Tag Archives: curry

You say Quinoa, I say Millet

28 Apr

Quinoa has created quite the buzz over the past couple of years.  It’s commonly labeled with terms such as ‘Superfood,’ ‘High in Protein,’ ‘Gluten-Free,’ and the like.  Even the United Nations is in on the fad, declaring 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa.

Don’t get me wrong, I love quinoa and think it’s a great food. But I also believe there are ample pseudo-grains (quinoa is technically a seed) that deserve the same attention that quinoa has received in recent years.

My biggest qualm with the nutritional benefits bestowed upon quinoa is its reputation for being a protein powerhouse.  Yes, quinoa is a complete protein based on its amino acid profile, but the quantities of several amino acids obtained in a standard serving are minimal.  Furthermore, quinoa contains little to no more protein than other grains.  Quinoa should be chosen as a grain option, not as a protein replacement.  If you’re a vegetarian, include legumes or soy-based foods (e.g. tofu, tempeh, edamame) in combination with quinoa for a healthy, balanced meal.

A rarely discussed benefit is its lower carbohydrate content (and in turn, calorie content) compared to other grains, making it an ideal choice for diabetics or for those struggling with weight management.

The nutritional profile of quinoa compared to other grains (or pseudo-grains) can be seen in the below table.  It’s clear that quinoa is not a stellar source of protein after all…

Per ½ cup serving Protein (g) Carbohydrate (g) Calories (kcal)
Quinoa 3.2 16 88
Brown Rice 2.7 24 115
Millet 3.2 22 109
Spelt (a wheat species) 5.6 27 130
Barley 1.9 23 102

Source: Canadian Nutrient File

Finally, nutritional merits aside, news reports earlier this year documented the uglier side of the quinoa boom. What was once a staple food to farmers in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador is now becoming unaffordable, forcing locals to turn to non-traditional foods.  Some consider this to be a tragedy, while food economists argue that commoditization of food can be a useful tool in helping poor areas improve their standard of living.  This is a debate that falls outside of my area of expertise but is certainly worth thinking about.

If you’re tired of quinoa, try this millet-based recipe for a change.  Millet is a cinch to prepare and has many of the nutritional perks of quinoa. The spices, chili pepper, and currants give this dish a punch of flavour and can brighten up an ordinary weeknight meal.

Curried Millet

Curried Millet
(from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health)

See below for delicious variations on this basic recipe.

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds (optional)  *I couldn’t find these anywhere!
1/2 cup minced onions
3/4 cup millet
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or cayenne
1-1/2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/4 cup currents
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)

  1. In a saucepan on medium-high heat, warm the oil, then add the mustard seeds, if using, and cook until they begin to pop, about 2 minutes.  Add the onions right away so the mustard seeds won’t burn and cook for about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the millet and stir constantly until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the spices and salt and cook for a minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Pour in the water, cover, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed and the millet is tender, about 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in the current and the cilantro, if using, and fluff with a fork. Cover and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.  Stir to fluff again. Serve hot, at room temperature, or chilled.

Variations (try as many as your heart desires!): Use scallions instead of onions. Use 1-1/2 tsp of your favourite curry powder in place of the spices. Replace the currents with chopped raisins, dried cranberries, or dried apricots. Use coconut milk in place of 1/2 cup of the water or broth.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving (3/4 cup): 192 kcal, 32 g CHO, 4 g fibre, 5 g fat (1 g saturated), 5 g protein, 183 mg sodium.

Advertisements

The ultimate “superfood” recipe… from a super friend!

25 Nov

After hearing me complain about not having the time and energy to cook often, my near and dear friend JC offered to write a guest post on a fabulous recipe she recently cooked up.  It sounded so good that I was sufficiently motivated to get in the kitchen earlier this week to try it out for myself.  Thank you, Jess!

My life and gastrointestinal system was changed forever after 2 years of cohabitation with Lisa. Brownies made with black beans? Substituting applesauce for oil in cake? And perhaps the most influential dietary change involved making rabbit food aka bran buds part of my daily routine.

Four years since I spread my wings and moved out on my own, I continue to be inspired by Lisa’s baking and cooking creations! How does she manage to make such healthy, fibre-packed creations so damned delicious. My own culinary adventures range from comical failures (really, how does one manage to mess up the peanut butter cookie recipe on the back of the jar) to raging successes – which I am sharing with you today.

