Friday, July 20, 2012

Sprouted Quinoa & Oats Granola

Dear foodies,

My blog seems to be a on health kick and I don't want to break its stride. We've covered a few salads but lets focus on the first meal of the day - breakfast. I've tried numerous cereals and still haven't found the one. Winters are easy, all I need is a warm bowl of oatmeal with some dry fruits on top and I'm happy. But the rest of the year is a mash up of many different breakfast finds. When in grad school nothing could beat Honey bunches oats with Almonds, well except Raisin bran crunch. We (roomies) would have it every single day and somehow did not tire of it. Never once did we complain while going through box after box of them. And then once I moved out I couldn't have another morsel of that cereal again! I had probably hit the quota limit for one kind of cereal and ever since the search for the next continues.

The first time I made granola at home I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was and more importantly how easy it is to make. Since then I've made numerous batches each different from the other. I pick up a cup of so of dry fruits from bulk bins and store them in refrigerator.

After experimenting with multiple batches I've narrowed my list down to using two type of nuts and dry fruits in each batch. Having this equation cuts down my confusion and makes it easier to get a batch done. The only constant in the last few batches has been crystallized ginger. I dice the chunks into tiny bits that disappear in the granola and the spice hits you by surprise when you bite into it. Switching out the combination of nuts, fruits and even the sweetener keeps it interesting. I've used honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, apple sauce and for this recipe Pomegranate molasses as a sweetener. I keep a jar of granola on the kitchen counter and a box at work. When the snack craving hits I don't have to look too far for something healthy to munch on.

I've always used rolled oats as the bulk of the granola but with plenty of quinoa on hand I decided to experiment. Cooking quinoa was out of the question for a granola so I decided to sprout the seeds instead. Sprouting, in general helps our body absorb nutrients a lot easier by breaking down some of the enzymes. And quinoa seeds are the easiest to sprout as they need a relatively short time. A 15-20min soak in water after a good rinse helps hydrate the seeds, overnight works too. Spread them out on a piece of clean cloth, cover to block any light and keep away from sun light for 4-8hours. If the conditions are right you could see tiny sprouts in just 4-5 hours. Its recommended that the sprout not be longer than the seed for consumption. Given the teeny tiny size of the seeds themselves tiny sprouts are just what we want. Sprouted quinoa can be used in various recipes like this granola or salads and stir-fries. Store unused sprouts in the refrigerator and use within 2-3 days. I've been adding about 2Tbsp to my breakfast smoothie for extra protein and it tastes just as good.

Oats are a great source of thiamine, iron, and dietary fiber making them perfect for breakfast foods.

Before                                                                                                      all decked out after baking
Sprouted Quinoa & Oats Granola
Prep time: 1 day ahead
Cook time: 40 mins 
Servings - makes ~6 cups
  • 3 cups - Old Fashioned, Rolled Oats
  • 1 cup - Quinoa
  • 1/2 cup -each of Almonds, Pecans coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup each Cranberries, Raisins, coarsely chopped 
  • 2 Tbsp - Crystallized ginger, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp - Flax seeds
  • 1 Tbsp - Orange Zest
  • 3 Tbsp - Butter
  • 2 Tbsp - Oil, Honey, Pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tsp - Vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt if using unsalted butter
  1. Approx 8-10 hours ahead - Thoroughly rinse quinoa and set to soak for 20-30mins (can be left overnight). Drain water and spread the seeds on a clean kitchen towel. Cover and keep away from direct sun light for upto 8 hrs. When you see tiny sprouts they are ready to use, you can begin checking after 4-5 hrs. If you don't see any sprouts after 8 hrs then rinse, drain and repeat the process of spreading them out for another 8 hours.
  2. When ready to make granola, Pre-heat oven to 325F
  3. In a huge microwave safe bowl, combine butter & oil, microwave for 45-60secs. Add honey, pomegranate molasses, vanilla extract to melted butter and whisk together. Add the dry ingredients (excluding dry fruits and orange zest) and mix together coating them with some of the wet mixture. 
  4. Spread the mix evenly on a baking sheet lined with parchment and place in the center rack of the oven. Bake for 30-40 mins, flipping it every 10mins. Once you begin smelling the toasted nuts and oats check to see if they've turned a light brownish hue. 
  5. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chopped dried fruits, finely grated orange zest and combine. The oats may not be crunchy right out of the oven, let them cool a bit to dry out and get deliciously crunchy.
  6. Store in an clean and dry air tight container on the counter for upto 2 weeks or move to the refrigerator for longer shelf life.
Note: This recipe makes a mildly sweet granola leaning on dried fruit for sweetness. Pomegranate molasses also adds sweetness and a mellow tartness to the granola which I enjoyed. On its own pom molasses is extremely tart, making you pucker and the taste reminds of rola cola/purple poppins I had as a kid.
If I want chunks of granola I pulse about 1/2 cup oats or add almond meal and pack the granola mix in the baking sheet before it goes in the oven. Being extremely gentle when flipping ensures that the chunks hold up.
Millet can also be sprouted and used here but it takes longer to sprout compared to quinoa so plan ahead.
Tart, sweet, crunchy, colorful and healthy...can't ask for more from one recipe. Enjoy it on its own or use in other recipes, either way its a winner. Layered with fresh summer berries and homemade yogurt you have a perfect summer parfait to cool you down. Citrus zest and pomegranate molasses add bright bursts of flavor and pair really well with other fruits. You would want to stop and relish this for breakfast instead of rushing out the door. So customize this recipe to your liking and let me know what your favorite combination for granola is ?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thai Black Rice Salad

