oat and sweet potato porridge

oat sweet potato porridge

This past week was a lot of crazy things but it ended with a great surprise. I received an email informing me that I was included in the Top 10 Healthy Food Bloggers of 2014 by the wonderful and very kind folks at Better Homes and Garden. I won't lie, I was blown away and completely ecstatic to be included among these talented and inspiring bloggers. Though, I'm not in the running for the final awards, please do stop by their site and vote for some of the amazing food bloggers in this and other categories. 

sweet potato

I should have titled this post as "out with the milk". You see, I ran out of milk this week, no dairy or nut or any other type of milk at home for my morning oats. When it comes to eating my breakfast oats, I need something other than water in it. I usually add some milk, a dash of vanilla and a little fruit to my oatmeal but I was out of options. Desperation led to making a sweet potato based porridge that at first I was unsure about sharing but once I tasted it, I knew I should. Plus, I think my trainer  might be pleased with this one, since she keeps asking me to increase my sweet potato intake.

golden raisins

I flavored the sweet potato puree with freshly ground green cardamom seeds but as I've mentioned in the recipe, cinnamon works great too! So if you don't have or don't like either spice, feel free to swap or leave them out completely. If you do leave them out then I recommend increasing the vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon. I didn't make this very sweet because personally, I am not a big fan of very sugary breakfasts but do go generous with the raisins, they provide little bursts of sweet surprises with every spoonful you taste that will make you smile. 

oat and sweet potato porridge

oat and sweet potato porridge

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

1 lb sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and diced
4 cups water + 2 cups
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon, green cardamom seeds, freshly ground / 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons honey (you can increase if you like it sweeter)
1/4 cup golden raisins (you can be a little generous here)

1. Place the sweet potatoes with the 4 cups of water in a large stock pot. Bring to boil on a medium-high flame and then reduce to medium-low, cover with a lid and cook for about 20 - 25 minutes until completely tender. Remove the stockpot from the stove and using an immersion blender or blender puree the sweet potatoes with its liquid until completely smooth. Keep aside until ready to use. The puree should be thick and velvety in texture. (You can cook it a little longer if it is not thick enough.)
2. Bring the oats and remaining two cups of water in a large saucepan on a medium-high flame to a boil. Reduce the flame to a medium-low and then cook for about 20 minutes until the oats are completely soft and tender. Stir occasionally, to make sure the oats do not stick to the pan. 
3. Add the cooked oats, cardamom, vanilla, salt and honey to the sweet potatoes puree in a large saucepan. Heat the contents of the saucepan on a medium-high flame until it begins to boil with constant stirring. Taste and adjust the sweetness if desired. Fold in the raisins, remove from stove and serve warm.

quinoa kheer

Quinoa Kheer

Here's a different take on something traditional. I love kheer, when I think of desserts that are homely and comforting, kheer is somewhere up in my top five.  To me it evokes, simplicity and flavors that are characteristic of Indian cooking but that make. The best way to describe kheer, would be a sweetened porridge of milk and basmati rice with dried fruits and nuts served chilled. As much as I love it as a dessert, I have also been known to eat it at breakfast. Some people describe it as a pudding but I personally find it closer in texture to a porridge than a pudding. The rice is cooked till it is so soft that it breaks and almost falls apart to give that delicious soothing texture when you savor a bite. That is exactly what I've tried to do here with quinoa and the results are equally delicious.

Cooking quinoa Spanish Saffron

Cooked quinoa has such a delicate soft texture and works wonderfully well in this recipe. Just make sure you wash the quinoa thoroughly to get rid of the bitter saponin coating on the seeds (I can't stress this point enough). Believe me you don't need or want that nasty bitter taste in your dessert!

Medjool Dates

You could use whole milk here but I prefer skim milk. While the quinoa and milk simmer with the fruit and nuts, the bright and vibrant orange saffron strands will infuse their color into the white milk. There is something simply wonderful about cooking with saffron, a little goes a long way. magically. Try to avoid buying ground saffron or saffron powder, it is normally tainted with turmeric and there are some good quality varieties of saffron strands that are easily available today.

Quinoa Kheer and Persian Saffron Sugar Sticks

quinoa kheer

yields: 6 servings

ingredients

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 teaspoon ghee or butter
4 dried dates, pits removed and chopped
4 teaspoons golden raisins
1 teaspoon pistachios, unshelled and chopped (I used unsalted raw pistachios)
1 teaspoon slivered almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
3 cups skim milk
a pinch of saffron (I used Spanish saffron)
3 tablespoons sugar (add more sugar if you prefer it sweeter)
2 teaspoons rose water
a little extra toasted and chopped pistachios for garnishing

1. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under running cold water until the water turns clear. (I prefer to massage the seeds with my hands while rinsing to make sure that I get rid of the bitter saponin completely). Bring the quinoa and water to a boil on a medium flame, cook until the seeds become translucent. Drain and discard the liquid from the cooked quinoa and keep aside. 
2. In a thick-bottomed stock pot, melt the ghee or butter on a medium high flame. Add the dates, raisins, pistachios, almonds, and cardamom to the melted ghee and sauté them for a minute. 
3. Add the cooked quinoa to the nut and fruit mixture in the pot. Fold in the milk, saffron, and sugar. Bring the entire contents of the pot to a boil on a medium flame, then reduce to a simmer and cook till the liquid volume reduces by one-third. Stir frequently to make sure the milk does not burn. 
4. Cool the kheer to room temperature. Then fold in the rose water and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve chilled and garnish with the extra pistachios.

persian rice with green lentils, raisins and dates


I don't drive to work but these days the traffic in the city is a "daymare"/nightmare. It takes more than an hour to get to work and back home. The only advantage to this is taking naps or reading a book on the D.C. Circulator bus, provided I get a seat. I wish I could do something more fruitful with these wasted hours traveling, though naps are most welcome.


