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Tastes of Spring Break: Split Pea Soup March 31, 2011

Home-Made Split Pea Soup

Ever since attending the TCS Soup Throwdown earlier this month, I have learned to love making soup. For this soup, I kept the ingredients pretty basic (and threw in a few things I had in the kitchen just to see what would happen).

Soothing Split Pea Soup

Ingredients

  • About 1 cup dried split peas (rinsed and soaked for a few hours)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 large chopped yellow onion
  • 4-5 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (to saute garlic and onion)
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 russet potato, cut into small (bite-sized) pieces

Optional extras

  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Fresh parsley
  • Dash of turmeric
  • A few chopped carrots (add to water while boiling)
  • Blue corn chips (shown as topping)
  • Goat cheese (shown as topping)
  • Green onion (shown as topping)
  • Dash of ground black pepper

Methods

Bring rinsed split peas in water to a boil. These will cook for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile rinse and scrub on russet potato, make several punctures with a fork, and stick it in the microwave for 8 minutes on high. Begin chopping garlic and onions to saute with olive oil in stir-fry pan.

Lightly sear the chopped onion and garlic until the onion is slightly brown. Add contents of stir-fry pan (including the oil) into the large soup pan after the split peas have cooked for about 30 minutes. Cut the cooked potato into bite-sized pieces but leave out of soup pan until after the soup is blended. Add desired spices and herbs to soup (see ingredient suggestions above). Using an immersion blender, blend ingredients until smooth and add water as needed to achieve desired thickness. Add in bite sized potato pieces and stir.

Serve hot. Store leftovers in fridge or freezer.

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Tastes of Spring Break: Lush Greens Salad March 29, 2011

 

Lush Greens with Fruit, Nuts and Sheep's Cheese. Salad beautifully designed by Erin O'Donnell.

Ingredients: Organic mixed greens, red bell pepper, avocado, olives, cucumber, strawberry slices, sheep’s milk cheese, walnut pieces, craisins, sun-dried tomatoes,  organic balsamic vinaigrette.

 

Tastes of Spring Break: Fresh Veggie Omelet March 27, 2011

Erin made beautiful Fresh Veggie Omelets one morning.

We ate oatmeal with fruit and walnuts most mornings but my favorite breakfast was the day that Erin made some delicious omelets using fresh cilantro, tomatoes, bell pepper, and a dusting of cheese.

Nutrition Highlights:

A vegetable-packed omelet is a great way to get started on your daily veggie servings and begin your day with some protein. Eggs are a complete protein food (containing all nine essential amino acids) and are a good source of  vitamins B12 and Riboflavin, and minerals Phosphorus and Selenium.

To Lighten Up:

If you are watching your cholesterol or calories you can make these omelets using just egg whites (no yolk) and veggies (without cheese).

Try it At Home:

Fresh Veggie Omelet

Mix egg 2 eggs with milk and pour mixture onto a hot pan with olive or canola oil. Place chopped fresh veggies onto one side of the omelet once it starts to take shape (become less liquid and more solid). Flip the other half over and finish off by heating each side on the pan. Serve hot.

We loved the green bell peppers, tomato slices,chopped onion and cilantro. A dash of Frank’s Red Hot goes nicely with the dish as well.

 

Enjoying Endives March 20, 2011

Endive leaves are nature’s perfect crackers. They are a wonderful natural platform for dips such as hummus or white bean and artichoke (shown here).

Nutrition Highlights: Not only are endive leaves lighter in calories and fat (fat-free in fact) than most crackers or chips, they are a rich source of vitamins and fiber and are anti-inflammatory. Just one ounce provides a much as 10% DV of folate and 81% DV of vitamin K.

