Healthy, Low-Fat and Vegan Broccoli Almond Soup

If you live in India, there are very few times you truly enjoy the warmth that a rich, hearty soup provides. Fortunately, we are having some wonderfully chilly weather here in Baroda and a soup was just what we needed. Dinners are best served outdoors and piping hot! I love winter so much and wish it’s a little longer this time. I can then think of going about my herb garden.

Broccoli was one of those things I used to detest as a kid. The green color in any food triggers the response that its going to be bitter or bland and not really that yummy. I am ashamed to admit, I still carry some of those feelings! For that reason, I rarely enjoy any green soups and go straight for a tomato soup or a mushroom soup. But, the other day, I had some broccoli in my fridge and wanted to do something with it. I wanted something that wouldn’t taste very broccoli-like (Go figure!). I decided to try to make a broccoli-almond soup that seems to be on every menu in India. When I Googled it, the recipes all contained cream or a roux base (butter and flour base) which just didn’t sound healthy and just didn’t appeal to me. After a lot of searching, I found a recipe that worked perfectly for me! With a few changes, I made this into a healthy, low-fat, vegan soup. It is very lightly flavored and is very easy to make! Even the most inexperienced cannot fail at this!

Broccoli-Almond Soup

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup broccoli florets

1 small onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

6-8 almonds

5 cups vegetable stock (Make your own!)

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Method

  • Heat the oil in a non-stick pot on a medium-low flame. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and the onions.
  • Fry until fragrant and the onions have become translucent, about 6 minutes.
  • Next, add the almonds into the oil and stir them around for 30 seconds.
  • Finally add the broccoli florets and stir them with the oil for about one and a half minutes or until they take on a beautiful green shade.
  • Add the 5 cups of vegetable stock to the broccoli mix and cover the pot with the lid. Allow it to come to a boil and leave on a medium-low flame for 8-10 minutes or until the broccoli is tender.
  • Turn the flame off and allow the mix to cool.
  • Once cooled, add the mix, in batches, in a blender and blend until smooth
  • Return the smooth mixture back to the heat. Season with salt and plenty of fresh pepper.
  • Once the soup has heated, ladle into bowls and serve.

Note: If the soup is too thick for your liking, simply add some more vegetable stock. If you don’t seem to have more vegetable stock on hand, heat 1 cup of water and add 1/2 tsp of mixed herbs like dried garlic powder, rosemary, parsley, mint, oregano or Italian Seasoning. Allow the water to come to a boil and turn the flame off. Cover with a lid and let it sit for about 5 minutes for the herbs to flavor the water. Drain the water and use the flavored water to thin the soup out.

Happy Cooking everyone!

 

 

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Pea and Mint Soup – The Perfect Winter Soup

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Winters are the only times I actually enjoy eating soup. I think it is very hot through the rest of the year to able to actually enjoy soup. I had this combination a pea and mint soup for the first time at The Westin, Pune where I was just a tad hungry and a soup seemed like the perfect option. It was a rich, creamy soup and I loved the combination and of mint and peas. Since neither my mom nor I enjoy soup that much, I never looked up the recipe.

Fast forward a few months and winter is finally here! The season for hot soups, chocolate and cocoa! I was going to make whole wheat  pizzas for dinner and needed an accompaniment. I could either make a salad or a soup. I decided to go with soup and remembered the pea and mint soup I had. I was lazy. I didn’t really want to look through the recipe books in hand so I decided to Google for the recipe. A lot of the recipes I went through had cream or butter or sour cream and I really wanted something healthy and simple since the cheese on the pizza was going to make me feel guilty enough. I found this recipe which seemed just perfect for me! I decided to omit the sour cream to have a vegan and super healthy soup. In India, we do not get pre packaged vegetable stock and I absolutely refuse to use the Maggi stock cubes considering how much sodium they have! Vegetable stock makes the process a little longer but its worth it.