During these long bus trips, I've been hankering a craving for Persian food. It is a nice change from all the Holiday themed meals around me. Part of my craving, lies in a new cookbook that I am reading while killing time on the bus and the other half of it lies in the basmati rice dishes that are served at the Persian restaurants I've eaten at. Basmati rice is one of the most fragrant and long-grained rice of the rice family. A staple of Indian cooking for centuries, this Indian grain is widely used in several Middle Eastern and sometimes Mediterranean dishes. There aren't too many Persian restaurants in D.C. that I am aware of but I have tried some delicious offerings at Shamshiry in Tyson's Corner in Virginia. Another interesting fact about basmati rice relative to other rice grains is its low glycemic index that ranges from 43 to 60 whereas other varieties of rice are generally between 72 to 98, make this a healthy option for diabetics. I would recommend buying Basmati rice at an Indian grocery store or a brand that has a made in India label on it, simply because the difference in taste and quality is striking.



To soothe my cravings, I figured that a foray into Persian cooking might just be what the doctor ordered. This particular rice dish, Adas polo, I think is deliciously fruity yet wholesome. Sweet and tangy flavors complement the basmati rice making this a wholesome vegetarian meal by itself. This dish reminded me of the Indian pilafs that are so equally hearty and flavorful.Quite a few ingredients could be potentially substituted in this dish, craisins for the raisins or even beluga lentils for the green lentils. This recipe was adapted from New Persian Cooking by Jila Dana -Haeri with Shahrzad Ghorashian. A side note with this dish, a crust might form at the bottom of the dish when the rice is being fluffed at the final stage of cooking. This crispy layer is a highly prized crust or tahdig that many Persians love. This dish can be accompanied by a light salad and or cold Greek yogurt.



persian rice with green lentils, raisins and dates

ingredients

1 cup green lentils/lentils du puy
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion finely diced
1/2 cup packed raisins or sultanas
2 teaspoons turmeric
1/4 cup dates, pitted and chopped
3 cups basmati rice (soaked in cold water for at least 2 hours)
3 tablespoons salt
1 liter water
1 teaspoon saffron
2 tablespoons butter

In a saucepan, add 2 cups of water and the lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let the lentils cook till al dente. Drain the lentils and keep aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the onions till golden brown. Reduce the flame, and saute the raisins and the dates. Add the lentils to the skillet along with 1 teaspoon of turmeric. Add salt to taste and keep aside. 
Bring the water to boil, add salt and oil. Drain the rice and add the rice to the boiling water. Leave to simmer, uncovered on medium heat for approximately 10 minutes. Drain any excess water from the rice. In a separate shallow dish (flame proof dish, as this will be put back on the stove), add all the rice and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooked rice. Gently fold the lentil mixture into the rice, taking care that none of the rice grains break during this process. The rice will pick up the turmeric color and turn yellow. Layer the reserved white rice grains on top of the lentil rice mixture in the dish. Cover the dish with a tight lid and let the rice steam on a medium flame for about 50 minutes till the rice fluffs up. The tahdig or crust will form at the bottom of the dish. To release it easily immerse the bottom of your dish in cold water. Remove the top rice and lentil mixture into a serving bowl, fluffing it while you remove the rice. Detach and break the plain rice tahdig from the bottom of the pan and serve it with the rice. Serve the rice warm or hot and fluff the rice before serving.

quick pumpkin bread


One cold week done and another one to board. However, the extra hour this weekend as the clock is set back by an hour will be happily received. Extra sleep is always, always good. This was a bad week of getting out here to post or much less get any time to read anything. Too much to do and too little time however, I did get to try this new recipe for a quick pumpkin bread. What started out as an attempt to bake pumpkin cookies ended up as a fast and quick way to a quick loaf of pumpkin bread. This I realize is my third pumpkin post, back-to-back. but such a delicious bread that had to be shared. I should be back to more posting this week.



quick pumpkin bread

servings: 1 regular loaf tin
ingredients

3/4 cup shredded roasted pumpkin
1/4 cup raisins
2/3 cup plain flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup molasses
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2  teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground clove
a pinch of salt
vegetable oil spray (canola)
a little flour for dusting the pan

1.Preheat the oven to 350F. 
2. Whisk all the liquid ingredients together and keep aside. Add the raisins and the pumpkin into the liquid mixture. 
3. In another bowl whisk all the dry ingredients together. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients with constant whisking at a medium speed. 
4. Grease a baking tin/ loaf pan with vegetable oil or an oil spray and then sprinkle with flour to coat the dish. Pour the batter into the greased dish and bake for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour or until a knife comes out clean from the center. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 20 minutes at room temperature, then remove the loaf from the pan and cool completely to room temperature on a wire rack.