Proteins for active vegetarians – 3

In my quest to find proteins rich diet for vegetarians with quick and easy recipes, I tried a few age old classic recipes. All these dishes take about 5-10 minutes of cooking time and 5-15 minutes of preparation, which is why these are my favorite dishes for the season!

Quinoa Lentils Porridge

I like Quinoa in all forms: salad, soup, rice, patties and now porridge. Though high in calories, it is also quite rich in proteins and easy to make. My mom adds lentils (moong daal chilka) to traditional porridge which enhances the chewiness and improves the protein percentage in the dish. I did the same, only replaced broken wheat (daliya) with quinoa.

Half a cup of raw quinoa and half a cup of raw daal is enough for two people’s breakfast. First I soak both separately for 20-30 minutes. Then I rinse them thoroughly. Simply put them together in a pressure cooker with 2 cups of water add turmeric powder (haldi) and salt to taste. After one whistle can let it cook at slow flame for few more minutes. Like my mom, I garnish the dish with finely chopped green chillies and ginger which makes the porridge quite spicy.

porridge

 

Caprese salad with egg and spinach

The one thing I used to miss in Singapore is paneer (cottage cheese). In India, every week we used to make paneer and cream cheese from left over fresh milk. Here, we never boil milk and there is almost never a case of left over milk. In fact, when I tried making paneer from the bottled milk, it came out quite funny, with a sink full of utensils to wash afterwards!

Without paneer, a major source of protein for vegetarians is lost. That is when I discovered “cheese”. Mozzarella slices, string cheese, feta, ricotta, there are plenty of options.

galbani-mozzarella-ball-125g

My favourite is buffalo mozzarella and its combination with boiled egg whites and spinach. Just chop and add olive oil, salt and pepper. Actually so much can be done with this cheese, with so little effort that I do not miss paneer anymore! It makes a perfect snack for Sunday movie session!

caprese

Methi dana (Fenugreek seeds) masala

I had no idea how super nutritious methi dana is. If it is discovered by the developed nations, it would be termed as “super” food. In addition to controlling sugar levels, cholesterol and maintaining heart health, being rich in fibre, methi dana is also quite high in proteins (25%), iron. So it is kind of perfect food for women, especially those who want to lose weight!

fenugreek-the-natural-herbal-cure-for-diabetes-and-15-other-health-benefits1

Yet, methi dana is not widely eaten as a food in itself. It is mostly used as a spice in Indian recipes. The reason is that methi has a bitter taste. This recipe reduces the natural bitterness of methi dana and the outcome is a very delicious dish. It is my mother-in-law’s recipe.

Preparation:

Soak 2 tablespoon of methi dana overnight. Drink the water in morning. Replace with fresh water. I store this in fridge. Drink the water again next morning. Replace it and store again in fridge. This water is supposed to be super nutritious.

Cooking:

Boil the 2-days soaked methi dana for 10-15 minutes on medium flame. Strain the water and rub salt thoroughly on the boiled methi. Then wash off the salt in flowing water. Now methi is ready for tadka, which is simply a combination of cumin seeds and asafoetida in hot oil with Indian masala (turmeric, coriander and chilli). Add methi to this. Cook for a few minutes before adding 2 table spoons besan (gram powder). Cook for a few more minutes and add amchoor (dried mango powder). That’s it. Total time required for tadka is less than 10 minutes. The taste is super awesome! It can be eaten with chapattis or even stand alone.

methi dana

A friend tried this recipe in Maharashtrian style, using kokum juice, shredded coconut and rice powder instead of gram powder, and it turned out even better!

methi dana 2

That is what I love about cooking, every time you discover a new taste, a new flavor, a new texture by adding different and new ingredients! It is the most rewarding experiment which also fills your hunger, literally!

Hope you enjoy these recipes! Please share some of your own protein rich, delicious and easy to make recipes!

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Proteins for active vegetarians – II (Tofu & Quinoa in Indian dishes)

I have been fascinated by tofu for over a year now. I tried a few dozen types of tofu in China last year and more often than not, it tasted absolutely amazing. Since then I have been trying to get hold of similar tofu in Singapore. The types of tofu they had in China are nowhere to be found in Singapore. I tried cooking whatever variety of tofu we get in supermarkets here.