Pea and Mint Soup

Adapted from here 

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 small onions, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock (recipe below)
1/3rd cup mint leaves
400 grams frozen peas or fresh peas
salt and pepper to taste
Method

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Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Next, add the chopped onions and cook until they turn transparent and soft, about 6 minutes on a medium low heat. We do not want to caramelize the onions and just want to reduce their bite.
Once the onions are cooked, add 4 cups of the vegetable stock to the onion-garlic mix and allow the stock to come a boil.
As soon as the stock comes to a rolling boil, add the frozen or fresh peas and the mint and cook for 8 minutes for frozen peas and about 5 minutes for fresh peas. Cook until the peas are done.
Allow the mix to cool before putting in the blender in small batches.
After you have reached a smooth consistency of the pea-mint mixture, put it back on the stove and allow to warm up. At this stage, season it with salt and pepper.
Ladle into soup bowls and you are ready to serve this warm, thick winter soup!
Note:
This soup is quite thick and if you would like it thinner, add 1/2 cup of vegetable stock more.
Add the salt and pepper only once you have blended the soup to avoid over salting.

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Vegetable Stock

For 5 cups
Ingredients:
6 1/2 cups of water
2 medium-sized onions, peeled and cut into half
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tomatoes, cut into thick chunks
1 piece of carrot
7-8 French Beans
1/2 teaspoon mixed  herbs  like oregano, rosemary, thyme, mint
a pinch of salt
Method:
Add the 6 cups of water in a large saucepan and allow to simmer.
Once the water has begun to simmer, add all the vegetables in the water, with a pinch of salt and the herbs, and allow to boil for at least 30 minutes.
Once the stock has boiled and cooled, drain the vegetables and use the liquid in soups and gravies.
You can also add other vegetables that you may have in hand like celery, capsicum, potatoes and add whatever herbs you enjoy.
This is a very basic stock recipe and you can make it with a lot of variations. Mix and match and find the stock recipe that works best for you!

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Perfect soup to share with people and it might seem like it’s very difficult to make when you taste it but it could not be simpler!

Happy cooking!

Baked Falafels in Whole Wheat Pita Pockets with Lemon Tahini and Hummus

Falafel sandwiches are my favorite things in the whole wide world! A few years, I was with my family in Dubai. For the whole week, I ate nothing but falafel sandwiches for lunch and dinner! I was in heaven. I did not need anything more! Back home, I tried a bunch of places and the falafels were obviously slightly adapted to Indian standards.

Cream Center and New Yorker in Bombay are two absolutely legendary restaurants. They have been around for years & years and for a lot of Bombayites, the first taste of international food. They serve Nachoes, falafel sandwiches, pizzas, burritos, enchiladas and pastas. This is the place where I tried my first nachos, first pizzas and yes, my first falafel sandwiches. All the food here is adapted to serve the Indian crowd and it has its own unique appeal. I suspect it’s still super popular because a lot of people want to bask in their nostalgic days. My parents still talk about their samosas, Russian salad sandwiches and cold coffee.

A few years ago, Lebanese and Mediterranean food became big in Bombay just the way there is a Japanese food fad right now. Never the less, I am thankful for the Lebanese food boom because now I get to enjoy my favorite foods in a whole bunch of restaurants! A lot of places the falafel sandwiches are too dry, in other places, too soggy. I am pretty sure a lot of places skip on using tahini in their hummus or use less of it, but in either case, they accompany the sandwich with some delicious sauces. One of the best parts about falafels is the yummy pickled vegetable salad that comes along with it. I still have to figure out how to make it but I was super happy with my version!

I love bread, especially the smell of freshly baked bread. I had tried a few times to make bread at home and for some reason, I just could not get it right. I finally went for a bread making class where I picked up a few techniques. I always try to use whole-wheat flour and maybe that is one of the reasons I never got light and fluffy bread. Someone told me to use half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour instead of all whole wheat flour to give the bread a better texture. That’s exactly what I did for these pita bread and they turned out quite well. I have been looking for fresh yeast in my city, but none of the usual places I know have it in stock. So I’m using packaged yeast and am quite happy with the results.

