Current mood = this super-catchy Bollywood song that I am OBSESSED with right now. Ahhh! Turn the volume up and dance! Carefree / bold / emotional / fearless / goofy / jumpy.
And to extend my current mood, this dish has all the makings of a last-minute recipe idea. It has ingredients that can be easily found at any store, a method that is literally chop > season > roast > garnish (with candied walnuts!) > serve, and flavors that make it a melange of quintessential autumn-y, bold, yet warming & comforting notes that at the same time, never over-power any main dish you’d couple it with. With brown sugar and cumin powder as some of the seasonings, I love that the spices I used are a fun blend of Indian and typically non-Indian flavors.
Make it a topping to your not-so-boring desk lunch salad OR… make it a punchy side-dish to your upcoming Thanksgiving feast, or potluck dinner party! Invited to your to-be mom-in-law’s house and you want to impress her? Bring this dish. Invited to potluck with your new set of friends? Bring this dish. Invited to your boyfriend’s gracious and welcoming friends’ home? Bring. this. dish!
Ok. Enough selling. Here’s my easy recipe. Make it and tell me if you like it as much as I do! (Serves about 8-10 people as a side dish)
You will need:
- 2 medium-large butternut squash
- 4 tbsp good quality extra-virgin Olive Oil. I used some trippy garlic-infused oil from Mr. Trader Joes
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 tsp dried thyme (my new fave herb)
- 1 tbsp cumin powder
- 1 tbsp coriander or cilantro seed powder
- Flavored walnuts to garnish – chopped roughly
- This is my favorite – 1 tsp La Chinata smoked Paprika powder. Or, you can use regular paprika powder, or chili powder. Either will do.
La Chinata paprika powder is THE BEST purchase I made at my recent trip to Spain. The paprika is the highest quality and the smoky flavor has amped up all my dishes lately. Yum! Unfortunately they don’t export to the States but I have enough of a stash to last me before my next trip to Europe.
Set the oven to pre-heat at 375F. Use your biceps, triceps and forearms well to clean, peel, then chop the Butternut squash in 2 inch cubes with a good sharp knife. If the idea of cutting up a squash stresses you, get the already chopped up variety from the store. I usually find them too small-cut, so I prefer doing my own prep.
Nifty tip: After cutting the squash in manageable chunks, I pop them in the microwave for upto 2 mins. This softens them and makes them easier to peel. Make sure you let the squash cool before handling!
In a large bowl, add all the olive oil, spices and seasonings, and mix well. Then pop all the chopped squash in it, get your hands in, and mix everything really well to make sure every piece is coated with the oil and spice mixture.
Prep a large baking sheet and line it with aluminum foil. Spread the squash evenly, without crowding the pieces. Use another tray if needed. Then bake in the 375F oven for 30 mins or until all the squash is cooked. If you like yours more crunchy, continue to bake on 400F for another 5 mins to get a golden-brown color.
Empty the cooked squash into a serving dish. Then garnish with any spicy or lightly candied walnuts. I used the lightly flavored walnuts from Trader Joes. Serve and enjoy!
Look at that. A warm, freshly prepared, spicy, yummy, piled-with-tons-o-flavor Chicken Taco. Isn’t she lovely? Did I just give this taco a gender? I ate her. And another of her folk. And another later that day.
I came up with this recipe when I invited my sister and her family over recently for lunch. The occasion? My fabulous new digs! I wanted to show off my new place in Saint Paul to the people who matter most, and in my typical I-want-to-impress-my-sister style, I scoured Pinterest for new recipes I could impress the sistah with. Despite my well-intended planning, I missed getting the groceries beforehand, and scrambled to get what I could find at Trader Joe’s the day of.
Not finding everything for a Chicken Taco recipe I originally wanted to make, actually worked out really well! For starters, I found this epic Taco seasoning spice packet at Joe’s. The packet calls for adding it to mince meat for a taco, but I used it as a meat rub for the chicken. One half packet for 4 chicken breasts was a good ratio. I also loved how the chicken browned and seared in the pan because of the seasoning, adding this nice char that I like so much,
I also managed to make the taco low-fat by using no cheese, a spiced greek yogurt topping instead of sour cream, and a yummy no-oil corn relish that I spiked with some Indian masalas. Glee to the mouth, I say! The multiple textures made for a delicious and satisfying meal.
