Friday, March 14, 2014

Daring Cooks Challenge, March 2014~ Dressing It Up!

For March's Daring Cooks' Challenge, Ruth, Shelley and Sawsan asked us to totally veg out! We made salads and dressings letting the sky be the limit as we created new flavors and combinations that reflect our own unique tastes.

Can you see where we're going with this? Looking back to that long sabbatical, you know the one that took me in and out of blogger pages on a crazy irregular basis? Well, it also led to less frequent visits to my favorite contest, the one that takes place on a very International, most daring kitchen, that which throws out monthly themes for its members, to fetch, post and release on set dates. There I was the first week in March, seriously, I come to make salads? Why not? Don't want to be the Resistor of all things clean and pure, right?

For the most part, I admit there's not much in terms of BFMK's healthrimmed shelves, if even there are any (?). These archives thrive more on odes to lovely glutenplugged themes and shameless carnivorous delights perhaps too those endless many sugar rackets. Nothing wrong there. And here's where I owe much to cognitive dissonance. There must be balance, mind says, weighing even in our recipe archives. And so I obey.

I couldn't place why I was so exhilarated? Good to be back for sure, but really  the last discourse of reputable elements and their contribution to the greater good, led me in thinking, shall I just...let it roll. All that's fresh and upright burst forth on regular rotation, through the seams of these very pages. Because we all know lone blueprints, those that are peerless and superior, can never be enough. 

Back to the matter at hand, was I excited? Yes. Did I have a plan? Just that I wanted to authenticate my existence especially after the several no-shows in the good kitchen.
Snippets of thought and points to note flashed through. All salads are not created equal and a good one is hard to come by; bigger still; subject will and should not be limited to too many shades of green, end part being my onceuponatime thinking. With those salient points kept forward and flush to mind's eye, I began construction.

There it was, number one inspiration taken from the pages of this month's Good Housekeeping, an appetizing tuna salad cleverly making an avocado its mixing bowl. My first rendition of this tastier than most combination was the first few days of the past week, when I did nextday repeats due to the addictive,  fantastic melding of fish and gardenfresh, peppery bites of radish bearing high notes, in an overall just fly salad personality. 

Next up is the medley of elements working its way into a neutral couscous, a hinging of great bite and beauteous color, interfered only with a righton vinaigrette, that which harps on the perfect blend of barelysweet, softlytart notes.

Finally, I had to furnish in that salute to my home region, something best known to the Kerala plate as beetroot pachadi. A  luscious yogurt bowl embracing sweet, scarletcolored beets, finally to  meet with a few curry making others to be fried, then merged as one. Often, it plays second role as side to main meal of rice. Although my experience says, a bowl of just this, with an accompanying spoon need not much else and can be taken on pleasurably, in one sitting.

This was the month I discovered I could tackle on and finish strong as I kicked myself back into a fun, adventurous challenge. This fervency I wish I possessed on a greater, more frequent scale.

I won't waste your time any longer. The composition is all yours. Read on, take notes. Maybe save and print. I guarantee there'll be no regrets.

  Radishes,veggies, summoned in for their higher calling.
 Great ingredients demand a great lunch, maybe three. Since it was all in a day and right before noon (yes,  productivity claimed my being!), we were set with three delicious midday meals.

Tuna Avocado Salad~
(Adapted from Good Housekeeping)
  • 1 12 oz. can chunk light tuna, drained
  • 3 scallions, diced
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 4 avocados, cut into halves
  • Mix together all ingredients from tuna to pepper.
  • Divide and scoop into avocado halves.
  • Spoon ginger soy dressing over the halves or initially combine with the tuna mixture.

