Finally, spring has sprung upon us after an extended winter in Sydney. Spring in this amazing city is nothing short of glorious; clear blue skies, flowers in full bloom and the pleasantly sunny days are a few of my favourite things about the season.
My husband and I decided to make the most of the warm weather ahead of us, and chose to grow our own little herb garden in our courtyard. In our little herb garden, we have thyme, basil, parsley, coriander, mint, peppermint and chives. I am thoroughly enjoying the idea of growing my own herbs and having them handy as and when I need them.
This vinaigrette has fresh herbs that are accompanied by the sweet-sour balsamic vinegar and tangy lemon juice. Simple yet refreshing, this vinaigrette is sure to enhance the flavour of your salads.
A tablespoon each of finely chopped basil, parsley and coriander
Lemon juice – 2 tblspns.
Garlic cloves – 2, minced
Extra virgin olive oil – 2 tblspns.
Balsamic vinegar (Optional) – ½ tblspn.
Salt and pepper – To taste
In a mortar and pestle, muddle the herbs.
Be gentle while doing so; the idea is to crush the herbs and not bruise it.
In a small mixing bowl, add the muddled herbs and the remaining ingredients.
Give it a good mix, and drizzle on salads.
This dressing keeps well in the fridge for about 2-3 days.
- Use any herbs of your choice. Fresh herbs work the best for this vinaigrette. Mix and match them to your liking.
- If you do not have balsamic vinegar, you could use any other vinegar of your choice.
- Omit the garlic from the recipe, if you don’t like it.
- I used chilli-flavoured extra virgin olive oil. Use any other flavour or just the plain one to suit your liking.
The low-calorie, fibre and protein-rich baked beans is made from navy beans. Navy beans, also known as haricot beans, is typically slow-cooked in sauce and then baked for long hours. By doing so, the beans are perfectly cooked, and get infused in the flavourful sauce.
I haven’t tried my hand at making baked beans from scratch, and it is all thanks to the readily available canned/bottled variants. When I see a special on baked beans, I stock up my pantry with it. Baked beans are a great addition to breakfast, and make a filling mid-meal snack.
This time, the tasty and healthy baked beans come in a soupy avatar. Teamed with nutritious vegetables and a serving of bread, this soup is a meal in itself.
Baked beans in tomato sauce (Low sodium) – 1 can
Stock/ water – 4 cups
Onion – 1, roughly chopped
Celery stalk – 1, roughly chopped
Carrot – 1, roughly chopped
Spinach – a handful
Garlic - 3 cloves, peeled and rougjly chopped
Chilli powder or paprika – ½ tspn.
Oil - ½ tblspn.
Worcestershire sauce ( Optional) - 1 or 2 tblspns.
Salt and pepper – To taste
Heat oil in a pot, add garlic and onions. Cook the onions till it is moderately soft.
Add the celery stalks and carrot chunks. Sauté for about 2 to 3 minutes.
Toss in the chilli powder and mix well.
Pour the stock into the pot, and bring it to a boil.
Once it boils, allow the vegetables to simmer until soft.
Ensure the vegetables are not too mushy. This should take about 15 minutes.
To the simmering mixture, add the baked beans and Worcestershire sauce.
Mix to combine the ingredients.
Turn the flame to high, and cover the pot. Allow the soup to cook for another 5 to 7 minutes. Before turning the stove off, add the spinach leaves. Give it another minute, and then turn off the stove.
Canned baked beans is normally seasoned.
Use caution when adding salt and pepper. Taste the soup once before seasoning it.
Serve hot with a side of bread or dinner rolls.
- I have used low-sodium baked beans. There are several variants available, pick the one that you like.
- The beans, Worcestershire sauce and stock have some amount of salt in them. Use caution when adding salt.
- Vegetables like pumpkin, squash, zucchini make great additions in the soup.
- I have used low-fat cheddar cheese. You any cheese of your liking, or you could skip it, if you don’t want cheese in your soup.
Bread Upma (A bread-based savoury dish)
This is one of the easiest dishes to make for a lazy weekend breakfast or for a quick-fix weeknight dinner.
