheat the oven to 350 F.

·         Take an 8 x 8 x 2 in pan or 11 x 7 x 1.5 in.

·         Line with aluminum foil and lightly grease with canola oil.

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·         Using the double boiler method melt (Heat some water in a large pan, put a shallow bowl with the oil and semi-sweet chocolate chips on top. Water should not touch the bowl. Keep stirring till chocolate melts) the 5 oz. chocolate along with the oil. Let it cool.

Protein Brownie-1

Protein Brownie-2

·         Whisk the 3 egg whites in the mixer, and then add brown sugar and mix for another minute or so till well blended.

Protein Brownie-3

·         Add the melted chocolate and vanilla extract to it and mix for 30 seconds.

Protein Brownie-4

·         Mix all the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl using a fork.

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·         Add the dry ingredients to chocolate mix and whisk for 30 seconds, not too much.

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·         At the end add ½ T mini chocolate chips in mixture, mix for a second.

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·         Pour the mix into the greased aluminum foil lined pan. Sprinkle the rest ½ T mini chocolate chips on top.

·         Bake for 30-35 min till a toothpick inserted in center comes out dry.

Protein Brownie-9

 

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·         Let it cool on a wire rack for 10-15 min, then lift the whole brownie by aluminum foil and place on cutting board and slice into pieces.

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Protein Brownie-12

Enjoy!

Nutritional Content:

Total Servings: 16

Per Serving: Calories: 153 cal, Fat 10.6 g, Cholesterol  0 mg, Carbs 12 g, Sugar 8.7 g, Protein 3.1 g

 

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