The recipe needs a few different steps, but with some simple multi-tasking, you can easily prepare it in a little over an hour.
For 4 people, you will need:
- Corn or wheat tortillas per your liking
- 3-4 Boneless Skinless Chicken breasts
- 1 packet Trader Joe’s Taco Seasoning Mix
- Assorted veggies, julienne – I used red peppers, yellow peppers, zucchini and mushroom
- 1 cup no-fat Greek yogurt
- 1 can or 1 cup of fresh sweet corn kernels
- 1 bunch cilantro
- Spices and dried herbs: oregano, chili powder, cumin powder, black pepper powder
- Salt to taste
- Vegetable or Olive oil for cooking
Make the Chicken
- Clean and wash the chicken breasts. Pat dry. Place in a large bowl with 1/2 a pack of the Taco seasoning, and mix well with your hands. Make sure you get the spice over all the chicken. Set aside.
- Heat vegetable oil in a non-stick pan, and on medium-high heat, place each chicken breast in the pan, giving each piece enough room in the pan
- Once the chicken is seared from one side, flip over, allow to sear, then lower the hear to low-medium, cover with a lid, and let the chicken breast cook through – 7-8 minutes.
- After the chicken is cooked, place it on a chopping board and slice or cube it for the tacos. Place back in the pan and cover with a lid to keep warm
Prepare the toppings
- For the corn relish, place the sweet corn, a handful (5-6 springs) of chopped cilantro, 1/2 tsp of cumin powder, 1/2 tsp chili powder, juice of 1/2 lime, and salt to taste. Mix well.
- For the yogurt topping, Mix the yogurt, a handful of cilantro (or, to taste. I like a lot.), juice of 1/4 lime, a pinch of salt, a large pinch of black pepper, and 4-5 tbsp water. The consistency should be that of something a little more fluid than sour cream
You could serve the taco as is, with the chicken and toppings. However I wanted to add some more crunch and sauteed a whole bunch of vegetables in olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano.
And that’s it! Now it’s time to serve. Wrap up your tortillas in a clean kitchen towel, and microwave for 30 seconds. Serve fresh with all the components, and enjoy!
Spring is here in it’s full leafy, fragrance-of-the-grass, sunny glory here in Minneapolis, and everyday I walk out of my home and marvel at the fresh air, the sound of birds chirping, and the cool (not freezing) breeze on my face. Spring has this quality of making me feel refreshed and renewed every year. The long winter here makes me crave for this season and I cannot believe it is finally here!
Spring also, at least for the last couple years, makes me introspective about how far I’ve come. Perhaps the new buds and leaves on the trees remind me about the progression and growth of life. And my own progression. It is co-incidental because this May marks 3 years since I’ve been divorced. When I sat down one evening a few days ago in my little red armchair in my apartment, I had a smile on my face as I reflected on my experiences these 3 years. How much have I done, and seen and experienced! And I know that I would have never, ever experienced these things, with the energy, honesty, openness and joy that I did, if I was married to the person I was. In so many ways I am thankful I experienced what I did. And thankful to him. It was meant to be, and only in feeling like I had nothing, like I was incapable of having or feeling anything, was I driven and motivated to accomplish, feel, accept, be strong, defy, exert, experience, celebrate, express, and be the person I’ve always wanted to be on the path of becoming. It is an incomparable feeling that I am so grateful for finally acknowledging.
And so, I celebrated last weekend with a few friends. And we did what we do best. Get goofy, make jokes we shouldn’t, stay out too late and laugh too much. (PS. The shrimp steamed buns at Moto-I are fab!!).
After a night of indulgence, I needed something fortifying in the morning. And what better occasion to make it than Mother’s Day, for a dear friend and mom! I had her over for breakfast and decided to treat her to my favorite style of eggs – Bhurjee, Bombay style.
