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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.


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

Off the Shelf: Dunkin’ Duffins


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


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

Off the Shelf: Making a Classic Dish Healthy – By Monica Puri Bangia

February 17, 2010, 2:54 PM

Off the Shelf: Making a Classic Dish Healthy

Reinventing a Classic
Monica Puri BangiaBurger and fries, hold the cholesterol and pour on the vitamins.

Monica Puri Bangia

Monica Puri Bangia is a mother and wife who loves to cook and entertain — but most of all, cook. She writes adaily food blog that highlights healthy recipes that are easy to make and kid-friendly. She is also cooking coach and teacher, providing cooking classes in her client’ homes and teaching about her native Indian cuisine at theAdult School. She also writes for a variety of other blogs and magazines — all about food, of course.

How do you feel about reinventing a classic meal? If you had asked me this question years ago, I would have preferred the classic. Just eat it less often, I thought. Why toy with perfection?

Now I am older and my perspective on things have changed. My priority is eating healthy. So if you can tinker with a classic dish to make it less loaded with all the foods I want to avoid — why not?

My concerns these days are with weight (not gaining it) and health (enhancing it). That means a myriad of things we need to eat — fruit and vegetable requirements; protein and fiber — must be incorporated into our daily diets.

I also feel it is very important to teach my daughter healthy eating habits she can use for a lifetime. To do that, I try to incorporate different kinds of vegetables in a well-balanced meal consisting of a good protein and a healthy starch.

But that can be very challenging, especially when there are so many options for eating out or buying prepared foods. We do eat out as a family, but only at places where I trust the food quality. After watching Food Inc., I have become very careful about what I buy and where we eat.

So I took on a classic as a healthy eating challenge. As an experiment, I decided to make hamburger and fries in a completely different way — one that would pass my healthy-eating muster.

I gave it an Indian twist. For the hamburger meat, I used ground turkey and followed a seekh kebab recipe. Seekh kebabs are made out of spiced minced meat — typically lamb or goat. I used dark meat turkey to ensure tender burgers.

I bought whole-wheat buns instead of the regular ones. I also made a cilantro chutneyand bought tomato chutney (from Trader Joe’s). Doing so reduced a lot of calories and made the dish healthier.

I wasn’t done yet. Instead of using lettuce and tomatoes, I decided to caramelize onions and zucchini as a topping.

Don’t get me wrong: I love going our local pub in Maplewood to eat a burger with fries. The best part of that meal is the thick-cut potatoes called chips in the U.K. I finish every single one on my plate.

But to make my meal healthier, I decided to use sweet potatoes instead of regular ones. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of Vitamins B, C and E. They are low in sugar and high in fiber.

I cut them up as regular fries and added extra virgin olive oil, garlic powder, salt and my favorite spice, smoked paprika; it provides a mouthful of flavor — very smoky and distinct — and complements the sweet flavor of the potatoes really well.

So my family got a classic meal — and I came away with pride that I had been able to provide it to them in a healthy, lower-calorie way. Try it out and let me know what you think.

Moral of the story: Eating well does not mean it has to taste like cardboard.

P.S: Stay tuned for a healthy donut recipe in my next post. Yes, you read it correctly: healthy donuts!

Healthy Indian Style Hamburgers with Caramelized Onions and Zucchini1 pound of seekh kebab mix, divided into 7 to 8 patties
2 tablespoons extra light olive oil

Heat a grill pan and add one tablespoon oil. Add 4 patties at a time and cook till golden brown on both sides. Cook about 4 minutes on each side. Keep warm.

½ cup cilantro chutney
½ cup tomato chutney (Trader Joe’s)
7 to 8 whole-wheat hamburger buns

3 medium zucchinis, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoons extra light olive oil

Heat a non-stick frying pan with one tablespoon oil. Brown the zucchini slices on both side till golden brown. Sprinkle salt. Keep aside and add the remaining oil and add the sliced onions. Saute on a low heat till the onions are soft, and sprinkle salt. Mix the cooked zucchini and onion and keep aside.

To assemble the hamburgers, spread the cilantro and tomato chutney on either sides of a bun. Place a patty on one side and top with zucchini and onion. Serve with sweet potato fries.

Sweet Potato Fries

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch thick fries
2 tablespoons extra light olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the fries on an aluminum foil lined cookie sheet. Drizzle the olive oil, salt, garlic powder and paprika. Mix well with your fingers and bake for about 45 minutes or till the fries are soft on the inside and crunchy and golden brown on the outside.

February 18, 2010 Posted by | My Family | , , , , | 2 Comments