Monday, March 26, 2012

Blueberry Muffins for Breakfast - Wholesome Goodness

“Some Flour and Eggs and Milk and Sugar, Then I Stir It All Together”, sang Caillou’s Daddy merrily. Little Sid looked at me and said, “cupcake khabo” (I want to have cupcakes.) I ignored and continued to stare at the FB screen. He nudged me again, “cake banao, now!” (Make a cake, now!!!) “Is that an order?” I calmly replied. The smarty gave the cutest sheepish smile and he instantly knew that his job is done!

But I bargained a little. Instead of cupcakes, Lil Sid is going to get muffins. Poor kid still does understand the difference between a muffin and a cupcake. Any cake like substance in a paper cup is a cupcake for him and hence it is easy to cheat. Personally I prefer muffins because of their dense and almost bread like texture. They are pretty filling and great choice for breakfast on the go. They taste best oven fresh, cooled yet slight warm; moist and decadent and smelling heavenly. I often freeze my extra muffins. Pop in the microwave oven for 45 sec and they are oven fresh again.

I really don’t need to refer to my recipe collections to make these muffins. I can make them with my eyes closed. They are so simple. And the best part it, I don’t need any hi-fi gadgets; just a big bowl for the dry ingredients and a measuring cup for the wet ingredients, a wire whisk, a spatula, muffin tin, paper liners and I am good to go.

Diabetics are advised to avoid refined flour, like all-purpose flour because it had a high Glycemic Index, which caused spikes in your blood sugar. So I have replaced the all-purpose flour, with whole wheat flour. I was very skeptical when I first made it, thinking I’ll get tough muffins. But trust me, you will not miss the all-purpose flour at all.

What I used:
Blueberries - 1 dry pint (11 oz/311 gm)

Dry Ingredients:
Whole Wheat Flour (Atta)- 2 cups
Splenda or Sugar - 1 cup 
(or any zero calorie sugar substitute)
Baking Powder - 2 tsp
Salt – ½ tsp

Wet Ingredients:
Canola/ Corn/ Veg Oil - 1/4 cup
Egg (whites) - 2
Egg (whole) - 1
Fat free yogurt - 1 cup
Vanilla Extract - 1 tbsp (if using all purpose flour, use only 1 tsp of vanilla extract)
Whole wheat flour had its distinct smell. Hence the amount of vanilla extract is more.

How I did it:
Preheat the oven at 375F or 190C.

Shift all the items under 'Dry Ingredients'

In a measuring cup, add oil, egg whites, yogurt and vanilla extract.

Whisk everything into a homogeneous mixture.

Now add the 'Wet Ingredients' to the 'Dry Ingredients' and mix until just incorporated. The important thing is not to over mix the batter. The batter should be still lumpy and traces of flour could be seen. Don't worry about the lumps as the batter continues to blend as it bakes and any lumps will disappear. Read more on mixing muffin batter here.

Coat the blueberries in 1s tbsp of flour, to avoid sinking and add to the batter. Fold gently.
Grease your muffin tin well or line it with paper cups. Evenly fill each cup and bake 20 - 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean and the crust is golden and crisp.

Twenty-five impatient minutes later, I sink my teeth in a crisp golden crust, feeling the moist and tender interior. Its dense but not too much and blueberry blast in every mouthful! Bliss!!!

These muffins can be made with any other berries or nuts or even chocolate chips and is a must try. And now Lil Sid has decorated his muffin with Hershey's syrup (the very first pic and yes! he decorated it himself). I cannot imagine my blueberry muffin with chocolate, but he said "YUMMY" after every bite! 

Diabetic Platter: These muffins are wholesome and very filling and a delicious choice for breakfast. Pair it with a egg white omelet or a fruit smoothie to power start your day. Though I often have it with just my morning tea for a super quick breakfast. The sugar substitute provides the sweetness without spiking the blood sugar. However, sugar substitutes are not supposed to be very healthy for you, so limit their intake. I am more of a tea drinker than coffee and I have my tea without sugar. I have restricted my sugar substitute intake to only cakes and muffins as I just cannot do without them :) And remember diabetic or not Never miss your Breakfast!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Chicken Corn Chowder - Cozy and Comfy

Cincinnati is far from being chilly right now. Just two weeks into March and the temperature are constantly in the neighborhood of 70sF (20sC). “Its early spring!” says The Weather Channel. And a gorgeous spring it is indeed! Greenery is back and so are the birdies and the kiddies and the pollen and the allergens!

