Wednesday, December 24, 2008

simple noodle soup with lots of veggies

I made this soup for sunny boy one afternoon, when he hadn't gone to the kindergarten and was home. I didn't wish to make an elaborate meal, which I do in the evenings usually when we all eat together. After asking sunny boy, I choose to make this soup and he liked it a lot.
Although there are many ways of making it, I made it this time with the Indian tadka in the beginning and you can always replace broccoli with cabbage or beans or any veggie of choice.

For 2-3 persons


a few broccoli florets, cut into small pieces
3 small carrots, thinly sliced or cubed
a few mushrooms, chopped or thinly sliced
2 handfuls soup noodles (or vermicelli)
salt, to taste
400 - 500 ml water
2 tbsp coriander leaves (I had none)
1 tsp organic vegetable broth (optional)

1 tbsp mustard oil (use any other)
1 tsp cumin
1 pinch hing (asafoetida)
1 tbsp coriander seeds, ground
1/2 tsp turmeric
chili powder to taste


  • clean, wash and prepare the vegetables
  • in a large sauce pan heat oil and splutter the cumin
  • reduce heat and add the remaining spices,
  • stir quickly and immediately add the veggies,
  • stir for a few minutes on medium heat
  • add water, broth and salt and cook till the water begins to boil
  • add the soup noodles / vermicelli and cook till done*
  • if you wish, you can add a teaspoon of mustard oil, olive oil or ghee to the ready soup at the end and some chopped coriander leaves to garnish
Bon Apettit!

*NOTE: depending on the cooking time of the noodles and the type of veggies, the cooking time of veggies before adding the noodles could change. Adjust accordingly.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Quick corn snacks

A very very simple & quite healthy recipe for evening snacks of toddlers and kids. I know you might already know this or a variant of this but still I am writing for people like me who discovered it quite recently :-)

Ingredients :

Potato : 1 small
Frozen Sweet corn : 1 tbsp
Frozen Peas : 1 tbsp
Butter : 1/2 tsp
Roasted and crushed cumin seeds : 1 pinch
Salt to taste

Optional :

Chat Masala
Black Pepper

Steps :

1. Cut potatos in small chunks.
2. Mix protatoes, corn, peas, butter and water in a microwave bowl.
3. Microwave for 3 minutes.
4. Add salt and roasted cumin seeds.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

a quickfix meal with scrambled bread and veggies eggs

Before I begin with the actual post, let me just inform you that after a few exchange of emails we have sorted out things and everything is fine! :)

I made this meal for my sunny boy in a jiffy as we had been out of the house in the afternoon and by the time we came back it was late and he was hungry, a bit early for dinner, but that's how it is with children. So, I had to make something quick which was wholesome too. And this is what I made:

For 2 servings

1 tbsp ghee or oil
2 slices of bread (white , whole wheat or gluten free), cut into small or large squares
2 eggs, beaten to make very frothy, like with a twirl whisk
1 small onion, finely chopped (optional)
6 mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 small carrots, grated
1/2 tsp cumin (optional)
1 tsp ground coriander seeds (optional)
1/4 tsp pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp turmeric (optional)


  • cut and prepare the bread and mushrooms and carrots
  • you can also choose veggies of your own choice like very finely cut cauliflower, cabbage, zucchini or green beans, or peas
  • heat the ghee or oil in the pan and add cumin so that it splutters, add coriander and turmeric, stir shortly, add onion and veggies and stir and cook on medium heat till done
  • add the bread pieces, stirring for another one minute
  • add salt and pepper and stir to mix
  • add the beaten eggs and either prepare like scrambled eggs for another one minute
  • or just simmer till the eggs have been cooked through
I initially thought of making a french toast with the egg mainly on one side and veggies on the other, but then it didn't work out, so I cut up the bread into small pieces and mixed with the eggs.
Sunny boy enjoyed it a lot. He ate it with some home made apple onion and tomato chutney, but you can substitute it with anything else you have handy at home.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What affects Calcium absorption?

Updated on 11. Jan 2009

Before I write anything here, it is important to note that a healthy and balanced diet as we know it from our parents and grand parents is normally good enough to take care of any problems and parents of healthy and happy children growing properly need not worry.
Sometimes, if some doubts appear about the child's growth then it is surely good to consult the doctor and clarify things and ask for some good tips on increasing the calcium intake, if required.