Ginger, Soy Dressing~
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sriracha or any Asian hot chili sauce
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • In a medium sized lidded jar. Lid the jar tightly and shake all ingredients till slightly emulsified.
  • Serve over individual salads or mix in initially with the tuna. 
Couscous salad~
  • 2  1/2 c cooked couscous
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1  scallion, diced
  • 1 14 oz can of sweet (low sodium) corn, drained
  • 1/2 cup hulled, steamed edamame
  • 1 tbsp sliced almonds
  • 1 tsp salt, or enough to flavor
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Mix together the cooked and cooled couscous, bell pepper, scallions, corn, edamame, almonds. salt, pepper.
  • Pour in vinaigrette or dress individual servings.
Beautiful you are, hulled baby soybeans. 
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • juice of half lemon
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chili oil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt/ or for flavor
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • Shake all ingredients in a tight lidded jar till combined.
  • Pour over salad or serve over individually.
~Any of the  leftover dressings can be refrigerated.

Beet and Yogurt (beetroot pachadi)~
  • 2 1/2 c non fat white yogurt
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1 tsp salt or enough for flavor
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 serrano pepper, diced
  • 1 14 oz can beets, drained and sliced into thin matchsticks

  • Whisk yogurt, water, salt and pepper till mixture is smooth.
  • In a skillet, on medium flame, heat oil.
  • Put in mustard seeds and allow seeds to temper and pop.
  • Mix in shallot, ginger and serrano.
  • Stir in sliced beets. Fry on medium high, frequently stirring, until all ingredients are cooked through and slightly crisp, about 7 minutes.
  • Take off heat. Set aside for a few minutes for extreme heat to subside.
  • Add to yogurt mixture and combine.
Much thanks to Ruth, Shelley and Sawsan, kudos to you three daring ladies, ushering in health and creativity in our kitchens. You pushed me in my thinking, and moved me beyond and over, with a greater love and unlimited vision for farmfresh ingredients and  endlessly good salad combinations.

Rocky the rockstar, guarding the goods! Meet my tireless companion during several hours of prepping, cooking and shooting- this one never leaves my side, Finally unable to contain himself, he "borrows" the tuna salad I set aside for myself. What do you do with such a cute thief? 

"No matter how dark it gets, He promises that “the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold…” (Isaiah 30:26) ~Beth Moore devotions. 

In those bad moments, when battle strikes and fear grips, go to Jesus, hold on to His strength and the mighty power of His word. He won't forsake you. Only He can illuminate and beam light to those darker than night places. This light not only knows no power failure, it’ll be brighter and greater than it ever would’ve been. 
"The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day."Proverbs 4:18

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Banana Sapota (Chikoo) Shake

Ok, maybe this isn't the three part smoothie I'd enticed you with at the end of that last sporadic and lengthy session. But I'll let you decide for yourselves whether adding in a slight few for ingredient number  may go further, especially when those components can play a part in the greater good. You won't regret today's read-through, learning that running less than ten of the most edifying stuff in your blender might just be your first- on prescription for better living.

Banana sapota shake is a meal-in-a-cup, often combining two of those into one sitting, for example, these days my breakfast and lunch. This wholesome wonder knocks it out to better return, renouncing  pesky unwanted calories, and assigning in their stead much decent nutritional content. And you see this could be part of the bragging rights included in those humble two glasses that  blend into being, with of course the additional merit of superior relations developed with the waistband of your jeans.

First, I am obligated to have you in on an introduction for I what feel is today's star element, one which is widely unknown to those of you who don't live in the Indian subcontinent and the market areas of the Spanish speaking world. Sapota, sapodilla, or chikoo are its names, brown, fleshy, the fruit that can almost be likened to the flavors and nub of a squishy pear. But to leave it at that is an understatement. Chikoo is pleasurably sweet, speaks in nectarish-rich notes, and has a slight maltiness to its textured body. One bite transports your mouthbuds to the poshly exotic, a magnificent relishable adventure, perhaps guising its role in these present day antioxidant and anti-inflammatory motifs.