Bhurjee, to the best of my knowledge is a breakfast preparation that originated on the street food stalls of Bombay. The low-cost eggs, coupled with a few simple vegetables and spices, makes a satisfying and inexpensive meal for laborers and office-goers in Bombay. I remember going to one such street stall for a late night meal after several hours of partying when I was in college (shhh… don’t tell mom I did this 😉 ). It is all together, warming and completely satisfying. Coupled with hot charred pieces of bread, standing by Marine Drive, with the smell of salt in the air, bhurjee can feel like an adrenalin shot when one is tired.
Make it this weekend for breakfast! My recipe is ensures soft, creamy eggs with a good kick. Follow my recipe and you will not be disappointed! Here it is:
You will need:
- 5 eggs
- 2 tbsp milk
- 1/2 medium sized white onion, chopped
- 1 medium sized tomato, chopped
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp Dhania-Zeera powder (Cumin-Coriander)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper and a handful of chopped cilantro for garnishing
- Crack open the eggs in a bowl and beat very well with the milk.
- In a non-stick pan, heat the olive oil and sautée the onion on medium heat until slightly brown and translucent. Then add the tomatoes and cook until softened.
- Add all the spices except for the black pepper, and salt. Mix well, and slowly pour in the egg mixture.
- Turn heat to medium-low. With a spatula, keep separating the cooked egg from the bottom of the pan and keep enveloping it in the raw egg. Make sure you keep the heat to medium-low to ensure soft eggs.
- Once cooked, turn off heat and mix in a sprinkling of black pepper, and the chopped cilantro leaves.
- Serve immediately with hot buttered toast or charred buttered bread.
The humble chicken curry. Chicken curry Hyderabadi style. Chicken curry Bohri style. Chicken curry Mangalorean style. Chicken curry Konkani style. Chicken curry Goan style (Chicken Xacuti?). Chicken curry Punjabi style (Butter chickennnn!!). Chicken curry Kashmiri style (3 types). (Let’s go international now…) Chicken curry American style. Chicken curry Canadian style. Chicken curry Czech Republic style. Chicken curry à la France. The varieties are endless! And I’ve had them all… and more. Forgetting one though… Chicken curry… SABERA style ;D
There are many recipes I have created in my little apartment kitchen over the years, that have the unmistakable SABERA stamp on it. The unmistakable Sabera stamp means it is a recipe that is simple, yet layered with many interesting, opposing, yet complimentary flavors. Easy to make, yet conveniently also easy to adapt to my changing moods, preferences, and um… grocery availability in the fridge, or lack thereof. Also, QUICK. This last piece is very important.
I’ll tell you why. Cooking for one (myself) is a true art form. I’m being sarcastic. But truly, for me it’s something I’ve taught myself over the years. My schedule, like so many of us, is very hectic and investing too much time in the kitchen to cook a meal is a luxury I no longer have. More importantly, one must also keep some time aside to do the dishes ( 😦 ), which is why total time invested in the kitchen must be planned to be at a minimum. Hence, the need for a quick recipe, that also doesn’t fail to tingle not just the tastebuds, but also the home-longingness senses.
SO! Today I’m going to share my super duper easy peasy chicken-curry-in-a-hurry recipe. And when I say hurry, I MEAN it. This recipe takes under 30 mins! Yes! No gimmicks!
Many recipes online offer simple chicken curry recipes, but mine uses fresher spices, simpler ingredients, and packs a punch of flavor without the excessive salt, cream or fat that common recipes online have. The result is a creamy, tangy, spicy and aromatic curry that you can lap up with rice or with Roti! So, here goes! This recipe makes enough for 1 person, for 2 meals (or 1 meal, 2 persons? You pick!)
You will need:
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tbsp cooking olive oil
- 1/4 large onion, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 cup plain yogurt – if using greek yogurt, use 1/2 cup and dilute with 1/2 cup water. It helps to use slightly sour yogurt.
- 1/2 tsp grated ginger
- 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 tbsp coriander seed powder
- 1/2 tbsp chili powder, or to taste
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds, lightly toasted, and pounded in a mortar and pestle (this brings out the flavor of the cumin seeds!)
