Acorn Squash and Apple Soup

Fall appears to have dwindled much before I could brace the splashing  golden-yellow to dark maroon hues of withering leaves and an unwelcome winter has already set foot in. As if it was not grim enough, the last few days have been no better than dull and depressing thanks to the dark amalgam of gloomy overcast clouds, icy cold winds and the diminishing daylight.
Yet, I can smell the festivities in the air. Thanksgiving is only a week away and just about every TV show is grooving to the tunes of cooking thanksgiving dinner with nothing short of a twist. Notwithstanding a compelling melancholy outside the door, I set out to warm up this particularly listless end of autumn day in the spirit of  Thanksgiving.
And what added fuel to my cooking fire is this Butternut squash soup recipe from Parents magazine Nov 2010 edition that came as part of their food solutions for simple suppers.
As I had all the time and was in the mood for experimentation, I conjured up the ingredients while I puttered in the kitchen. I didn’t have Butternut squash, so I decided to make-do with what I had at hand, an Acorn Squash instead. Besides, we seldom think of Acorn squash from the soup angle, so imagining that an Indian spin wouldn’t hurt the recipe, I replaced butter with Ghee, cilantro with dried mint leaves and introduced turmeric in the hopes of capturing the beautiful fall color in a bowl. Granny smith apple adds some tart to the otherwise faintly sweet Acorn squash and white or Vidalia onion interweaves itself with the delicate squash and apple flavors sans the pungency. What you get is a mildly aromatic scrumptious bowl of soup fit to brighten up a dreary day.
And I used it to count for the veggie servings in my toddler’s diet as well today.
Things you’ll need:
  • 1/2 Acorn Squash peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 Granny smith apple peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 white or vidalia onion chopped
  • 2-3 tsp Ghee
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • pinch of garlic powder
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 2-3 tsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp chopped spring onion
  • salt

How it’s done:


  • Heat ghee in a medium sized pot over medium-high heat. When the ghee is just hot enough, add the chopped onions, dried mint, garlic powder and turmeric in that order and sauté until onions turn translucent.
  • Add in the diced acorn squash and granny smith apple and sauté for a bit. Sprinkle in the salt and pepper and cook until the veggies turn soft.
  • Add just enough water to cover the veggies, about a cup or so and cover and cook until tender. Allow to cool once cooked.
  • In a blender puree until smooth and return to the pot. Warm it up and adjust with more salt and black pepper if required.
  • Serve warm dressed with heavy cream either whipped or as is and garnished with chopped spring onion greens.

Tips:
  • Just in case you need more twist to the sweetness, squeeze in some lemon juice, but before adding cream.
  • If you don’t have or don’t like Ghee, substitute with Olive oil
  • Do not burn the ghee or it will be fit only for the bin

Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by KitchenAidRed Star Yeast and Le Creuset

Beetroot Paratha | Curried Beetroot Stuffed Flatbread

Cooked Beetroot and potato stuffed flatbread

I can’t say Beetroot was one of my favourite veggies growing up, nor can I say I had a distaste for it either. Whenever it was made, I would quietly go about my eating business, but with no admiration whatsoever as my likely protest. In hindsight, there weren’t too many vegetables to think of, that I didn’t quite like.
Or, may be on second thoughts, it must have got to do with some parental pressures. If only parental pressure works the same way with next-gen kids!
Three decades and a toddler later, I am now in full realization that, anytime you stand your ground as a parent is when Newton’s third law of motion tends to weigh down on one side, with a more than equal and opposite reaction. And that your preschooler is as fiercely independent as she is assertive before she’s taller than a green chilli (metaphorically), does not make it any less harder to push your ways around. With such diametric intentions at play, the outcome is more often than not a tug of war, only tied.
Before I start to sound like I lost my way in the meandering roads of parenting woes, let me assure you, I have a point.
Beetroot has got a lot to do with how tricky it is to trudge the meal-time path, when you are on the other side of the fence, for once. One under 3 feet toddler is all it takes to drive you to your wit’s end. No amount of hard-selling or broker talk suffices to negotiate a simple deal, to eat.
Knowing that Beetroot boasts of considerable levels of iron and a fair share of antioxidants and is also super rich in Vitamin B, which parent would want to give it a pass, don’t you think?
Deal or No deal, the only option I am left with was to disguise Beetroot in a form acceptable to her whims and fancies. And my efforts to camouflage it smartly led to this tasty treat, which not only passed my toddler’s taste tests with flying colors but also exceeded our own expectations as well. The bloody turnip never tasted this good!
If there is anything like Beetroot heaven, this recipe surely gets a place just outside the pearly gates, IMHO* that is.
BTW, Did you know that Beetroot was known for its use as an aphrodisiac during Roman times?
*In my humble opinion
Things you’ll need:
For filling:
  • 1 medium Beet root grated
  • 1 medium Potato boiled and mashed
  • 1 tsp Jeera/Cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Jeera/Cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1-2 tsp Garam masala
  • 4-5 strands cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2-3 tsp oil
  • salt to taste
For paratha dough:
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour for dough
  • additional whole wheat flour for rolling/dusting
  • salt
  • warm water
  • oil for roasting
How it’s done:

{Beet root and potato filling and stuffing}

  • First, mix the whole wheat flour and salt to taste along with warm water and knead into a soft dough. The dough consistency should be softer than that for chapati/roti. Cover and set aside for at least 30 mins
  • Microwave the grated Beetroot for 2-3 mins to partially cook it and reduce its water content
  • Heat oil in a medium-sized kadai/skillet over medium-high heat.
  • When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and let splutter. Once spluttered, add the cumin powder and turmeric powder followed by the microwaved grated beet root and sauté for about 5-10 mins until the hissing sound dies down.
  • Add boiled and mashed potato, garam masala and salt and stir well to mix.
  • Sprinkle chopped cilantro, mix well and keep aside to cool.
  • Knead the dough well again and roll it into lemon sized balls.
  • With both your thumbs and fore-fingers, shape the dough ball into a bowl.
  • Place a spoonful of the beetroot and potato filling in the dough bowl. Bring together all the edges of the dough bowl to the center and cover shut. Now, on your palm, pat the dough flat at point of joining.
  • Dust it in the wheat flour kept for rolling and roll out flat using a rolling-pin.
  • Roast the rolled out paratha on a heated tawa/griddle on both the sides until brown spots appear. Do smear a little oil on both sides.
  • Serve hot with yogurt on the side.

{Beetroot paratha – from rolling to griddle-roasting}

Tips:

  • To check the consistency, make sure that the cooked filling can be shaped roughly into a ball
  • Be gentle and use your wrist to roll out the paratha as otherwise, the filling spills out.
  • Use water as you go to mix the dough, instead of pouring a lot at once.

Beetroot paratha served with greek yogurt

Popeye Mac and Cheese | Spinach Mac and Cheese for Picky Eaters

There’s probably no kid who doesn’t like Mac & Cheese, right?
In a few of my earlier posts I had mentioned how tricky it can get to feed my tiny one. Enough said, she does like a few things and Mac & Cheese luckily is one among them.
Necessity they say is the mother of invention and I feel, mothers have the most necessity for invention.
Every day I have to find new ways to sneak in veggies and fruits (yes, fruits too) in creative ways just so that my toddler gets to eat and have her nutrition right too.
Oh! No, I have no qualms about being a sneaky mom (in a good way that is). Given that, what better medium than Mac & Cheese? So, I made use of this ‘unfair advantage’ and slid in Popeye’s favourite into my little one’s fave food. All is fair in love and food wars isn’t it?
Even though hundreds of packaged ready to make/eat Mac & Cheese come lined up in the supermarket, there’s no better satisfaction than in making my own, it hardly takes more time than the packaged ones. Also, I get to play around with the ingredients and sneak them under my very nose like I did here. What on earth? Turmeric in Mac & Cheese you said? Call me crazy if you like, but I know its antiseptic power. Try telling me who needs it better than kids do?
And rest assured, your finicky eater will lick his plate too ‘cos this recipe comes with a seal of approval from my fussy little one.

Thing’s you’ll need:
  • 1/4 cup Macaroni (your choice of shape)
  • 4-5 large spinach leaves washed and minced
  • 2 tsp boiled and mashed potato (for thickness)
  • 1 tsp minced onion
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp Butter
  • dash of Ground black pepper
  • pinch of garlic powder (substitute with fresh minced garlic if you like)
  • pinch of Turmeric, ‘T’ silent! (I mean, u won’t even know I have added it)
  • 1 mini Babybel (original) cheese (or use cheese of your choice)
  • 1 slice – Horizon American singles cheese (or use cheese of your choice)
  • Salt
How it’s done:

  • Microwave the macaroni immersed in 1/2 a bowl of water and a little salt for 3 mins or until well cooked.
  • Place a small saucepan over medium-heat. Add in the butter.
  • When butter melts, add the garlic and then the minced onions and a pinch of turmeric and sauté until the onions turn translucent.
  • Add in the minced spinach and sauté until the rawness goes away. Add in the mashed potato, salt and ground black pepper and mix well.
  • Now add the milk and let it come to a boil. Add the cooked macaroni into this and stir well.
  • Add in the cheeses and let melt. Add a little more milk if required and keep aside.
  • Serve warm when cooled to room temperature.
Tips:
  • Do not add too much salt either to the veggies or while cooking mac as the cheeses already have some.
  • Spinach is minced because I didn’t want it sticking on my toddler’s tongue, there by creating a chance of rejecting it
Thrilled to know that Rajani of My Kitchen Trials loved the recipe enough to not only make it in her kitchen but also blogged about it.