While having never made kale before, I have often read about its wonder as a “superfood!!” Classic google search “healthy recipe and kale and delicious” (those people at google really can read my mind), led to this truly delectable concoction! Immediately after having my first bite, I texted, “I literally just made the most delicious creation of life…I think it is blog worthy.” So here you are! Enjoy!

Nutritious and Delicious!


Squash, Tofu, and Kale Curry
(from Eatingwell.com)

Due to my life in Northern Ontario, my odd working hours, and limited grocery store hours, I made a couple small modifications – using an acorn squash and green curry paste instead of what was listed on the recipe.  Note: I (Lisa) made a few other substitutions of my own which can be found below.

2 tablespoons curry powder, preferably Madras
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 (16-ounce) package extra-firm or firm, water-packed tofu
4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1 large delicata squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes  (I used 1 medium butternut squash)
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 14-ounce can “lite” coconut milk
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
8 cups coarsely chopped kale or chard, tough stems removed
1 tablespoon lime juice, plus more to taste
Optional: Sriracha for added heat!

  1. Combine curry powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Blot tofu dry with a paper towel and cut into 1-inch cubes; toss the tofu in a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook, stirring every 2 minutes, until browned, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Add squash, onion, ginger and the remaining spice mixture; cook, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes.  (Note: I boiled the squash for ~5-10 minutes before adding it at this step, but I think it will probably cook through if you follow the recipe as written).  Add coconut milk and brown sugar; bring to a boil. Add half the kale (or chard) and cook, stirring, until slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the rest of the greens and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Return the tofu to the pan, cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the squash and greens are tender, 3 to 5 minutes more.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in lime juice.

Makes 4 servings.  Per serving: 410 kcal, 47 g CHO, 9 g fibre, 19 g fat (6.6 g saturated), 22 g protein, 373 mg sodium.

Colourful Moroccan Quinoa Salad

4 Mar

It’s official.  I’m the worst blogger ever.  Since January of this year I’ve been averaging one post per month.  Yikes!  Common excuses that keep me away from the computer include being too busy and the fact that I should use my time to do “real” work (or clean my apartment, or watch Top Chef).  In actuality, I’ve been in a bit of a rut for most of February.  It could be the weather, being in a rotation that I don’t love, or just the time of year.  Life is not overly busy and yet I don’t feel like doing ANYTHING.  Except for sitting on the couch after a day of work and watching TV.

Despite my lack of motivation, I’ve managed to do a fair bit of cooking and baking over the past couple of months.  I made this Moroccan-spiced quinoa salad a couple of weeks ago and it was an instant lift-me-up.  It’s colourful, bright in flavour, and full of wholesome ingredients.  A bowl of sunshine on an otherwise dreary day.

On a more positive note, it’s March and I already feel like my spirits are lifting.  Next weekend is one of my favourite times of the year.  Any guesses?  Drumroll please…

Next weekend we “spring forward” for Daylight Saving Time!  I may be the only person on the planet who gets excited about turning the clocks forward.  Yes, it’s a drag to lose an hour of sleep but I firmly believe that the joy of leaving work in daylight is worth a day or two of sleep deprivation.  Spring is just around the corner…

Moroccan Quinoa Salad

 

Moroccan and Rollin’ Quinoa Salad (from The Looneyspoons Collection)

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup dried currants
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt (I omitted the salt)
1 cup canned no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I used an entire 19 oz can)
1/2 cup each finely chopped red bell pepper, grated carrot, and diced English cucumber
1/3 cup chopped green onions (I think I would use a little bit less next time)
2 tbsp olive oil (I used only 1 tbsp)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp minced fresh mint leaves (I omitted the mint)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. Combine quinoa, broth, currants, curry, cumin, coriander, honey, and salt (if using) in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all liquid.  Remove from heat.  Let stand covered for 10 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and leave uncovered to cool completely.
  2. Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  3. When quinoa is cool, transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Stir in all remaining ingredients, including the olive oil and lemon juice mixture.  Mix well and refrigerate for at least an hour or two before serving.  Tastes even better the next day!