 

Trying Out Taro March 16, 2011

Oven roasted fresh taro fininshed by lightly sauteing with fresh garlic

Trying out Taro

A few weeks ago after brunch with my friends in China Town, my curiosity got the better of me when I spotted a bag of dried taro at a local supermarket. My only past experience of taro had been in a frozen yogurt shop as I tasted a delicious purple “taro” yogurt that was sweet and tangy. With this memory on my taste buds, I purchased the bag under the very mistaken impression that I was buying some kind of dried fruit. When we got outside I tore open the package to share with my friends only to find that the dried taro was as hard as a rock and tasted like… nothing.  Actually I couldn’t really tell what it tasted like because it was too hard to bite into. I ended up soaking the dried taro overnight and roasting it with rosemary and herbs like potato slices. It was not terrible but still pretty tough and not particularly flavorful. I still have no idea what dried taro is used for. (If you have any ideas please comment on this post! I still have half a bag..)

Now even more intrigued by this food, I looked up recipes online and found one that I liked for fresh taro. I peeled and roasted the fresh taro (the small kind, not the giant taro root pieces) with herbs, spices, garlic, and olive oil, loosely following this recipe.

The verdict: It was pretty tasty. Similar to a potato but sweeter and stickier. It was not however, “a dream to peel” for me as the recipe had predicted it would be and ended up being pretty time consuming to make. I ate some of it right after cooking, then sliced and tossed the rest in a pasta dish I made the following day.

Next time: My friends and I are thinking the taro might work to put an interesting twist on mashed potatoes. We would use some part taro, part potato, and plenty of garlic and herbs.

 

Breakfast March 8, 2011

 

Fage 0% Plain Greek Yogurt mixed with de-thawed frozen strawberries, cinnamon and turmeric and topped with sliced almonds; two slices of whole wheat toast: one with peanut butter, one with tabbouli; skim milk

 

Healthiest Dishes at Indian Restaurants March 5, 2011

What’s the healthiest thing you can order at an Indian restaurant?

 

Healthy Indian Food Ordering Tips: The key to finding healthy dishes on the menu at an Indian restaurant is to look for entrées that use flavorful spices, herbs, and vegetables and limit those with lots of cream or butter (Makhni or Ghee), cheese (Paneer), or oil (fried foods). A lot of the healthiest appetizers at Diva Indian Bistro, a local restaurant near Tufts University, are listed on the menu as “side orders.” Raita and Papadum are less caloric than samosas and pakoras. For dessert, try ending your meal with Masala Tea. The tea, made with Darjeeling tea, boiled milk and spices, has a chai-like flavor but was less sweet. It was a tasty, warm way to end the meal.

Healthy Starters

Tandoori Roti is a less-caloric, whole-wheat version of Naan. One order comes with two servings of the warm, soft, flatbread. Raita is a cool mixture of yogurt, shredded cucumbers, potato and mint. The combination work harmoniously. You can easily share one order of the Roti and Raita with a friend and enjoy dipping the bread in the yogurt sauce. Save the rest of your Raita to help cool your palate in between bites of a spicy entrée later.

Raita is a cool complement to spicy dishes and a delicious dip for Tandoori Roti (flatbread).

Entrée Picks

The Tandoori cooking style (baked in a clay oven) tends to use less oil or butter than other dishes so this is a good word to look for on the menu for various meat or seafood entrées.  Diva has a section on the menu called “Tandoori Specialties” with many healthy picks. Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Vindaloo, Tandoori Salmon Tikka, and vegetarian dishes such as Aloo Gobhi,and Baingan Bharta are also great choices.

The photo featured here is of Diva Indian Bistro’s Tandoori Chicken Dalwala, my recent pick for a serious of healthy restaurant reviews for Tufts Dining Services.

I scored a great deal on Diva’s delicious fare using Groupon . Check out the site for great finds on Indian restaurants near you.

Reference: American Heart Association


Tandoori Roti is a less-caloric, whole-wheat version of Naan. One order comes with two servings of the warm, soft, flatbread. Raita is a cool mixture of yogurt, shredded cucumbers, potato and mint. The combination worked harmoniously. You could easily share one order of the Roti and Raita with a friend and enjoy dipping the bread in the yogurt sauce. Save the rest of your Raita to help cool your palate in between bites of a spicy entrée later.