Brown rice bisibele bhath
The last few weeks, my primary focus on the blogging front was renovation - replacing some of the old photos with "new and improved" pictures taken with my new Canon Rebel T2i. Well, a new camera is not going to magically improve my photography skills, but it's a start! Coming to the recipe, this is another tiny step towards replacing the empty calories of white rice with the nutritive value of whole grain brown rice. Statistics reveal that people who have 5 or more servings of white rice a week have a 17% increased risk of contracting diabetes while those who take 2 or more servings of brown rice a week have 11% lesser chance of developing the disease. This recipe particularly tastes great with brown rice. I would never ever make this with white rice again!


Ingredients (serves 2):

brown rice - 1/2 cup
split yellow pigeon peas (toor dal) - 1/4 cup
red gram (masoor dal) - 1/4 cup
tamarind paste - 1 tbsp
sambar powder - 1 1/2 tsp
ginger paste - 1/2 tsp (or a 1-inch piece of ginger - peeled and chopped fine)
mixed vegetables - 1 cup, peeled, grated/cubed as required (I use carrot, peas and cabbage)
salt - 3/4 tsp
bisibelabath paste - 1 tsp (optional)
clarified butter (ghee) - 2 tsp
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
fennel seeds - 1 tsp
cashewnuts - 1 tbsp, broken
curry leaves - 1 stalk
water - 4 cups

Method:

Heat a teaspoon of ghee. Add cashewnuts, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and curry leaves. When the cashwes turns golden, add washed brown rice, pigeon peas, red gram, vegetables, ginger, sambar powder and tamarind paste. Fry for a minute and add 4 cups water. Mix in the salt and pressure cook until soft. Stir in the bisibelabath paste and heat for a couple of minutes. Garnish with a teaspoon of ghee and serve hot.

Notes:
The cooking time for brown rice is much more than that of white rice - almost twice the time, depending on your equipment.
Baked Plantain Crisps
In another attempt at a healthy snack, I started out briskly getting my ducks in a row - peeling the plantains, preheating the oven and pulling out the mandoline slicer, convincing myself "This time I will use this slicer without chopping off a chunk of my finger". Just as I was thinking so, ouch! A pool of blood and again, there goes a little piece of myself. Never once have I used my mandoline slicer without an accident, but on the bright side, I can take pride in my perseverance! Well, at least the results were worth all this trouble :)


Ingredients:

plantain (raw banana) - 2 large
red chilli powder - 3/4 tsp (adjust according to taste)
cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
turmeric powder - a pinch
oil - 2 tbsp
salt - 1 tsp (adjust according to taste)

Method:

Peel and slice the plantains evenly (without hurting your fingers unlike me ;) Heat oil in a sauce pan. Add red chilli powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder and salt. Mix well. Add plantain slices and mix well, just to allow the seasoning to coat the plantain slices. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees (Fahrenheit) for about 30 minutes to make it crispy.

Notes:
Baking times vary from oven to oven. Bake for lesser time if you like it soft instead of crispy.
'Brown' Pongal
My latest quest is to replace as much of white rice with brown rice in my cooking as I possibly can, given the health benefits. This is relatively easier with mushy dishes like pongal. When I first prepared it, I was expecting the pongal to have a brownish tint, but the color was almost exactly the same as that of the regular savory pongal. And it is the same every time I make it. This recipe goes to Kurinji's Pongal Feast.


Ingredients:

brown rice - 3/4 cup
mung beans - 3/4 cup
clarified butter (ghee) - 2 tbsp
ginger paste - 1/2 tsp (or ginger - 1 inch piece - peeled and grated)
cumin seeds - 1 tsp
pepper corns - a few
broken cashews - a few
curry leaves - 1 stalk
salt - 3/4 tsp (adjust according to taste)
asafoetida - a pinch
green chillies - 2 or ground pepper - 1/2 tsp (adjust according to taste)

Method:

Soak brown rice in 6 cups of water for 15 minutes. Do not drain. Add mung beans and pressure cook with salt. Heat ghee in a frying pan. Add cashews, cumin seeds, pepper corns, green chillies, curry leaves and asafoetida and fry till cashews become golden brown. Add the cooked rice and beans. Mix in the ginger paste and give a dash of fresh ground pepper if required. Serve hot with chutney.

Notes:
Brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice (almost twice the time).
Cracker Nachos!
Another result of my quest for a quick, healthy snack! My husband loves to gorge on chips anytime, and especially during game time. All my rantings on junk food fall on deaf ears. One evening, when he was all set to submerge himself in a football game on TV, surrounded by junk food, I handed him a plate of cracker nachos after a sermon on junk food. The only reason he took it from my hand was so that I will stop disturbing him from watching the game. Five minutes later, I was in for a major surprise - he actually asked me if I could make him one plate of cracker nachos!
This goes to Priya's event "Fast food not Fat food".


Ingredients:

salted whole wheat crackers - 7
whole grain tortilla chips - 7 to 9 (optional)
cucumber - 1 (chopped fine)
tomato - 1 (chopped fine)
nacho cheese - 3-4 tbsp (melted, warm)
cilantro - 1 tbsp (chopped fine)
fresh garden salsa - 3 tbsp
lemon juice - a few drops

Method:

Mix cucumber, tomato, cilantro, garden salsa and lemon juice and keep aside. Arrange crackers on a plate. Drop spoonfuls of vegetable mixture and melted cheese on each cracker. Health freaks, stop here! Others, arrange a layer of tortilla chips between the creackers. Place vegetable mixture and melted cheese on the chips as well and serve fresh.

Creamy Beet Soup
Beetroot is another one of those vegetables that my family loves to avoid. So, here I go - up against another challenge - to spice up this vegetable. The cold weather calls for something warm and comforting - well, that probably adds up to present the perfect solution!


Ingredients: (serves 4)

beetroot - 3 (medium)
tomato - 1 (chopped)
potato - 1 (medium)
dill - 1 bunch (chopped)
yogurt - 1 cup (beaten)
vegetable stock - 2 cups
butter - 1 tbsp
lemon juice - 1 tbsp
ginger paste - 1/2 tsp
pepper - 1 tsp (adjust according to taste)
salt - 3/4 tsp (adjust according to taste)
fresh cream for topping (optional)

Method:

Pressure cook the beetroot and potato. Cool, peel and mash. Pulse beetroot, tomato and potato in a food processor, with some vegetable stock in case more liquid is needed, to get a coarse paste. Add the remaining vegetable stock, ginger paste and salt. Boil for a few minutes. Once the soup has reached the required consistency (thick, but not too thick), add the beaten yogurt and heat for just about a minute. Remove from fire before it starts boiling, mix in the dill, lemon juice, butter and pepper. Garnish with cream and serve hot.

Notes:

1. The slight coarseness and little lumps adds that extra touch of chunkiness to the soup.
2. The vegetable stock usually contains enough salt - so, add extra salt only if that is not sufficient, and adjust seasoning carefully, according to personal preferences.
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