Blueberry Peach Kefir Smoothie

For those of you who have no idea what kefir is (pronounced kee fur) … it is a probiotic drink (that tastes very similar to thick and runny yoghurt) made from kefir grains (grains made of bacteria and yeast … resembles crumbled cheese/cauliflower). Long story short, Kefir has amazing health benefits. It is rich in calcium, protein, phosphorus and aids in digestion. What’s even better… it makes great smoothies.

Here is a recipe for a delicious blueberry peach kefir smoothie. You can use fresh or frozen fruit for this recipe. Put about 1/4 cup plain unsweetened kefir in a blender. Add about a handful of blueberries and 4 to 5 pieces of sliced peach. Then go ahead and pour in about 1 cup of milk (I use 2%). By all means, you can skip this step and substitute 2% milk with water or fat free milk. Add your favourite sweetener to taste. I added about a tsp of honey. Blend this baby up and what you’re left with is this gorgeous looking smoothie that is the best start for your day!

Image

Freekin’ Deelish!

For quite sometime now, Americans have been on about this new superfood “Freekeh” pronounced Freak Uh. Correct me if I’m wrong… Freekeh is a middle eastern/Egyptian/Palestinian wheat grain that is harvested when the wheat is young. It has at least 4 times more fiber than other grains — even than Quinoa! And what’s amazing about Freekeh is that it’s freeekin’ deelicious! This tastes way better than brown rice, quinoa and even couscous. It’s great for people trying to lose weight or even diabetic as it has tons of fiber.

I tried a freekeh salad a while ago at a random cafe and I didn’t like it. The salad was bland and lacked flavour. And yet, I found hundreds and hundreds of recipes and blog posts that went on and on about how awesome it is. So on a recent grocery trip, I picked up some Freekeh from dear ol’ Costco. I made some Freekeh and sweet potato soup for lunch. It was beautiful!

Freekeh -

I cooked Freekeh like I would cook pasta instead of rice. And drained the freekeh off all water. It tasted just fine. 

To a pot, I added oil, some chopped up garlic, ginger, a little campari tomato, a handful of spinach (optional: throw in peppers for a spicy kick). Saute them until garlic/ginger is soft, tomato cooked and spinach wilted. Add some chopped up cilantro. Stir and add in the cooked Freekeh. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with lemon. 

Thoughts: I wanted to add a little goat cheese towards the end to make a saucy dish and thanks to weight loss forever, I decided to skip the goat cheese and wound up the dish with a lemony kick. The result was spectacular. The focus was all on the freekeh and none of the other ingredients took over. 

Sweet potato soup - 

Throw in some dried herbs (more specifically, I added crushed mint, rosemary, lots of basil, bay leaves, oregano and thyme), chopped celery and sliced garlic in some EVOO in a stock pot. Saute and close with lid. Let it cook until celery and garlic are soft. Add sweet potato cubes and some water. Approx measure: to 1 cup of sweet potato, I added 2 glasses of water. Close the lid and let it come to a boil. Open the lid after 5-10 mins and let it continue to boil and wait for the water to come to about 1-2 inch above the sweet potato mixture. Take out that indispensable hand blender and puree to desired consistency. It came out pretty creamy so I didn’t add any milk or cream substitutes to it. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold. 

 

Image

Chiappa Sage Walnut Pesto

A while ago I came across a series of videos on Jamie Oliver’s Youtube Channel featuring the Chiappa Sisters known for their super – quick pasta sauces. Having watched tons of Italian videos, I was automatically trained to associate Italian chefs/cooks with a very noticeable hint of the Italian accent. And this is where I made the biggest mistake of assuming the Chiappas sounded, looked and cooked more Welsh than Italian. Boy was I wrong! Jamie, you’re right. These girls can cook and with a strong punch of flavor.