Silken and pressed tofu, which are not suitable for all types of cooking are easily available in the stores here. Silken tofu is like cream and pressed tofu is also soft with high water percentage. Pressed or soft tofu is most suitable for deep fried dishes like pakoras. It can also be probably used for cooking tofu burji (variant of paneer burji), that is, scrambled tofu with chillies and onions. I used it to make two dishes: a stir fry and a curry based tofu peas masala. Stir fry was more or less a fail attempt as the soft pressed tofu gets crushed and breaks when you try to stir fry it. Tofu peas masala turned out much better as it was boiled in watery curry. I don’t like the texture of soft tofu so I wouldn’t recommend using pressed tofu in Indian dishes.

tofu matar masala
tofu matar masala
tofu stir fry
tofu stir fry

After searching in many stores, I found firm beancurd. You can do a lot of things with firm or hard tofu. I tried my favourite paneer dishes replaced by this tofu: palak tofu and tofu tikka. Both came out awesome! So here are a few pointers about replacing paneer with firm tofu in Indian recipes:

  • Tofu has a lot of water which needs to be drained out so that it can absorb the flavours of your curry/masala
  • Drain out extra water from tofu by covering it with tissues/cloth and keep it pressed for 10-15 mins under some weight
  • I do not like using starch so avoided corn flour coating. But most of the recipes online recommend you to coat tofu with rice or corn powder and stir fry it prior to its use in any dish. This is done to improve the texture or crunchiness. I didn’t take the pains to do this!
  • Another way of improving tofu’s flavour is to first boil it in salt water for a few minutes before draining its water. Personally, I do not think that is required in Indian dishes which are curry based or are marinated.

 

Tofu tikka

This is the easiest thing to cook and ends up as a brilliant snack!

Mix up curd (I like to use Greek yoghurt) with all the spices you have. I used dhaniya powder, chilli powder, haldi powder, pepper powder, saunf powder, jeera powder, garam masala, and salt. Whisk the mixture well. Add one inch cubes of tofu (after draining water), red and yellow peppers, onions and any other vegetables you like. Marinate in refrigerator for 3 hours or more and just roast on pan or oven. I roast it on pan at medium to high flame without any oil!

tofu tikka marinated
tofu tikka marinated
tofu tikka
tofu tikka

Roasting takes about 5-10 mins and you can just leave it there while doing other things! Or in the meantime, if you have mint or coriander leaves, you can mix chutney dip which will make the tikka taste unbelievably good!!

Replace rice with Quinoa

I really do not like the taste of brown rice. But I love quinoa. My mom cooked it first for us and it took me 3-4 tries to finally start loving this dish. The quinoa salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and coriander leaves is the best salad ever. But that requires the effort of chopping so many things. I have simply replaced quinoa with rice to be eaten with lentils, beans, soup or anything!

Quinoa is cooked in exactly the same way as rice is. The key thing is to wash it well before boiling and using the correct amount of water to boil it. The ratio of water to quinoa is 2:1 cups, same as that of white rice. I add a little salt at the time of boiling.

I still love rice and paneer in traditional Indian dishes. I just love trying new things more! :)

Proteins for active vegetarians (quick food recipes)

…outside of India.

When I was in India, I never cared about the food I used to eat. I had a trustworthy cook and a menu chart on the fridge. Based on the week’s recipes, there was a list of raw materials which were delivered at our door step. My task was mostly food management, dinner guests management and overall supervision. Breakfast was usual items like upma, poha, sandwich, paneer parathe, besan chille. Lunch meals had lentils/beans or paneer item and dinner was some junk stuff like fried rice, paav bhaaji, pasta, etc.

When I shifted to Singapore, without getting help in cooking & cleaning, I started eating out. Also I tried experimenting with non vegetarian food. Meat and fish didn’t suit my digestive tracks and Chinese preparations didn’t suit my taste buds. I had to lose quite some weight to be able to do justice to dragon boating, a weekend activity without which life seems dull and incomplete. When I started tracking my food intake, I realized more than 70 pc of my food intake was carbs, and less than 10% was proteins. Ideally, I needed to take 50 g of proteins out of which I wasn’t even taking 10 g!

Thus started my journey as a health conscious person who is “conscious” about what she eats. So these are the things that are very quick and easy to make and can keep you fit and healthy!

