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Off the Shelf: One-Pot F l a v o r



I was recently considering food topics to write about and my cooking classat the adult school came to mind.

We had cooked a spinach and chicken rice. The next day, a student e-mailed me and suggested I add a one-pot-meal search category on my blog.

Why hadn’t I thought of that? Especially because every time I come up with a well-balanced meal that can be cooked in one pot and is both adult and kid-friendly, I feel triumphant.

So now my blog has a one-pot-meal category.

Here are some of my favorites, beginning with a chicken, sausage and shrimp paella.

I made this for a dinner date we had with my daughter’s friend and her family — a perfect dish that I could prepare in advance, then step away from the kitchen to socialize with our company.

A make-ahead dish for entertaining.

The ingredients I used are pretty standard for a paella, but I went lighter on the spice. For instance, I used chicken sausage instead of the spicy chorizo (which I love but didn’t think the kids would appreciate), as well as chicken thighs and jumbo shrimp.

For veggies, I used red peppers and peas. And to make the dish rich and creamy, I turned to Arborio rice, which I amped up with wine and saffron.

This is a dish for entertaining. It has all the Spanish flavors of an authentic paella, but it is toned down to please those who are not too fond of spicy food.

One of my all-time favorite pasta dishes is broccoli rabe cooked with sausage.

This one-pot dish has it all — meat, vegetables and pasta. Once again, I use chicken sausages (I always have chicken sausage in my fridge), leafy green broccoli rabe, whole-grain pasta and pine nuts.

Only one pot was used to make this broccoli-rabe sausage pasta.

The sauce comes from the water the pasta was cooked in — the starch in it thickens the pasta. Lots of basil, lemon zest and a bit of Pecorino Romano cheese give it a flavor boost.

And last but not least is a dish combined with one my grandmother used to make. She would cook rice and peas in a mixture of cilantro, green onions, regular onion and garlic — which I lovingly call “green rice.”

The vegetables were processed into a thick sauce, sautéed with cumin seeds, and then she would add the rice and peas.

I use this green rice with spinach and chicken. I sauté chicken thighs in a pan with the mixture of spinach, cilantro, green onions and garlic.

The sauce had all the flavor of my grandmother’s, as well as extra nutrients from the spinach. I sautéed the mixture with cumin seeds, and added the rice and cooked it with chicken broth.

I often use chicken broth to cook rice, couscous or any grain for great flavor without much work. I finished the rice dish with a generous sprinkling of golden raisins for a burst of sweetness amidst the savory, earthy spinach rice.

Add yogurt to the rice and you have all the makings for a superb meal.

I would love to hear about any one-pot meals you have in your repertoire. Write them in the comments below.


Chicken Pulao with Spinach and Cilantro1 pound skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
½ cup frozen spinach
4 green onions, chopped roughly
3 garlic cloves
1 shallot, chopped roughly
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup basmati rice (any other long grain rice will do)
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup golden raisins (optional)

In a heavy wide pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle one teaspoon salt on the chicken thighs and place them in the pot. Brown each side for about 3 minutes on high heat. Take out and keep aside. In the meantime, blend cilantro, spinach, green onions, garlic, shallot, olive oil and water into a smooth paste. Add the green paste into the hot pan with the cumin seeds. Saute this mixture on medium high heat for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly (careful not to burn). Add the chicken pieces and broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the rice and salt. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to medium. Once wholes appear on the top, lower the heat and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes till rice is done. Add the raisins on top and cover for another 5 minutes with the heat off.

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April 29, 2010 Posted by | My Family | , , | Leave a comment

Off the Shelf: Dunkin’ Duffins


By MONICA PURI BANGIA Share this BLOG

DuffinsMonica Puri BangiaSugared Duffins.

Even as I continue my quest for healthy food alternatives, I think back fondly to my high school years, when I would eat an Entenmann’s chocolate-covered donut almost everyday.

I would wash it down with some whole milk and a small bag of potato chips — a very healthy meal!

I eventually moved on to the coconut-covered chocolate donut from Dunkin Donuts.

All I knew was, it tasted good. But these days I have other priorities. And while I was looking for information on donuts, I found out it has a whopping 340 calories. Oh my, I think I gained a few pounds just doing the research.

For, in fact, while I was one bite away from a 12-step program for donut addicts in my youth, I now can’t remember the last time I indulged in a donut — or should I say doughnut?