With a gorgeous herb garden at home that was longing to be used, I was waiting for the perfect recipe to do justice to these beautiful herbs. That’s when I bumped in again at the Chiappa pages on Youtube and stumbled upon this refreshingly easy and unimaginably delicious Sage Walnut Pesto sauce. The minute I read the word “Sage”, I was intrigued. I had to watch the video. At the end of it, I realized this was not only super quick to put together. It was also the kind of recipe that did pure justice to ingredients without butchering the original flavor too much.

A hop, skip and jump later, I was in my kitchen with a handful of fresh Sage ready to begin.

The Recipe (Serves 3-4)

Ingredients

Sage – a handful

Walnuts – a handful

Garlic – 1 clove

Lemon juice – 1 lemon

Olive oil – about 5 tbsps or until it forms a creamy glistening mess

Parmigiano Reggiano (please. no plastic parmesan that comes in a green bottle) – about 1/2 cup; 1 heaped tbsp reserved for garnish

Sea salt – according to taste

Method

  • Blitz sage, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice, olive oil, parmigiano reggiano and salt in a food processor
  • Cook a favourite pasta of your choice. The Chiappa girls used Penne, I used Fussili
  • In a pan, put the blitzed mixture with a couple of tbsps of pasta water. Wait for a few seconds to cook the garlic (do not brown the garlic).
  • Add the pasta, toss to coat and garnish with the remaining cheese.

Simple and extremely delicious.

Shall we say comfort dessert?

Is there any such thing as comfort dessert? if there is, this is definitely one. Put together a forgotten box of strawberries (any fruit actually) with some crumbled up flour/sugar/butter mixture and you have yourself the most delicious dessert. Take it to the next level by adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side and your dessert is screaming pure decadence. 

Image

That’s my strawberry crumble with a huge chunk missing :P

You can get better recipes on the internet. I literally eyeballed the ingredients.  So if you have any fruit that’s dying to be eaten, place them on a baking tray depending on how much fruit you have. Mix in some caster/light brown sugar (for 400g of strawberries, I put around 1/2 cup of sugar). Throw in some real vanilla seeds from a pod if you have one. I didn’t so I just used a tbsp of vanilla extract. Tossed it up gently with my fingers. 

In a mixing bowl, I took about a little more than a cup of flour, around 3/4ths cup of sugar (caster or light brown), a dash of freshly grated cinnamon and around 3/4ths of a stick of butter (chilled) chopped into small cubes. Mix them up with a hand mixer until they look all crumbly. Do not over mix into a paste. Sprinkle some ice cold water. Toss until it looks all crumbly like tiny marbles in sand (I know… weird description!) Place this mixture over the fruit mixture. 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place the oven safe dish and bake for 50 mins or until it achieves your preferred color of brown and crispness. 

Serve with cold vanilla ice cream or eat as is :)

New Obsession

If there is one thing I’ve wanted since I was a teen, it is to grow my nails long and paint it with pretty colors. Try as I might, my nail-biting habit always got in the way. I would grow them for a few days and file them naturally using my teeth. It seems nearly impossible and yet the past few weeks has been my longest attempt ever. Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many people who flaunt their well-manicured nails (one of them being my very own sister). I’ve had to shake hands with people who had everything from straight as a line square nails to slightly curved round nails. Next to them, mine looked like a joke. It was high time and I decided to grow them trying very hard to avoid biting them.

It’s been 3 weeks since I last bit my nail and I can proudly say they are back at their last longest. With my birthday just around the corner, my husband decided to treat me to some manicure supplies as motivation and a birthday gift from a nearby nails supply store. It was even better as the store had brands like Essie and Zoya at nearly 50% off. Knowing they are one of the more expensive brands, I decided to pick up a few colors. I should say I am obsessed with one particular color from Zoya. It’s the color Mira from Zoya. Don’t judge it too fast from the picture on their website. The picture bounces off the glossiness from the glass. This color is a dusty almost regal color with a matte undertone. It’s perfect as is or with a top coat to give it a more glossy look. It’s also weightless which is great as I am not a big fan of lacquers that make you feel like you’re carrying mini weights on all nails.