I am required to remove some important calcium sources from my son's diet temporarily. Here are some facts I collected subsequently to ensure a good calcium intake despite that:

Calcium Absorption is affected by:

  1. Vitamin D: Vitamin D is very important for good calcium absorption. It is the signal for the body to absorb calcium , if absent causes calcium malabsorption. Among children known as Rickets among children and osteomalacia in adults. Apart from being produced by the body from sunlight, some common and good sources of Vitamin D are saltwater fishes (sea fishes) ; milk and milk products; eggs (egg yolk); liver; fortified products - cereals, margarine, vegan milk sources etc.
  2. Phytates (phytic acid) : reduce calcium absorption by binding to the calcium ions. These are found naturally in plant sources like grains, whole grain breads, (wheat) bran, soy beans (although the calcium is still partially available for absorption by the body - source), soy isolates, nuts and seeds. Phytates can be reduced by cooking, sprouting and fermentation (lactic acid - through naturally occurring yeasts). Some examples of such fermented products are yoghurt, sour /leavened breads, sour dough starters, yeast breads, rice preparations like idlis, dosas uttapams made with fermented/leavened rice. Sprouting is another wonderful way of reducing these toxins.
  3. Oxalic acid: It reduces calcium absorption by binding to the calcium ions. Found highly in vegetables like spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes, rhubarb and beans. (check the link to jugalbandi for more infomation that)
  4. Age: The amount of calcium absorbed by the body decreases with age. This is one of the reasons why increasing the calcium intake after the age 50+ is so important to prevent calcium malnutrition and prevent osteoporosis, a not so uncommon problem among women and men at this age.
Calcium excretion (loss) is affected by (source):
  1. Sodium (Na+ ; the mineral, a constituent of table salt) and proteins in the food increase the loss of calcium. However, if the food high in sodium and proteins also contains calcium, then it could counteract the effect of calcium loss, as this calcium will get used up to prevent further loss.
  2. Potassium (Ka+ ; the mineral): High potassium diet, like eating more than 7-8 servings of fruits per day, in the presence of high sodium diet can help decrease the calcium loss .
  3. Caffeine intake can temporarily increase calcium loss, but it can be easily counteracted by increasing the amount of calcium intake. Do not drink it together with meals.
Office of Dietary Supplements

As a response to a comment, a clarification:
Please note that building of stones to our present scientific knowledge in whichever part of the body is not less frequent among those who eat meat than those who don't. Vegetarians do not have more stones than those who eat meat. It is, however, advised to those who have kidney stones, for example, to avoid eating plant products high in oxalic acid, or also those who have gaut or rheumatoid arthritis. It is usually a genetic predisposition for some.
If you do not agree with the facts given here or believe them not to be true, then you are most welcome to disagree, but then please include a reliable source of your information, or mention it accordingly and please don't claim it to be a fact just because you have been hearing it from a "neighbour", or have some vague information in your mind, it is irresponsible. use this as a chance to check the information you have before you put it here, please.

Another important aspect of calcium uptake is its interference with the intake of other important dietary minerals like Iron, Magnesium, Zinc and Phosphorus (a separate post on this topic will follow).

Other related posts at H&T:
How much calcium does a child need?

Update on 11. Jan 2009:
Just found this very informative page on calcium at Bee and Jai's Jugalbandi:
Calcium Q&A

Dairy free Milkshakes

Some recipes of milk shakes I'm using for sunny boy to give him the otherwise-not-so-good-tasting calcium fortified rice milk, but these are wonderful with normal dairy milk too...

Raspberry milkshake

You need:
8 raspberries
150 ml milk (about a coffee cup) - I used calcium fortified rice milk
1/2 tsp sugar or honey (is required as the raspberries are quite tart)

Mix everything with a hand blender in a deep bowl. To remove seeds pass through a tea sieve. You can make it the same way using straberries and blueberries too.

Banana milkshake

You need:
1/2 medium sized banana
150 ml milk (about a coffee cup) - I used calcium fortified rice milk

Mix everything with a hand blender in a deep bowl. make it frothy by holding the blender at the surface.

Date milkshake
Recipe from Priya's Easy N Tatsy

You need:
3 dates, deseeded and chopped coarsely
1/2 tsp cocoa (or 1 tsp drinking chocolate powder) -optional,
150 ml milk (about a coffee cup) - I used calcium fortified rice milk
1 icecube (optional)

Soak dates in milk overnight (if you don't mind serving it warm then you can also soak it for half an hour in warm milk, as per the instructions at Priya's blog). dissolve the cocoa in 1 teaspoon hot water. Puree everything together. serve with a date on the glas rim.