This I did not know when I first encountered chikoo in a glass, several decades prior, its still-most popular consumption in India. It is where people line up to have the fruit churned in milkshakes, not forgoing the 28 teaspoons of sugar and two dollops of ice cream to top. The chikoo or sapota shake, is ubiquitous and hawked by many a roadside juice vendor, also sold for a tad more in sit-down restaurant menus. The highly sweetened, gratifying milky shake is greatly addicting, a fact I came to know when my daytoday corner juice stand visits provided the reason for my very happy and bulky  young adult existence. This afternoon indulgence, led to, ahem, much slab provision on both sides of thighs, and an newly inherited unrestrained girth. Was I the picture of health, or what?

Should I tell you that I may have (hmmm...) ceased to be that poster child of gross overindulgence and unhealth, go on, perhaps to contemplate thesis writing, convincing many of The Immense Property Values of the Chikoo, and how it might possibly even save the world. Maybe. If I were that disciplined. Honestly, I'm not. Though cognitively I do or can appear to be a wee, teensy bit more the wiser than then. I actually feel, chikoos have been dealt a grave injustice. I mean there is so much going on in this wonderfruit, proponents to make it well and beyond the top of the superfood list.

And these days I don't inhabit surroundings where chikoos flourish on trees, though my Asian market freezer provides me with the bounty, these besteverfinds, frozen love in 10. 58 gram packs.

Therefore today we forgo the barrel of sugar and I give you the better blueprint, a shake and blend teaming with superheroes, still enjoyable, but health-giving, and superior in every way.

So now, what goes in the shake? All the power and nobility of some of the best gems on earth, I say. Flaxseed, oats, almonds, dollop of peanut butter, and lone banana provide a legion of protein, fiber and massive cholesterol levelling benefits (and can you see those nutrition purists and pundits patting my back?). It is the formula that may take on key and crucial roles for a robusthappylife. I could go on with the many and more benevolences of each powerhouse ingredient, but I'd probably end this segue day after tomorrow.

Overnight freezing of a few bananas, you know, the ones that've probably seen better days,  helps to give banana-sapota-shake a thick, luxe body. The feeding of cold milk, of course, furthered with a bundle of stillfrozen chikoos assist also for an undeniably lush milkshake weave. Know that sugar omittance fixes what was broken, with honey assuming its sweetening-for-better mantle, pulling it all in for a matchless rejuvenating beverage.

Prepping the whole show is a nonissue, and requires maybe not more than half a minute, then the Allmentioned come together in for the final ta-da.

You're set, Champion of Good Health, done your heart, mind and belly good, without forsaking topnotch taste. You see how this could actually cut down some extra belt turns on your a.m. treadmill routine. So you can eat those Oreos. No, I did not just do that.

  • 1 ripe frozen banana, cut into half inch slices
  • 4 frozen sapota pieces (substitute with half a ripe pear, apple, even avocado)
  • 6-8 raw almonds
  • 1-2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp oats (I use old fashioned)
  • 1 tbsp flaxseed
  • 2 c cold nonfat milk
  • Combine all ingredients in an electric blender and process on medium speed until smooth or desired consistency is reached.
  • Pour into glasses and drink.
Presoak the almonds if you desire a smoother drink, I like to chew nut bits and flaxseed while I drink, you know, trick my mind that I'm making a meal out of the whole thing.
Dates, raisins are some of the other optionals that can adjust well and taste wonderful with the others.
For a nondairy alternative, swap soy/almond milk for the regular kind.

Wow, did you know? The spoon's toss of flaxseed officiates this blended drink into the stayyoung-staystrong breed, helping  to lower the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Drink up.
I have to remind myself that some superhero productions may not be as swift in the making as my little powershow here. Though they're still so worth the wait, right? Yes, I had to mention that. 
Make pretty. Crest drinks with scatters of sliced chikoo, banana. Almonds show great too.

A huge thanks to Gourmandize, those gracious foodlovers for their rank foodshare site, spreading much blogger appreciation and great inspiration. I had the awesome opportunity of an interview with one of their editors, and the esteem to be their blogger of the day. Thank you much, Ms. Gitanjali Roche, you were a doll to work with. To see what I said, click here. Otherwise, try them a visit, you'll be nothing short of enthralled at the thousands of dinner options you might be considering tonight.
"And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for." 1John 5(NLT)