As I walk through the color riot of fresh produce in my Farmer’s Market, sniffling and sneezing, my heart craves for something warm, cozy and soothing. What I wanted was the Best Chicken Sweet Corn Soup, prepared, served and preferably fed to me by Ma. She makes the best soup and no matter how hard I try, the taste is simply “non-recreatable”. Well, it is true for almost all her recipes.

Coming back to my craving, I wanted a thick and creamy soup and not the thin watery types (I have nothing against them. I L-O-V-E them and often make them for myself and Sid, but just not in the mood!). In one corner of the market, I found “Fresh Homemade Soup”. They were selling Tomato-Basil Soup, Minestrone Soup and Clam Chowder. The look, smell and the texture of the Clam Chowder was exactly what I was looking for. But ‘CLAM’ is a strict no-no for me; severe sea-food allergy you see! So had a cup full of Minestrone Soup, which was delicious but Chowder kept haunting me. Two hours later, I had read up all the Chowder recipes available on the World Wide Web. Excerpts:

    1. "In North America Chowder is a generic name for a wide variety of seafood or vegetable stews and thickened soups, often with milk or cream." Says Wiki.

    2. After the most popular Clam Chowder, you also have Corn Chowder and Chicken Chowder.

    3. Depending on the flavoring, you have Mexicanized, Italianized, Mediterraneanized or even Indianized version of your Chowder.

    4. The common ingredients in any chowder: Celery, Carrots, Onion/Shallots, Potato, Flour (thickening agent), Bacon, Milk, Cream and Chicken/ Vegetable Broth.

Since I intend to have the Chowder for my dinner, I added some chicken as the protein factor. Hence it became a Chicken Corn Chowder. Now, I need some swaps to make it really mine and diabetic friendly.

OUT – Can of cream of corn;
IN – Homemade cream of corn, by pureeing 1 cup of frozen corn with 1 cup of Fat-free milk.

OUT – 1 cup Heavy Cream;
IN – 1 cup of Fat Free Half and Half

OUT – 3 tbs of All Purpose Flour;
IN – 2 tsp of corn starch mixed with 1 tbs of chicken stock

Also, I added around 1 cup of quartered mushrooms, for its meaty texture and flavor and because I am obsessed with them. I did not add any potatoes. Potatoes and corn together in one dish…. way too much carb/ sugar to handle. You can add potatoes to it, if you please. And you can add any spices, like  a pinch of cumin or a pinch of all-spice or a pinch of dried oregano to give your own special touch.

A little prep work is needed on the chicken, corn and veggies. So here it goes:
PREP 1 - The Baked Chicken:

PREP 2 - The Home-made Cream of Corn: 

PREP 3 - The Veggies: 

Now for the cooking part:

What I used:
Corn Puree - 2 cups 
Cooked Chicken - 1 cup
Onions - 1 cup diced (1 medium is fine)
Celery - 1 cup diced (3 ribs approx)
Carrot - 1 cup diced (10-12 baby carrots approx)
Mushroom - 1 cup quartered (4 large and 3 small ones were used)
Garlic - 2 cloves minced
Corn - 1 cup (thawed)
Chicken Stock - 2 cups
cornstarch - 2 tsp mixed with 1 tbs of chicken stock
Fat free Half and Half - 1 cup
Nutmeg - a fat pinch
Olive Oil - 2 tbs

How I did it:

Heat Olive/ Veg/ Canola oil in a large saucepan or soup pot.

Add the minced garlic and let it brown (not black!) lightly.

Add the onions and little salt and saute till translucent.

Add the carrots, celery and mushroom and saute till little softened.

Add the pureed corn and stir till the raw smell is gone.

Next add 2 cups of chicken stock, corn kernels, salt, pepper and nutmeg and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for 20 mins, till the veggies are soft and cooked through.

Add the chicken pieces in the last 10 min of the simmering time.

I felt the starch from the pureed corn had thicken the soup considerably and hence omitted the cornstarch step. In case you find or feel your soup is a bit runnier, you can go ahead and add the corn starch-chicken stock mixture at this point.