Makes 6 servings.  Per serving: 231 kcal, 7.4 g fat, 5.4 g fibre, 256 mg sodium

Curried Sweet Potato, Carrot, and Red Lentil Soup with Ginger

27 Oct

With the weather now getting chillier, I’ve been craving soup.  More specifically, a hearty split pea soup.  I decided to pick up a package of green split peas on my way home from work yesterday so that I could whip up a soup for dinner.  First stop: Metro.  No green split peas in sight.  Afer perusing the price tags on the shelf, I realized that this particular Metro does not even SELL green split peas.  Geez.  I then swung by the Sobey’s upstairs that just opened last week.  Green split peas  = Sold out.  Oh the joys of downtown grocery stores.  On a related note, I also wanted to buy canned diced tomatoes and there was only one brand available… and they were charging $2.59 per can!!!! Outrageous!

Needless to say, I did not have soup for dinner last night.  Tonight was a different story, though.  I had red lentils on hand, along with a couple of sweet potatoes that have seen better days.  A search for “red lentil soup” led me to a recipe for a curried sweet potato, carrot, and red lentil soup with ginger. YUM.  You must make this soup!  Incredibly tasty, plus it’s full of heart-healthy soluble fibre (along with lots of other good stuff).  The spice from the curry powder perfectly balanced the sweetness of the sweet potato and carrots.

I was also really excited to use my not-so-new immersion blender for the first time.  I don’t know if I will go so far as to say that it was my best purchase ever, but it was much easier (and cleaner) than pureeing soup in batches using a food processor.  I’m definitely looking forward to making more soups this winter!

Curried Sweet Potato, Carrot, and Red Lentil Soup with Ginger

Curried Sweet Potato, Carrot, and Red Lentil Soup with Ginger
(from DinnerwithJulie.com)

1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, coarsely minced
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup dry red lentils, rinsed several times to remove excess starch
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed (approx 2 cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tsp curry powder
4 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock, preferably low-sodium
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Saute the onion, garlic, and ginger for 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add the lentils, sweet potato, carrots, curry powder, and stock, along with 1 cup of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes until vegetables are tender.
  3. Add yogurt, season with salt and pepper to taste, and puree soup using an immersion blender.  Alternatively, allow soup to cool slightly then transfer it in batches to a blender or food processor, and puree until smooth.

Makes 4 servings.  Per serving: 220 kcal, 2.2 g fat, 8 g fibre

“Butter” Chickpea Curry (in a Hurry)

13 Sep

Do you love Indian food? Are you too intimidated to cook it at home?  If you answered yes to either of these questions, I have just the dish for you.

I first stumbled across this recipe a few years ago.  It was a Friday afternoon and I had no idea what to make for dinner. I was convinced there was no food in the house.  My search terms included chickpeas and potatoes, an unlikely combination I thought.  Little did I know that the recipe I would stumble across would soon become a favourite.  Onion and garlic?  Check.   Can of tomato soup? Check.  Indian spices? Check.  I had found a recipe that was healthy, looked tasty, and didn’t require me to go to the grocery store.  Success!

This curry is just like your classic butter chicken dish, minus the butter and with chickpeas instead of chicken.  It’s so simple (and tasty!) that a couple of my “no-fuss” friends have asked for the recipe.  To give you an idea of what I mean by no-fuss, one of my friends refuses to cook with onions because they make her cry.  I bought her a pair of onion goggles for her birthday to remedy this problem.  Yes, these things actually exist!

An "artsy" (and blurry) Butter Chickpea Curry shot. Artistic director and photographer: LS; Hand model: JC

One such no-fuss kind of gal is my good friend Erin who decided to make this dish for our potluck on Saturday evening.  It was her first attempt at making curry and it was a roaring success.

I love love LOVE potlucks! (and great friends, and good wine)

The sweetness from the condensed tomato soup and sweet potatoes contrasts so nicely with the mild spice from the curry powder in this hearty dish.  The cauliflower, while not in the original recipe, adds great texture and soaks up the curry sauce beautifully.  Good luck keeping leftovers around for long: I’ve been known to sneak a “bite” from the fridge and usually end up polishing off whatever is left…  in one sitting (er, standing).

Butter Chickpea Curry


Butter Chickpea Curry  (adapted from Allrecipes.com)

This is a very mild curry, perfect for those who can’t handle a lot of spice.  Add chili flakes or cayenne pepper to up the heat to your liking.