This super easy upma is my go-to dish when a pack of bread is nearing the end of its shelf life. It is also a good way to use up things when you're clearing your pantry and fridge.
Bread upma can be made with any veggies of your choice; I've kept it pretty basic as I did not restock my fridge.
Bread slices – 7
Onion- 1, finely chopped
Tomato - 1, deseeded, finely chopped
Capsicum - 1/4, deseeded and chopped
Garlic - 2 cloves, minced
Ginger - a small piece, peeled and finely chopped
Green chillies - 2, deseeded and chopped
Chopped coriander leaves - 1 tblspn.
Chaat masala - 1/2 tspn.
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tspn.
Chilli powder - 1 tspn.
Garam masala - 1 tspn.
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tspn.
Oil - 2 tspns.
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Water - To soften the vegetables
Lemon juice - 1 tblspn.
Salt - To taste
Cut bread into small cubes, and keep aside.
Heat oil in a skillet, and add mustard seeds. Let it splutter. Add asafoetida.
Toss in the ginger and garlic pieces. Sauté till the raw smell of ginger and garlic is gone.
Add the green chillies & chopped onion, and cook till onions turns soft.
Once cooked, add the chopped tomatoes. Mix well and cook for a minute.
To the mixture, add the dry spices except salt.
Mix to combine the ingredients. Sprinkle a little water to let the tomatoes turn slightly mushy.
Once the tomatoes have turned soft and mushy, add the capsicum pieces.
Mix everything well. Sprinkle a little more water, cover and cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
After the said time, add the bread pieces.
Give it a good mix and ensure the bread is coated in the cooked veggies.
Allow this to cook for another minute.
Turn the stove off.
Pour the lemon juice over the upma and sprinkle the chopped coriander leaves.
Serve hot, topped with some sev.
- Use any type of bread. I have used multigrain bread slices.
- I have used red capsicum, use green, yellow or a mix of 3 capsicums.
- Use veggies of your choice to make the upma more nutritious.
- The same goes with spices; add or omit spices depending on your preference.
Often, I look for healthy snacking options especially for those post-workout hunger pangs. On one of my grocery runs, I saw these dates, almond and coconut balls; not only were they pricey but also contained obscene amounts of glucose and sugar in it.
Although very appetising, the thought of consuming sugar in that quantity put me off. So, I decided to make my own version with no added sugar. The necessary sweetness comes from the amazing dates.
With just two ingredients, this is a quick snack that can be fixed in minutes. You can store it an airtight container in the fridge for use later. This is perfect for pre/post-workout snacking, kids' lunch boxes and those midnight sweet carvings.
Note: If you are diabetic or insulin resistant, go easy on these.
Dates - 15 (I used medjool dates, use any soft date varieties)
Shredded desiccated coconut - 2 heaped tablespoons + 1 heaped tblpsn.
Remove the pits from the dates.
Put 1 tablespoon of desiccated coconut in a plate.
Chop the dates roughly into little pieces, and place them in a mixing bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut into the mixing bowl.
Mix the ingredients to combine well.
Make little balls out of the mixed ingredients.
Roll them on the desiccated coconut that we placed in the plate.
Put them in a clean, dry airtight container. Consume as required.
- Add chopped nuts and raisins for variety.
- Replace dates with semi dried apricots.
The winter has officially begun in Australia, and I am missing the warm weather terribly.
As I reminisce about the bright, summer days on a cold, rainy day, I bring to you watermelon lemonade. This cold drink is just what you need to beat the heat.
With the sweet melon getting a hint of freshness from lemons, and who needs highly-processed & sugary drinks?
Watermelon - 4 cups, cubed
Lemon juice - 1/4 cup
Ice cubes - A handful
Put all the ingredients into a blending jar, and blend it well.
Pour the drink into glasses, serve chilled.
- If you don't like the drink pulpy, strain it before serving.
- Add a few mint leaves while blending for added freshness.
- For a citrusy kick, squeeze juice from half an orange.