Dear Foodies,

My pantry is bursting at its seams and I've lost count of stuff I've collected over the last few weeks months years. I love bulk bins. They are good to buy ingredients in smaller quantities but I end up buying a little of everything :( I make these big plans of trying out a recipe but by the time I get home the plan is forgotten and sadly, so are the ingredients in pantry jungle. The odd quantities make it difficult to organize them into jars and, I guess I should just use them instead of wasting time looking for jars. Various shapes & colors of lentils, rice, grains, flours fill up the shelves. I'd like to say they are all in neatly labelled bags but the last time I checked it did not look good. I can tell you this, I've had to become pretty good at identifying 'anonymous' flours. 

Wild Rice blend              -          Hulled Black Rice
I made it my mission to try out new salads and slaw's this summer. The fact that I'm currently on a taco streak is a topic for another post though. There's this restaurant called Saffron close to the airport that I really like. Su-Mei Yu is the brains behind the operation and they serve a healthy twist on Thai cuisine. The food has won her and the restaurant many accolades and rightly so. The food is some of the most flavorful I've eaten. They don't shy away from pungent spices but every dish is perfectly balanced and is just bursting with flavors and textures and colors. Nothing I've tried has disappointed me at that place.

I always gravitate towards their healthy fried rice with tofu. It's predominantly flavored with ginger and is chock-full of vegetables. It wouldn't matter if it were not called healthy because it tasted exceptional anyway. I wanted to re-create it at home. I picked 3/4 cup wild rice blend and 1/4 cup black rice from my extensive pantry (!). I know, you would think it was the other way round looking at the color of the salad though. The black rice turned a deep purple when cooked and beware, it stains any other grain cooked with it. Using a rice blend added texture with some of the grains being fully cooked while the others are wonderfully toothsome. And ofcourse, the color is stunning.