- a handful of chopped fresh cilantro
- In a bowl, mix the cubed chicken, yogurt, grated ginger, and garam masala
- In a medium sized cooking pan, heat 1 tbsp of cooking olive oil
- Chop the onion and garlic in the mean time
- When the oil is heated, add the onion and garlic, and sautée on medium heat until softened and lightly caramelized
- Add the yogurt and chicken mixture in the pan and mix well
- Once mixed well, add all the other spices – chili powder, coriander powder, cumin seeds and salt. Mix well again, cover the lid on the pan and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat
- Check to see if the chicken is cooked. Turn off heat, add the chopped cilantro, mix well and let the curry sit in the pan with the lid on for about 5 more minutes.
- Serve fresh with hot Rotis, or rice!
Hello folks! How was the weekend? Hectic and productive, or lazy and relaxing? Or something in between? Either way, I hope you feel energized to tackle a brand new, glorious week!
Many friends have asked me about my recent juicing habit, why I do it, benefits, and most importantly, RECIPES!
Before I share 2 of my fave juice concoctions, I want to give a special shoutout to the Bollywood Dance scene Twin Cities and a hobby I have been nurturing for the last year or so – Bollywood dancing! Over a year ago, I went to this Bollywood dance class here in Minneapolis on a Thursday evening purely on a whim, and since then, have met some incredibly talented, amazing people, many of whom are now close friends. Since then, the Bollywood Dance scene Twin Cities has become a dominant Bollywood dance center in Minneapolis-St.Paul, and they even put up the VERY FIRST Bollywood-themed play at the Minnesota Fringe Festival in 2014. I had the privilege to act and dance in this play last year and had an absolute blast!
I never really saw myself as an actress or dancer but Divya Maiya – one of Bollywood Dance Scene’s lead choreographers convinced me to act and dance. What started as a side project in the summer, bloomed into something that was helping me see myself in a completely different way. I could see that over time I had fewer inhibitions; I was less self-conscious after multiple sessions of practice in front of a critical audience. Being around an accepting, fun, goofy group also helped me embrace that aspect of my personality – something that I always felt awkward showing or being comfortable with. I cannot emphasize how crucial this group, and specifically Divya and her talented husband Madhu have been in helping me through this journey of self discovery and learning.
PS. In case you want to watch the play, view it here! It’s under an hour and I promise you will have a lot of laughs watching!
First off, I should say that I am not obsessive about juicing nor do I do extreme ‘cleanses’ that involve only drinking juice for days. I have found that these extreme techniques don’t work on my body and doing things in moderation help me the most. Currently, I drink a glass of juice about 2-3 times a week, as a snack.
Since I’ve begun juicing, I feel that my skin has cleared up, so less acne, my digestion has been easier, and I have fewer hunger pangs at odd times of the day and night. The days that I drink a glass of juice, I also feel energized and less sluggish in the afternoon hours.
You must wonder what appliances I invested in. I did a little research and learned that Breville had the best offering in juicers that juiced vegetables as well as several fruits. Their lowest priced product – The Breville Juice fountain compact juicer – was affordable (under $100 from Amazon on Black Friday), and sturdy. I already had a citrus juicer that I bought for a pretty affordable price online, so adding the Breville helped me get started with juices that combined vegetable and citrus juices.
Let’s talk recipes! Instead of following what I got online, and to make juicing count for me, I started by figuring out what my body needed the most. I have always had low iron, and typically have a Vitamin D and C deficiency in the dark, long winter months in MN. So I knew I needed to find juices with high iron, Vitamin D and C. The following are 2 recipes I currently follow. Be sure to use organic vegetables as much as you can, and wash thoroughly before juicing. Please also be sure to check if you have allergies to any vegetables or raw food.
Carrot, Orange and Ginger juice
This recipe is super simple. To make juice for 1 person, you need about 2 large carrots, 1-2 oranges, and a 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled. Extract the citrus juice with a citrus juicer. Juice the carrot and ginger in a vegetable juice. Combine the 2 juices and drink immediately.
Beet, Kale, Apple, Ginger and lemon juice
I really like this juice because it has Kale, a vegetable a don’t eat much of in its normal form, and Beets, which are full of Iron. For 1 glass of juice, I use 2 carrots, 2 large leaves of kale, 1 apple, and a 1-inch piece of ginger. I wash all the veggies and apple, peel the ginger and juice it in the Breville. I then add a squeeze of 1/4 of the lemon. Lemon helps Iron absorption from green leafy vegetables. You could use spinach if you find Kale to be too bitter.