  • Vegetable soup in chicken broth: easiest of recipe which makes up a good dinner meal

Recipe: garlic, ginger, chilles, onions sauteed in little olive oil, boil chicken broth and add all vegetables you want to eat: carrots, beans, brocolli, zuccini, tomatos, potatos, peppers. The key ingredient is celery which gives a unique flavor to the whole thing. I love this soup and have it for 5 meals in a week. The best thing about this recipe is you just have to chop all veggies and freeze them once in a month. After that you can simply make fresh batch of soup every week using the frozen veggies reducing total time spent in preparation and cooking to 7 mins!

soup

  • Mozzarella cheese, eggs: morning meal

I make sure I have good protein intake in breakfast. A glass of milk has about 8g of proteins (15% reqd). 2 boiled egg whites has 12 g (and only 80 cal). Sometimes I replace egg by mozzarella slices which has 8g protein per slice. Total time to prepare & cook: 5-10 mins.

cheese

  • Scrambled eggs (spicy) in microwave

Food for me is a mood lifter. Unless I love something I can’t eat the same thing every day. Hence, I need to make my eggs interesting. Sunny-side-up, omelette without oil are a few ways. But the easiest and simplest way is to simply put all the raw ingredients (egg white, olives, chillies, etc) in a bowl and microwave for 3 mins while stirring once. You can eat in the same bowl, no cooking vessel to wash! Total time to prepare & cook: 5-10 mins.

  • Greek yoghurt: gives 10 g of protein for every 100 gm of serving

This is a friend’s recipe. Simply add fruits which you don’t like to eat otherwise in flavoured greek yoghurt or add honey in plain yoghurt and enjoy a delicious snack which is supremely nutritious! Takes about 5-10 mins to prepare including the time to chop the fruits.

yoghurt

I break my protein intake as: 20 g breakfast (eggs + milk), 20 g lunch (lentils/beans 2 bowls boiled with salt), 10 g supper (yoghurt), additional 5-10 g in case of another glass of milk

In traditional Indian recipes, proteins are given no significance, when actually they are a crucial component of your diet if you need to build your strength and want to be fit. In Singapore, I realized even vegetarian dishes are served with mushrooms or eggs, making the dish worthwhile! For vegetarian Indians, a conscious effort is required to ensure every meal has enough protein portion. I am happy with the results of change in my diet so far. I find myself much fitter than I was 2 years back, than I was 6 months back! I am able to survive the 3 hours of rowing training happily! :D

To everything..

There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

– From the song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” by Byrds

How true this song is! I never realized it earlier. Long back when I was turning 20, I received a card from my bro-bhabhi saying this is going to be the most exciting decade of life. Very soon, I hit quarter-life crisis (even before reaching that age!) and wondered if there was any truth in that statement. You know, you always look back at your past with nostalgia. And my bros are always a decade ahead of me. But finally, towards the end of this decade I am beginning to see the truth in that statement.

There was a time in early 20s when the aim in life was to travel around the world. Ellie and Carl Fredricksen in Up wanted to go around the world at the age of 9. In third world, everything comes a little late. And the love for adventure and travel also comes in one’s prime!

Then there was a time to be a socialist. Not really that. I have always been in the company of people for whom that word simply means evil. Nevertheless, there was time to “do something.” Not saying that that time has gone and I don’t care about what I do anymore. But then I know anarchy is not an answer. It is just another prospect. I know how complex some problems are after trying to deal with them. I know all one can do is build a vision (plausible solution), work towards it, and hope its gonna work. I don’t have so much problem with things changing only in the next 20 years. Meanwhile I also have to live all this while.

So there came a time to stop all the wandering. To get stuck at a place, no matter how claustrophobic I might feel initially. Because, it is good to have a place you call home. It feels nice to have new linen, new lamps, new wind-chimes. It is fun to entertain guests to aalo parathas and fruit icecream. It feels nice to know history, geography of people in your apartment, people who work for you – the maid, the laundry man, people at the local grocery store!

Presently, it is a time when I turn completely domestic. The time to cook. Every week I make a new Indian dish. Every week I try a new version of pasta sauce. After maintaining travel documents to less-unknown -exotic places in the Himalayas, the time is to store recipes of age old traditional dishes in my hard disk. Daal Makhani, daal chilla, aam panna, gol gappe, besan-shimla mirch, gatte-ki-sabji, kele-ki-sabji, kadu-ki-sabji, lauki-ke-kofte and many more to come. If you are raising your eyebrows, I can just shrug my shoulders in response. Refer to the song above for any explanation. Its called the circle of life. When I was in hostel, I never thought I would ever cook as good as my mother. Or even bother to cook so many things. Now I know, how wrong I was. I still can’t cook every day meal for every day survival. But I m pretty sure, I am gonna try cooking everything mom ever cooked. Even the laddoos and all weird burfis. Its just the way things are! :)

So after spending days looking for a place where I go to celebrate my birthday and of course not finding a single tourist destination in this forsaken place, I have decided to just cook a hearty meal on my birthday. No chances of losing weight this year! Oops!