This has to be one of the easiest salads to make; it is a no-fuss salad that can be made with whatever ingredients you have in stock. Another reason why this salad gets a big thumbs up is because it tastes great with just about any dressing.
I have used fresh and simple vegetables in the garden salad with a spicy & tangy dressing. This garden veg salad is lovely for lunch on warm days, and even works well as a refreshing accompaniment for meals.
Cucumber - 1
Onion - 1
Tomato - 1
Iceberg lettuce - 2 big handfuls
Black olives - 3 tblspns.
Capsicum - 1/2, deseeded
For the dressing:
Extra virgin olive oil - 1 tblspn.
Lemon juice - 2 tspns.
Chilli flakes - 1/2 tspn.
Salt - To taste
Pepper - To taste
In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients under 'For the Dressing'. Keep aside.
Cut the vegetables however big or small you like them. Add the cut vegetables into a large mixing bowl with the lettuce leaves. Toss to mix the vegetables well.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Mix to combine all the ingredients. Season with more salt or pepper, as required.
Serve fresh with/as a meal.
- You could add, omit or replace the vegetables suggested here.
-Replace the suggested dressing with any dressing of your choice. If you are watching your calories, avoid fatty dressing like mayonnaise or the cheese-based ones.
- Crumble some feta, paneer or halloumi cheese for added flavour.
Juicy berries blended with almond milk makes a refreshing breakfast or post-workout drink.
The anti oxidants-rich berries provide natural sweetness making it easy to skip the sugar or sweetener. Almond milk is low in sodium & bad cholesterol; and it is a rich source of B vitamins and vitamin E thereby making it a great source of nutrition.
I added a little oats to give the drink some thickness, which also makes it a tasty addition.
Mixed berries (frozen) - 1 cup
Unsweetened almond milk - 1
Oats (optional) - 1 tblspn.
In a pan, dry roast oats. Don't brown them. Once done, keep aside and allow it to cool.
Add the berries, almond milk and roasted oats in a blender jar. Blend it smooth and serve chilled. Optionally, you could also blend the smoothie with a few ice cubes.
- Replace almond milk with full-fat, 2% fat, soy milk, rice milk or other milk substitute of your choice.
- I have used frozen mixed berries, you could add fresh mixed berries in place of the frozen ones.
- Instead of mixed berries you could use only strawberries, blueberries or other berries I your choice.
A simple, healthy and flavourful tea, this drink comes with a host of nutritional goodness from apple and medicinal properties of cinnamon. It is not just the fruity and spicy taste that you will enjoy; with every sip you will savour hidden health that your body will thank you for in the long run.
While the sweet spice - cinnamon is known to lower cholesterol and aid in regulating blood sugar, apples are rich in fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. Fortified with two amazing ingredients, does tea get any better?
Hot or cold, this tea is perfect anytime of the day.
Apple – 1, cut into medium-sized cubes.
Cinnamon barks (medium) – 2
Water – 4 to 6 cups
Honey (optional) – To taste
Vegetable manchow soup is an Indo-Chinese soup; this soup enjoys popularity in large & small restaurants and in the street-side food carts.
Making this soup has marked a couple of firsts for me – this my first attempt at making an Indo-Chinese soup and this is the first time I am using corn flour ever in my life. I was super happy with the output. Not only did it taste like the ones I have had in restaurants, it also helped my bad cold. This may just be what the doctor ordered.
With loads of veggies and little salt, this makes for a healthy soup. Although I was not too kicked about the idea of using corn flour, it did thicken up the soup beautifully. So I guess I will overlook this aspect. :)
Cauliflower ‘rice’ has been favoured by those on a grain-free, gluten-free, low-carb diet, and the Paleo community. Ever since I heard about it, I’ve been waiting to try this ‘rice’; after much research I realised it was easy peasy and incredibly tasty.
When grated/put through the chopper, the cauliflower florets resemble rice/cous cous. Those on the above-mentioned diet prefer this over actual rice. This dish is low in calories, carbs and is rich in fibre, vitamins and other micro-nutrients. It is quite versatile, and can be prepared in so many different ways. Here’s my version.