I hope you enjoy juicing as much as I do. And if you live in MN near the cities, do give Bollywood Dance Scene – Twin Cities a try! Have great week, folks!
It’s another BEAUTIFUL day here in Minneapolis! We’ve been having a few un-seasonally warm days (hoping this doesn’t jinx it!) and today, when the temps got to as high as 63F, a few friends and I decided to do a little fire and dinner outside. It felt SO wonderful to enjoy the fabulous weather and sunshine!
We were talking about the relationship we have with our parents and one of my friends was telling us how everyone in his family misses his late mother so much. They all feel a deep void in their lives and they miss the love she freely and generously gave to them. He shared that today would have been her birthday.
I’ve had many conversations with this friend about his mother, and today really made me think about how she must have affected her family’s lives. My career has moved to a place where I am working much longer hours because I truly and thoroughly love what I do and want to exceed every expectation I have from myself. But I thought about what my daily life and activities lead up to. Not career-wise. But broadly in my life. Pardon me as I spell out my existential crises 😉 But don’t you wonder whether people will remember you when you leave? How will I be remembered? And who will miss me? What impact am I having on the people who matter? I’m not sure I can say that my influence on any one person today has been sharp enough to warrant a deep longing for me, if I ceased to exist. Perhaps it’s even selfish of me to think this way. We all want to be needed and missed. I don’t know the answers. I do know that now, I’m not sure if I’m doing everything in my power to be the true and best me to the few people who matter in my life. And I’m not sure how to.
So, last week, when I came home from work and felt accomplished, yet tired after a day of making a difference at least in my work life, 🙂 I realized I had little energy to cook. But I also needed something nutritious. Common story, right? 🙂
I checked the fridge and found a gorgeous hunk of Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) I had picked up from the desi grocery store. I knew I also had some hummus I made the last weekend, and some frozen whole-wheat roti or Indian flat bread.
I proceeded to cube the panner in large, slim hunks, and then ‘marinated’ them in 2 different spice mixes, lemon juice, and some chopped cilantro. I grilled them in a little oil in a frying pan. The paneer grills pretty quickly! Once crisp on all sides, I heated up some flatbread, then spread a dollop of hummus, arranged the paneer, rolled up the flatbread, and voila! I had a yummy, high-protein, low-fat, low-sodium, high-on-flavor dinner. Recipe below!
Easy weeknight dinner – Paneer Rolls (for 2)
– Low-fat Paneer – 1 slab, from your local Indian grocery store. I love the ‘Swad’ brand
– A handful of chopped cilantro
– 1 tbsp chaat masala (available ready-made as a spice mix)
– 1/2 tbsp Tandoori masala (available ready-made as a spice mix)
– Juice of 1/4 lemon
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 4 frozen or fresh Indian flatbreads
– 3-4 tbsp Hummus – any flavor of your choice, or my preference – home made
– Cut the paneer in 1-inch strips, then halve them if needed
– Place in a bowl with all the other ingredients and mix well
– In a grilling pan or a frying pan, heat the oil. Add the paneer pieces one by one
– Let one side crisp for about 2 minutes on medium heat. Then turn over to let the other side crisp
– Heat the flatbread in the mean time. When cooked, spread a dollop of hummus across in the middle. Place the hot paneer pieces. Roll the flatbread, and eat! You could add a cup of plain greek yogurt, or some grilled veggies on the side of your meal.
It feels so great to write this post, this gorgeous gorgeous winter day in Minneapolis!
After a crazy busy week at work, one of the few things that kept me going, was the prospect of writing another post here 🙂 So many of you wrote these amazingly encouraging comments after I published my last post about blogging again. It’s heart-warming to know that I still have a loyal and eager reader base!
Many comments and questions were around my weight loss journey. Most of my extra weight was gained during the second half of 2012, and over 2013. Without sounding too preachy, I’m going to try my best to share a few big and many small changes I had to make over the course of a year, to lose about 20 lbs from March 2014 onward. Maybe they will apply to you, maybe they won’t, but my hope is that reading about my experience will help you relate, or maybe even help you give ME some tips!