 

 

Tasty Vegetable Pongal

Pongal [Pon – gul, rhymes with sea-gull] is a classic one item meal most popular as a breakfast in South India. It would not be an overstatement to say that most South Indians would have eaten it at least once. Here I present what I consider a slightly offbeat variation of the commonly known recipe, the origin of which goes somewhat like this.
I was in Dubai this May and as a frazzled mom of a toddler who was on a hunger strike for what seemed like days, I was all ears for any trick that showed the slightest chances of working. So, while sharing each other’s motherhood experiences, my co-sister ((India) one’s husband’s brother’s wife) suggested using okra in the traditional Pongal as one of the toddler pleasing food ideas. Okra in Pongal is not instantly intuitive, you think? I had heard it the first time too, but I was ready to give it a shot if my tiny one opened her mouth. I tried this recipe at the first chance I got to cook for her and lo and behold, she liked it and finished the plate too.
I do not know if it was only to do with the Okra, but she ate and that’s what counts. If you have a trying toddler like mine you are most likely nodding by now. Go ahead and try and let me know if you got a seal of approval from yours. For those of you who have never eaten Pongal once or eaten the original one a gazillion times, whatever your excuse, it sure is worth a try.
The recipe here is adapted for the serving size needs of a toddler and yields about 2 – 3 servings depending upon his/her appetite.

Things’s you’ll need:
  • 2 okra / Lady’s finger finely chopped
  • 1/2 Carrot finely chopped
  • 5-6 stems Dill weed chopped (Sapsige soppu, kannada)
  • 1/2 medium tomato finely chopped
  • 1/4 Onion minced
  • 1/8 cup Split yellow dal (Split Moong dal)
  • 1/8 cup Rice
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds (Jeera)
  • Ground Black pepper to taste (optional)
  • 4 Cashews coarsely crushed
  • 2 -3 tsp Ghee (Clarified Butter)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups Water
How it’s done:
  • Dry roast the rice and dal until rice turns opaque and dal turns light golden making sure not to burn them. Alternatively, microwave the rice and dal for a 1 to 1- 1 /2 mins checking in between. Optionally, a drizzle of ghee can be used for roasting the rice and dal mix.
  • Heat ghee in a pressure cooker, when it is hot enough add the cumin seeds and let it crackle. Add in the cashews.
  • When the cashews turn light golden, sauté the minced onions along with turmeric.
  • When the onion turns translucent, add in the okra and sauté till the okra is no longer sticky.
  • Add in the chopped carrots and dill weed and sauté for a few more minutes.
  • Finally add in the chopped tomato, sauté and add ground pepper and salt to taste.
  • To this, add the roasted rice and dal mix and stir for few more minutes till all the veggies stick well to the rice.
  • Now add the water, cover and pressure cook until at least 3 whistles.
  • When the cooker cools, serve with a drizzle of ghee.

Rice and Yellow dal microwave roasted

Veggies ready for the Pongal
Rice, dal and vegetable mixture before pressure cooking
Tips:
  • Do not let the ghee smoke or burn. If that happens, discard and restart (I know it feels terrible to waste ghee!)
  • For more servings, increase the vegetable proportions and just add water 6 times that of rice & dal mix to yield a soft and porridge like Pongal. Example, for 1 cup of mix i.e, 1/2 and 1/2 cup of rice and yellow dal, add 6 cups of water.
  • A small pressure cooker say of 2 or 3 liters is very handy to cook small quantities especially for “toddler only” food.

Nutrilicious Aloo Paratha | Stuffed Potato Flat Bread for Picky Eaters

Potato stuffed flat bread

Like I mentioned earlier that my two and a half year old is a picky eater, I try to make sure that whatever goes south of her mouth is packed with nutrition. This is a nutritious version of the common Aloo Paratha adapted to the tiny taste buds of toddlers.

Things you’ll need:
For the filling:
  • 1 Potato (medium) – Boiled, skinned and mashed
  • Salt to taste
  • Black Pepper
  • Dried pudina (mint) leaves (optional)
  • 1 wedge Laughing cow Regular cheese
For the dough:
  • 100% Whole wheat flour (I prefer the stone ground variety)
  • Salt
  • Whole Milk
    To serve with:
    • Whole yogurt
    • Home made Ghee

    How it’s done:

    • For the dough, mix the whole wheat flour with salt to taste. Add whole milk little at a time and mix until all the dry flour is incorporated into and forms a soft but not too wet and sticky dough. Knead for a couple of mins, cover and set aside for 30 mins (as this results in a soft pliable  and moist dough).
    • Mix the mashed boiled potato with salt to taste, crushed black pepper and a hint of powdered dried pudina leaves.
    • Finally add in the happy cow cheese wedge (usually one wedge for a medium sized potato) and mix the filling together.
    • Take a dough ball the size of a medium lemon and shape it into a bowl. Scoop a spoon of filling into this bowl.
    • Bring all the sides of the dough bowl to the center and press shut and flatten on the palm of your hand.
    • Dust this dough patty with dry flour on both sides and roll out flat slowly with a roller, making sure to not let the filling out.
    • Now on a heated griddle or ‘tava’, roast this paratha until brown on both the sides. Note that I do not use oil for cooking the paratha.
    • Smear both sides with home made ghee and serve with whole yogurt on the side, when the paratha has cooled enough for the toddler hands.

    Note:

    Make sure not to overdo the dried pudina as toddler taste buds are still developing and instantly reject strong tastes and/or smells.