2 medium sweet potatoes (or regular potatoes), cubed
2 cups cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1/2 tbsp canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1 can (10.75 oz) condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup milk
1 can (19 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained (preferably no salt added)
salt, to taste

  1. Place sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender.  Add cauliflower at the last minute and cook until tender-crisp, about 1 minute.  Drain, and set aside.
  2. Warm oil over medium heat in a large non-stick skillet sprayed with cooking spray.  Stir in onion and cook until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Stir in curry powder, garam masala, ground ginger, cumin, and salt.  Cook for 1 or 2 minutes, stirring continuously.
  4. Add soup, milk, and chickpeas.  Stir in sweet potatoes and cauliflower.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Serve alone, over rice, or with toasted naan.

Makes 4 servings.  Per serving: 300 kcal, 4.7 g fat, 8.8 g fibre, 495 mg sodium

Don’t Judge A Coconut Milk By Its ‘Title’

29 Jul

Part of the reason I started this blog was to give myself motivation to cook many of the recipes that I’ve been collecting over the past year or two.  I have a fixation with seeking out healthy recipes but I collect far more than I cook, and so the pile grows…

The other night I tackled a recipe for a spicy vegetable curry that I clipped from the July 2010 issue of Chatelaine magazine.  Instead of purchasing a large bottle of Indian curry paste that would sit unused in my fridge, I decided to whip up my own version based on a little bit of research and the spices I had on hand.  I was pleasantly surprised– despite my makeshift curry paste, the dish turned out quite nicely.  Next time I think I will increase the number of eggplants (Japanese eggplants are one of my favourites– they have an amazing texture) and throw in some tofu for a little extra protein.

As a side note, while shopping for coconut milk I made an interesting discovery.  Despite being almost double the price, light coconut milk has always been my go-to since it’s a healthier alternative to the full-fat version.  But… lo and behold, this is not entirely the case!  Light will almost always be lowest in calories and in fat, but not necessarily by much.  For example, the regular version of brand #1 ($1.49 for a can) contained a whopping 120 calories and 10 grams of fat per serving while the light version of brand #1 ($2.49) contained only 40 calories and 3.5 grams of fat.  Out of curiosity, I looked at the label of brand #2 (which only came in regular) and noticed that it only contained 50 calories and 4 grams of fat in an identical serving size … and was the cheapest one of all at $1.29 per can.

The moral of the story?  You can’t judge a coconut milk (or any food item, for that matter) by its title.  Always read the Nutrition Facts Panel!

Summer Vegetables with Spicy Coconut Curry

Summer Vegetables with Spicy Coconut Curry
(from Chatelaine magazine, July 2010)

1/2 cup red lentils
500 g green beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 tbsp Indian curry paste, preferably biryani (or make your own, recipe below)
200 mL coconut milk
1/8 tsp salt
2 Japanese eggplants
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
lemon wedges*
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

  1. Combine lentils with 2.5 cups of water in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat slightly and boil uncovered, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water 1 inch deep and bring to a boil.  Add green beans and steam, covered, until tender-crisp, approximately 5 minutes. Drain beans and set aside.
  2. Mix curry paste with 1 tbsp water and add to simmering lentils.  Stir in coconut milk and salt.  Simmer, uncovered, until thickened, 7 to 9 minutes.
  3. While lentils simmer, slice eggplants into quarters lengthwise, then into 2-inch wedges. Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Cook onion until softened, about 3 minutes. Add eggplant, skin-side up.  Cook until tender, about 7 minutes.  Add green beans and toss to combine.
  4. Divide eggplant mixture between 4 bowls and top with lentil mixture.  Garnish with lemon and cilantro.  Can be served with toasted naan or over top rice.

*I didn’t think omitting the lemon would be a big deal, but the lentil mixture really needed a bit of acidity. I didn’t have lemons or lemon juice on hand so I used a few teaspoons of white wine vinegar. It made a big difference!

Makes 4 servings.  Per serving: 250 kcal, 11 g fat, 8 g fibre, 310 mg sodium

__________________________________________________________________________

Homemade Indian Curry Paste  (Makes 2 tbsp)

1/2 tbsp each cumin and coriander
heaping 1/4 tsp each turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper, paprika
pinch of salt
3 cloves of garlic, grated
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tbsp white vinegar

Mix spices in a small bowl.  Add garlic and grated ginger, mix well.  Add vinegar, mix well.