Last year I was at the The Mall at Short Hills with a friend and we came upon a bakery called Brownie Points, with delicious-looking cupcakes, cakes and brownies. It looked very appetizing and clean. I bought a cupcake for my daughter to take home.

While we were paying, we looked over to a table covered with round, muffin-like confections. We were curious, so took a few steps closer.

And that’s when I met my first “duffin” — a cross between a donut and a muffin. And they’re baked.

Well, it did not take long before the old donut desire got the best of me, and we were sitting down with a cinnamon-sugar duffin.

It was heavenly. Similar to a pound cake but lighter, it was not too sweet. We played it cool, saying we might come back again and indulge every once in a while — but, O.K., maybe more often than that.

A few weeks ago, I found out the bakery had left the mall. How disappointing. How will I satisfy my newly formed duffin desire?

Once I get something in my head, especially if it is food related, it doesn’t leave me until I resolve it. The same thing happened with the duffins. I began an extensive search on the Internet. I was thrilled to find a recipe for it, which I then tweaked to my taste to make it my own.

I used white whole-wheat flour, raw sugar and added a bit of almond extract in addition to the called-for vanilla extract. Delicious.

But also very healthy. They have just a quarter cup of extra light olive oil.

I sat down and indulged in a duffin with some hot coffee. It brought me back to those unhealthy donut days.

I am planning on baking a chocolate and a jelly-filled one in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for it on my blog.


Duffins (Healthy Donuts)

¾ cup raw sugar
1 large egg
1½ cups white whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup extra light olive oil
1 cup 1 percent milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Topping

1 tablespoon butter, melted
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup fine raw sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 12-muffin tin with a bit of oil in each cup.

In a large bowl, beat together sugar and egg till light and fluffy. Pour in vegetable oil, milk, vanilla and almond extracts. Mix to combine.

In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour into the egg mixture and stir well.

Divide batter evenly into the muffin cups, filling about half full.

Bake for 15 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

While muffins are baking, melt butter in a small bowl. Pour half cup sugar and cinnamon into another small bowl and mix well.

Once the muffins are done, lightly brush the top with melted butter, remove from the pan and roll in the cinnamon sugar, coating all parts of the duffin.

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March 4, 2010 Posted by | My Family | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ten Healthy Eating Tips..


Posted by Monica Puri Bangia | Under Miscellaneous

Thursday Feb 18, 2010

Top Ten Healthy Eating Tips

I am hoping to start a weekly tradition of top ten lists. This week I begin with things to change or do to stay healthy. I am definitely not a doctor nor a dietician but I do have common sense and I know what works for me and my family. Especially as a woman in my late thirties (I can’t say that for too long- so I will milk it for what it is), I find it harder to stay on course in terms of losing weight or keeping it off. I find I have to eat far less than I used to and exercise a lot more than before.

I guess things change as you get older and have kids. I feel very responsible for teaching my daughter healthy eating and living habits. Things that will stay with her for a life time. I want her to know how to live a balanced and happy life- well that maybe a completely different post…

So- I ask all of my readers to go through the list and comment ‘on the blog’ what things are on your list that are missing from mine. I would love to get a conversation going and learn from all of you out there. If you all are interested, we can do this on a weekly basis.

Here is my top ten list- I feel like David Letterman

  1. Eat a good breakfast- consisting of fiber, protein and fruit- Whole-wheat toast with one egg and some strawberries on the side.
  2. Eat every 3 hours to keep your metabolism high.
  3. Snack on non-fat Greek yogurt, fruit with raw honey and walnuts.
  4. Take all white flour and white bread out of the house. Eat whole wheat bread and substitute the regular flour for white whole-wheat flour.
  5. For lunch- make a one-slice open sandwich with whole wheat bread, smoked salmon, fresh tomatoes, sprouts and cucumbers. Spread some hummus and sprinkle a dash of garlic powder on top.
  6. Substitute evaporated cane juice for white sugar.
  7. Cook with extra light olive oil and use extra virgin olive oil for salad dressings and topping pasta dishes.
  8. Drink eight (8 ounces) glasses of water.
  9. Have an ounce or two of dark chocolate.
  10. Have a dinner consisting of fish, shrimp with lots of vegetables.
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February 19, 2010 Posted by | My Family | , , , | 1 Comment