When I first looked at this shade, I wasn’t too sure if my skin tone could pull off such a nail color. Boy was I wrong! The color is just super pretty and is perfect for all skin tones. And I have to say I’m quite impressed with Zoya’s colors. Each one of them look perfect and they are the kind of colors I would love to wear.  I still haven’t tried the other colors. I have “don’t sweater it” and “armed and ready” from Essie. I also have this pretty shade form China Glaze called “Wagon Trail”. I absolutely love these colors. Will check back in on what I think of the rest.

My Precious

I don’t think there is a single person in the world who has ever hated an immersion blender after owning one. There can never be. Immersion blenders are my favouritest kitchen gadgets of all time. These magical sticks can literally transform a lifeless kitchen into an able and lively one. You can say that’s funny but I feel like I can accomplish anything when I use my Cuisinart hand blender.

And what caused this sudden flood of excitement?

I ran out of mayo. I am lazier than ever to go to the grocery store. So I decided I would make mayo. I have seen it done and figured it shouldn’t be that hard a recipe. I looked into my barren fridge again and realized I had just one egg.

Mayo Experiment no.1: So maybe I let the whole “I can accomplish anything with my stick blender” get to my head. I chucked in all the ingredients without measures and started the emulsification process. To my dismay, it was one smooth drink and never turned into the gloppy mess that we want. There goes my mayo down the drain!

After the failure of my 1st experiment, I forced myself to look into the internet for an “eggless mayonnaise” recipe. I swear I was laughing when I was searching for an eggless version. I am totally against eggless anything and find eggless recipes an excuse to cook the real thing. Nevertheless, I found one that had ingredients I could manage to procure immediately.

Mayo Experiment no.2: Bumped into The David Blagh and found this beauty of recipes. I made the very first one and this time I tried the stream-your-oil-in version to make the mayo. Delish! Seasoned the mayo with some pepper at the end of it. Just so delicious it is as good as the real thing. On second thoughts, even better than the real thing. Why? Have you ever had a look at the label of a store-bought mayo bottle? They add so many other ingredients besides eggs, oils, vinegar, lemons. I read the label off my old bottle and the first ingredient was enough to put me off -”Modified potato starch”.

That said, do try the eggless version or the regular egg version. Making mayo at home is so simple and far more cost effective and tastier and safer than store bought ones. Bon Appetit!

Chai Tea

Image

In my recent quest to lose some weight and get back in shape, I decided to stay off coffee for sometime now. I have replaced it with tea and that includes the milky masala chai. And no, you cannot call it chai tea because the chai is in the tea. Chai is tea in Hindi. The spices you add to chai is called masala. 

I figured if I was going to be giving up so much caffeine, the least caffeine I could give myself was through some moderately caffeinated black tea. Surprisingly, I have strayed away and now am able to appreciate caffeine free teas. The best part of it all is the absence of jitters or caffeine buzz or mood fluctuations. I find myself calm for most of the day. I am able to stay positive and make rational decisions without the dramatic push that I usually get from coffee. 

I haven’t started experimenting with loose leaf teas yet. I have begun with tea sachets hoping I will acquire a taste for a more grassier tasting tea. I bought 3 flavours from Celestial Seasonings – Bengal Spice (an imitation of Indian chai with spices minus the caffeinated tea), Morning Thunder (incase I was looking for some caffeine – I have not tried this yet. Will let you know pretty soon) and Sleepytime (more to relax me at night than put me to sleep. Note: It can put anyone down to sleep as it has this plant called valerin which is known for its relaxing properties). Besides these, I also have a bit of green tea and raspberry leaf tea from Traditional Medicinals (which claims to be good for the female system). 

So far, I am falling more and more in love with just plain tea without adding any milk/cream/sugar/honey. I have heard Lupicia has a great collection of Japanese teas. Plan to make a visit soon. Any suggestions are welcome!