Thai Black Rice (blend) Salad
Prep time: 15mins
Cook time: 30mins
Servings: 2-3
  • 3/4 cup - Wild rice blend
  • 1/4 cup - Hulled Black rice
  • 1/2 tsp - Ginger, grated 
  • 1 inch - Lemongrass stalk
  • 1 Tbsp - Tamari/ soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp - Toasted Sesame oil
  • 2 cups - Water
Stir-fried Veggies
  • 1/2 cup - Diced  Red bell pepper and white onions, Carrots & snap peas thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 1/2 tsp - Ginger, grated (adjust to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp - Tamari/soy sauce (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp - Shaoxing rice wine (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp - Toasted Sesame oil
  • 1/2 tbsp - Olive oil
  • Salad toppers - Chopped cilantro, Green onions sliced on a diagonal, toasted sesame seeds, lime wedges
  1. Get the rice started first. Rinse grains in multiple changes of water, picking out any outliers. In a heavy bottomed pan, add drained rice with 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Once its at a boil season it with tamari, sesame oil, ginger and lemongrass. (Before adding lemongrass stalk, bruise it by giving it a few whacks with the blunt edge of a knife to release its essence.) Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 15-20mins on the lowest heat setting. Once all the water is absorbed and the grains are cooked, remove it from heat and let cool completely. ( I spread the rice on a plate and stick it into the freezer for a few minutes to quickly cool it down). Pick and discard lemongrass stalk.
  2. As the rice is cooking, heat a wok or saute pan on medium high heat with toasted sesame oil and olive oil. When the oil begins to sizzle add diced onions and peppers. Add grated ginger and cook until the onions begin to turn translucent. 
  3. Add sliced carrots and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Just before turning the heat off add tamari, shaoxing rice wine and sliced snow peas which will cook in the residual heat. The veggies should retain their crunch and bright color.
  4. When the rice is at room temperature add stir fried veggies and taste test for seasonings. Sprinkle a little bit of toppings on the salad making sure you have more of each on the side.
Note: -  Tofu would be a great protein addition to this salad. Drain and dry extra firm tofu on paper towels. Cut into thick slabs and marinate in a mixture of tamari, toasted sesame oil and grated ginger for 15-20 mins. Sear both sides on medium heat in a saute pan until browned. Dice into cubes and add to the salad at the very end so as not to break them up.
- Use any combination of veggies you have on hand that'll add crunch and color.- Swap rice with orzo pasta/quinoa/farro for a variation. 
All the different textures, colors and flavors came together really well in this dish. And I may have said it already but it looks stunning in a bowl. Don't skimp on the salad toppers which are like condiments in this case. I love cilantro and with a squeeze of lime it makes for a perfect combo. The salad can be served immediately but it also travels well. The longer it sits the better it gets so it's great for picnics or lunches. I made sure the veggies retained some crunch so you get different textures from veggies and the rice blend as you chew your way through it. If you don't like the strong flavor of ginger reduce the amount and use a bit a garlic when stir frying veggies instead. Do give it try and let me know if you liked it. Have you tried any new salads that you loved ?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Frames | Fruit Royalty

Dear foodies,

Weeks seem to be passing by so quick and it's time for another post for my Friday Frames series. This week features another gorgeous jewel - Jackfruit.

The golden hue makes them look divine
The art of stringing words together to form stories seems to be escaping me these days so I'm taking refuge behind photographs and letting them weave a story of their own.

I find Jackfruit to be mildly sweet and floral almost in its flavor. Its unlike any other fruit I've had. The pulp is fibrous and can be pulled into strips like string cheese, my favorite way to eat them :) I got a quarter piece of the fruit at Ranch 99 last week and have been enjoying the fruit all week. I can't remember the last time I had fresh jackfruit and it brought back many memories. Be cautious when cutting out the fruit pods as they can be tough to scoop out. Rub your palms with some oil to avoid staining from the juice of the fruit and keep it away from your clothes. When I told my mom I had jackfruit she said honey was a traditional accompaniment to fruit. I got through the whole batch before trying that combo so I guess I need to get more next time :)

The road heading out of the office my dad worked at used to be lined with numerous food vendors selling seasonal fruits and snacks throughout the year. I remember eagerly waiting for him to come back home bearing a new snack every week. When Jackfruit was in season he would bring home jackfruit chips along with fresh fruit on his way back from work. All things deep fried are great and that holds good in the case of this fruit as well.  As good as the fruit is on its own, the salty, sweet chips are addictive!

When you are done scooping out the flesh please don't discard the seeds. The seeds are just as good if not better. Rinse and dry them out for a day or two. Once you've hoarded enough dry roast them on a hot cast iron skillet until the outer skin blisters and begins to char. When cool to handle, peel the outer skin, season lightly with salt and enjoy a perfect rainy day snack. The insides of the seed are starchy, mildly sweet and treat that needs to be savored to understand its uniqueness. The closest comparison I can think of is roasted chestnuts. The seeds can also be boiled/roasted and used in stews and curries. But to me the roasted taste is enjoyed best on its own. I'm still collecting seeds and will post a photo of the roasted seeds in a few days.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Friday Frames | Summer Colors

Dear Foodies,

Don't you love that yellow ? It's a piece of sunshine you can hold in your palm

Jewel colored radishes, almost too pretty to eat, almost...

With nature doing all the work for us, I only did the assembling. No cooking needed. I got a huge bunch of basil and made pesto with a punch of lemon zest. This platter is my very poor interpretation of a veggie sampler plate I had at Burlap.

ending the meal with some sweet cherries.

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