Whole Wheat Pita Pockets

Adapted from The Fresh Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1 packet yeast. (About 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 ¼ cups – 1 ½ cups water at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter

Method:

  • If you are using active dry yeast, follow the instructions on the packet to activate the yeast. Remember to reduce the quantity of water to be used in the flour mixture accordingly.
  • If you using instant yeast, like me, add the flours, sugar or honey, yeast and oil in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the water, about 1 ¼ cups first and mix using a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  • All of the ingredients should form a ball. If all of the flour does not stick to the ball, add some water gradually.
  • Once all the ingredients are incorporated in the ball, move the ball to a work surface like the kitchen counter or a large dish for about 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer, mix on a low-speed for 10 minutes.
  • The purpose of kneading is to thoroughly combine the ingredients and to break down the flour so that the dough will become stretchy and elastic and rise well in the oven. A simple hand kneading technique is to firmly press down on the dough with the palm of your hand, fold the dough in half toward you like you are closing an envelope, rotate the dough 90 degrees and then repeat these steps, but whatever technique you are comfortable using should work.
  • When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly covered with oil.
  • Form a ball of the dough and place it in the bowl. Roll the ball  of dough around the bowl so that it is lightly coated with oil all over.
  • Cover the dough with a damp kitchen cloth and set aside until it has doubled, about 90 minutes.
  • When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the air.
  • Divide the dough into 8 pieces. 
  • Roll each piece of the dough into a ball. Cover them with a damp kitchen cloth and leave aside for 20 minutes.
  • In the meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees Celsius. Turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it in the middle rack of the oven to allow it to heat. This will be your baking surface. (I had never heard of this idea and it is totally fabulous!!)
  • After the dough has relaxed, roll each ball into 1/4″ thickness.
  • Open the oven and place as many Pita breads on the baking surface as you can and close the oven door. The Pita will need to be in the oven for 3-5 minutes.
  • Once the Pita bread is puffed and slightly browned, its ready!

Keep the pitas aside while you make the falafel.

I found this recipe for baked falafels and since I am scared of deep-frying anything, I was happy to come across this recipe. While making it from this recipe, I realized it is important to NOT cook your garbanzo beans. I used to make this mistake and always found my mixture to be very wet. To combat that and to help me create a proper falafel bullet, I would invariably add more flour to the mix. In short, it would be one heaping mess! This recipe is much easier and the falafel bullets taste perfect right out of the oven. However, these don’t stay well overnight or if re-heated. Make this and eat them immediately in my advice!

Baked Falafel

Recipe adapted

from Chow Vegan

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight.
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh coriander
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chilly flakes
  • 2-3 tablespoons whole wheat flour (add gradually)
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180o C (or 350o F)
  • Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Put in a blender and pulse till the beans are very coarsely grounded.
  • Put the coarsely grounded beans in a medium mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients except water. Add only 2 tablespoons of the at this stage.
  • Once the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, try to see if you can make a falafel patty from the mixture. If the mixture seems to dry, add a little water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  • If the mixture feels too wet, add a little more flour.
  • Once you are happy with the consistency, form small balls of the mixture, about 1½ inches in diameter. Flatten slightly.
  • Place the balls on a well-oiled baking pan. 
  • Bake for 15 minutes on each side. With the baking process, only the side that touches the baking pan will be browned.

Once ready, keep aside.

Lemon Tahini

Recipe from Mollie Katzen

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup Sesame Tahini
  • 5 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • 1 small to medium clove of garlic
  • 3/4 cup to 1 1/2 cups of water (depending on desired thickness)
  • 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of salt (depending on the amount of water being used)
  • a tablespoon of finely minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika or Cayenne pepper

Method:

  • Place the tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. (You can also use a blender.) Begin to process.
  • Keeping the motor running, slowly drizzle in the water, checking every now and then to monitor the consistency. When it is as thick as you want it, turn off the machine.
  • Transfer to a medium-small bowl or container, and season to taste with salt, parsley, and cayenne. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready for use. If you’re using this as a sauce for steamed vegetables, serve at room temperature over hot, freshly cooked vegetables (any assortment!) 

Hummus is my favorite dip. I love the fact that it is so healthy and I enjoy eating it with some sweet carrots. Many evenings, I crisp up some pita bread and sit down happily to eat my hummus. I have to confess, I love my hummus super-garlicky and that’s what I prefer to eat it all alone! Haha.