Note that I am not a nutritionist, physical trainer, or any expert on this subject at all, and I am still making changes to my lifestyle on an ongoing basis. Also, I want to share that my diet has always composed of primarily home-cooked, vegetarian meals – That said, the quantity and the composition + combination of what I consumed, coupled with low to no exercise, is what mainly led to my weight gain.
And yeah – the title of the post? I didn’t want to call this ‘My weight loss journey’, because it seems unauthentic to me. To be very honest, this last year has been more about accepting myself and believing in myself. The weight loss was only incidental 🙂
1. Reality check
For the longest time I was in denial about my weight gain. My sister and I had many conversations about it, and while she was always encouraging, supporting and caring, I didn’t always take the conversations positively. I think this is part of changing anything in our lives – we need to look ourselves in the eye and own our shit. The biggest reason I was in denial was because I didn’t believe in myself. In the pic above, I was my heaviest at around 153 lbs. I’m 5′ 3″ so I was certainly in the over-weight zone. Learning this fact was a jolt I truly needed. I resolved to change my life, by beginning to see myself differently.
What I can say is, taking one day at a time helps. Easier said than done. Yet, it is easy to get overwhelmed with what you need to do, and in the rigmarole of work, hectic schedules and everyday stresses, we can often be more hard than we need to be on ourselves.
2. Lowering sodium and cutting out the wrong snacks
In addition to portion control, the big kick-start to my inevitable diet change was lowering my sodium intake. When I looked closely, I realized how much extra sodium I was consuming – processed snacks (even if they were veggie chips, organic, whole grains etc.), simple soups that I got from the office cafeteria (seemingly healthy!), and even adding more than what my taste buds needed in my cooking.
By removing any and every snack with high sodium levels, replacing it with snacks with 0 sodium (prunes, Turkish apricots, almonds, kind bars!), and also adding less salt in food I prepared myself, I saw a big change in my weight loss. The water I seemed to be retaining quickly reduced, and my taste buds became more sensitive to salt, helping me consume even less over the course of time.
3. Running and strengthening
This was also a significant change. I knew from my early 20s that my body responds very well to exercises that involve working with my own body weight, resistance exercises, and weight lifting. In addition to starting to run again, I had a weight training routine. Classes at the YMCA helped tremendously, and so did pacing myself to minimize injuries. In the beginning, my lower back and core were weak and I couldn’t run more than 1 minute at a time continuously; I am very very hard on myself and add unnecessary stress in many aspects of my life. This was one area where I had to try to be much more easy and gentle with myself. Contrary to what may seem logical, being kinder, and more self-accepting, led me to a stronger workout routine even after perceived ‘failures’ like not having high stamina when I ran.
Overall, I have learned that strengthening my core, and doing exercises that teach me to balance my body, have led to the fastest and most dramatic results in terms of toning and strengthening.
Juicing! YES! I cannot even begin to tell you how tremendously important this one habit change has been for me. Like many great things in my life, my sister Sameera suggested this to me. I replaced some of my evening sacks with a glass of juice. That’s it. No drastic ‘cleanses’ that seem to be the fad, no crazy juices involving multiple different vegetables and fruits. Adding even one glass a week helped cleanse and detoxify my system, and helped me gain much more energy. There are a lot of resources online on this topic, but this article explains juicing pretty well.
In the coming weeks, I will share a couple of my favorite juice recipes and my process of juicing with you!
5. Things I am still working on
My lifestyle change is ongoing and I still want to make many more changes that I can sustain over time:
– Adding more protein to my diet
– Minimizing the intake of processed sugar
– Adding a broader variety of vegetables to my food
– Adding detoxifying teas on a daily basis
– Truly pushing my running mileage – I’ve been stuck at a max of 3 miles per workout for a while now 🙂
So this was my journey, folks! I hope this has been insightful for you. Overall, my weight loss has resulted in many changes – lesser facial acne, less bloating, much lower water retention, significantly lower menstrual discomfort, higher energy levels (I need just 1 cup of coffee a day), and a much stronger self image! If reading this made you think of your own health journey, leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!!