Do a taste check and adjust the seasoning.

Finally, add the half and half and give it a good stir and take it off the heat.

Serve and enjoy!!!

I felt a little grated Parmesan would have enhanced the 'YUM' factor, but did not have any in hand. The chowder was everything that I expected and more. It was warm, creamy, comforting and absolutely delicious. I never had chowder before, so I wont compare, but it is worth giving a try.

Sid’s Verdict: He had the soup quietly. Answered my “How is it?”, with a frown, that make me go to the kitchen and do a taste check again and wonder what else can I do to make him eat his dinner fuss-free. Fifteen minutes later, he hugged me and said, “Its YUMMY Mommy, Thank you!” My day (or night) is made!

Diabetic Platter: Diabetic Platter: I have no idea about the caloric content of this dish. I had a big bowl of the soup, approx 14 oz and my fasting blood sugar, next morning was normal (117) . Hence, I can suggest this as a wholesome dinner. My 14 oz of soup was enough to make me feel full, but you can add 2 slices of whole grain bread to complete your dinner. Desert for me was a small bowl of juicy, super delicious strawberry!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Verde El Pollo - Baked Cilantro Chicken

So what’s in a name! Call it Baked Cilantro Chicken, or Dhonepata Tengri Kabab or even Verde El Pollo! ‘Verde’ is Spanish for ‘green’ and ‘el pollo’ is ‘chicken’ in Spanish. So Verde El Pollo literally means Green Chicken. The ‘Green’ here comes from my favorite herb, Cilantro or Coriander leaves or Dhonepata or Dhaniya or Kothmir - What’s in a name! And now a little story how I managed to create Verde El Pollo!

I was contemplating making Bong Mom’s Dhonepata Maach for a long time now. Finally, I could get hold of nearly all the ingredients. Instead of using 1 cup of coriander leaves, as the recipe called for, I used a bunch and doubled rest of the ingredients and added a few personal touches. Resultant, I had a nearly a cup of leftover masala.

Being the resourceful person that I am, I marinated few cute drumettes that were sitting on my freezer for some time now, in the leftover masala and baked them on a 350F oven for 50 mins and wow! Verde El Pollo is born!

But why the strange name? Well, Sam fell in love with the Spanish language during his 4 month stint in the Mexican town of Juárez. And his favorite way of showing off his Spanish skills is by suddenly switching to Español in between conversations, especially arguments, much to my irritation. So I thought of getting back at him by giving my accidental innovation a Spanish name.

What I used:

Chicken drumettes – 1 pound (approx. 10 pieces)
(Drumettes is the small fleshy part of a chicken wing, that resembles a drumstick. Its somewhere between a drumstick and lollypop)

For the Marinade:
Cilantro/ Coriander leaves – 1 cup
Greek Yogurt (or any thick yogurt) - 1 cup 
Garlic – 4 cloves
Ginger – 1” piece
Green Chillies – 2-3 (depends how hot you want)
Kasoori Methi – ½ tsp
Garam Masala – ½ tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Sugar – ½ tsp

How I did it:
Preheat the oven at 350F or 175C.

Grind all the ingredients listed under ‘Marinade’ to a thick paste.

Coat the chicken drumettes with the marinade and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hrs.

Place the chicken drumsticks on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake until the skin is crisp and caramelized, about 50 to 55 minutes. I broiled the last 5 mins of cooking time.

Squeeze some lemon juice and sprinkle some rock salt on the grilled drumettes. (Optional step)

Note: This dish does not use any oil. I kept the skin on the drumettes, so that it can have a crispy layer and also the oil present in the skin, keeps the chicken moist during the cooking process. You can do away with it. In that case add a tablespoon of oil in the marinade. 

Diabetic Platter: Diabetic Platter: This is healthy and tasty dish. Have 2-3 drumettes, add 2 whole wheat rotis or tortilla, a small cup of cooked vegetable (I had alu-fulkophir tarkari, i.e. potato-cauliflower curry) and cucumber salad and you have a satisfying dinner plate ready.

And oh! The  Dhonepata Maach was yumm! I did not fancy “Shaan’s Fish Seasoning” very much. Next time, will use  Bong Mom’s spice mix of Kasoori Methi, Garam Masala, Coriander powder and Aamchur, instead. And Yes! there will be next time.