Hummus 

Recipe adapted from RoyHobbs

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup dried gabanzo beans, soaked in water overnight and cooked the next day.
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sesame tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons plain yogurt

Method:

  • Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Transfer to a bowl.

Assembling the Falafel Sandwiches

  • Take a pita bread and split it in half to create a cavity.
  • Take some hummus and spread it on the pita bread.
  • Next, take 2 baked falafels and place them in the readied pita pockets
  • If you like, place a cucumber slice and a tomato slice with a little lettuce in the pocket as well.
  • Finally, drizzle some of the lemon tahini sauce on the pita pocket.
  • Your super yummy falafel sandwich is ready!

I hope you enjoy these as much as I have. I know the pictures aren’t the greatest, but I think I am improving!

Happy cooking everyone!

The absolute best cupcakes EVER!!!

Aren’t cupcakes the best invention ever? They’re perfect when you want a little something sweet, they’re so cute to look at, you can dress them up in a million ways and best of all, you can order different flavors and don’t have to share. You won’t look like a glutton if you don’t share and if you do share, you will most certainly look like an angel! 😉

Baking cupcakes is so much fun! You can decorate them with all the cute sprinkles, frost them with bright colors and my favorite is that I can use these super cute liners! I made my little brother get me 500 different cupcake liners (all with something pink, obviously!) for me! Now before you go around feeling bad for him, 500 cupcake liners are barely 3 inches tall! Surprising something so cute and awesome can be in such a small package. I guess that proves the saying, ‘Big things come in small packages’ true, or does it? Hhhhmmm……

My boyfriend absolutely loves cupcakes and I always send some when I can for him. After experimenting with a few cupcake recipes, I have settled on this particular one. It is the easiest, the moistest and the most delicious cupcake recipe. My search for the perfect cupcake recipe stops right here. I was a little skeptical because it was a vegan recipe but then I had all the ingredients at home and I did have a half bottle of vinegar which I wanted to finish. Vinegar in a cupcake recipe?? Sounds odd, doesn’t it? But trust me, you wouldn’t even know these have vinegar. It seemed like the perfect reason to try this recipe and I am so glad I did. These are the best cupcakes ever! I don’t think my cupcakes with eggs and milk and butter taste this good! So since they’re healthier, I feel a little better about eating them! 🙂

The Best Cupcake Recipe Ever

Based on a recipe by kmdipaolo

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour (I always  prefer to use whole wheat flour)

1 cup granulated white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup oil

1 cup water (you can add milk, I prefer to use water)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon vinegar

Method:

  • Mix all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl just until moist and well blended. Avoid over mixing
  • Pour the batter into cupcake lines or grease a muffin tray.
  • Bake in a pre heated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 175 degrees Celsius for 20-25 minutes.
  • Once cooled, you can frost it with your favorite frosting. But these, without any frosting, are perfect with coffee or on their own!

Notes:

  • This recipe makes rich dark chocolate cupcakes. If you prefer to make them without chocolate, omit the 1/3 cup of cocoa and replace with 1/3 cup of flour to make a plain vanilla batter.
  • I make tutti fruiti cupcakes by mixing about 1/2 cup of tutti fruiti pieces in the vanilla batter.
  • To make chocolate chocolate chip muffins, add 1/2 cup (or more!) chocolate chips in the chocolate batter.
  • There are endless mix ins you can add! Feel free to experiment and let me know what combinations turned out best for you!
  • The original author of the post suggests that you can make a layer cake by doubling the recipe and putting it in 2 round pans. Increase the baking time to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the centre.
It’s so easy to make these and so quick! Maybe thats what I love the most about this recipe. Put everything in one bowl, mix it a little and in less than half an hour, you have these hot to eat! Wait, isn’t that a bit dangerous though? Something so good, so quick?? I wonder…..

Anyway, I have no doubt that this recipe will be a hit with you. Just remember not to over mix the batter! A big thank you to my friend Amri for sending me these über cute, animal cupcake liners! I have totally fallen in love with them! Look at those super awesome cupcakes! How can you resist them when they look like that?? 🙂

Happy baking everyone!