Although, dates don't seem to go so well with rice milk, as they only make the milk sweet, but being comparitively low in flavours, don't hide the stronge taste of rice milk. So, I tried it with some cocoa, which did seem to help a bit and I made him drink half the milk, by letting him take one sip for each of his relatives - nana, nani, cousines, mausis, bua, mumma-papa etc, or sometimes I use his pet softtoys - Leonie, Wau wau and so on. :)

Today I also tried making a fruit pudding with rice milk, where I pureed some fruits along with the milk and cooked it up with one tablespoon of cornstarch. The thing I didn't like about it is the fact that I had to add a heapful of sugar fo it to be palatable. But, as such I think it is a good idea. It worked better than the milk shakes. But, I can't make it every day.

Reasons for using fortified rice milk: He has to be on this diary and soya free diet for about two to three weeks, to see if he is showing any improvement, as he showed a low level allergy to them and wheat in a bloof test. If you have other ideas, they are most welcome.
A good source of information on calcium from the Office of Dietery Suppliments (National Institute of Health), USA.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mung sprouts, a salad

Sprouts are in general quite healthy. As all the nutrients once the seeds start to sprout, are mobilised and so to say in an active form, which is quite valuable for the body and much easily available to be absorbed than otherwise. Sprouting also minimises the phytotoxins (phytates) present in beans, which make it unhealthy for them to be eaten raw.
But, still slightly heating it with some water and optionally with spices on medium low heat for a few minutes is the best way to eat them.
This is how I make it for a quick meal or snack:
Mung sprouts salad


2 cups mung sprouts
1 tbsp oil
1/3 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
a few tbsp water
salt to taste
1/4 th English cucumber or 1/2 of large Indian varieties, peeled and cubed
1 large tomato, cubed
1 small red or yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large boiled potato, cubed (optional)
1/2 green chili, finely chopped (optional)
1 - 2 tbsp lemon- / lime juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
1/2 tsp ground roasted cumin
1/4 tsp ground black salt, or to taste


  • heat oil in a fry pan on medium heat
  • add cumin so that it immediately splutters, add turmeric and sprouts
  • stir immediately and add some water, cover with lid and cook on medium low for 3 -5 minutes
  • cut the fresh cucumber, tomatoes, potatoes and onions in a bowl
  • add the lemon juice, chilli and coriander leaves
  • add salt to the sprouts, once done, to taste
  • either mix with the vegetables or keep in separate bowls while serving,
  • sprinkle with roasted cumin and black salt to taste and serve
This time Rishab ate it like this:
with parantha and another potato-red bell pepper sabzi and a small piece of mozarella

Friday, December 5, 2008

Southwest sauce

I've recently become a Subway addict, and suddenly realized that I could make myself a Sub of sorts, if only I had some Southwest sauce and mayo. Got this recipe from a friend, am yet to try it out. I'll update this post when I do!

3 tbsp Vinegar
Squeeze of lime juice(can use the juice of 2 limes instead of vinegar)
1 cup Mayonnaise(preferably sugar-free, or diet mayo)
4 tbsp Dijon mustard
To taste - pickled jalapeno or chipotle.
8 cloves garlic, ground to paste

Substitute for jalapeno or chipotle in India(can be used in any recipe demanding pickled peppers, so you can pickle more than 2 at a time):
Take those absolutely mild green chillies, you'll need about 2 for this recipe.
Marinade in some vinegar, add a few poppy seeds("posto") and mustard seeds.
Salt generously. Add a teeny-tiny bit of sugar if you want.
Keep for 3 days, then deseed the chillies and puree them with a bit of the vinegar used and a little capsicum for the peppery smell.

Mix together the pickled peppers, mayo and mustard.
Add the garlic, adjust salt and seasoning(some chilli powder works nicely) to taste.
Drizzle some refined oil and mix in the vinegar and lime juice.

Et voila!
(Er... does this count as healthy enough to be here? It's definitely healthy for me 'cause i'll use about 1-2 tsp in a sandwich FULL of veggies!)

Banana "mushie"

I've been eating at least 4 bananas daily recently, so trying to find out new things to do with them. I used to have them chopped up with oats, but got bored of that soon enough. Plus it takes too long to eat!

Then I remembered something I'd heard once in passing a few years ago. Tried it out, and it's turned out beautifully.

Bananas(I use 2 bananas on 3 pieces of bread)
Bread(preferably unsweetened, cut into 3/4in. slices)
A little ground pepper
Honey if you want.

Toast the bread lightly.
Mush up the banana with a little pepper and honey, spread it on the toast - I like mine slightly warm - and devour immediately. This also works for slightly overripe bananas which you might not want to eat otherwise.

Carrot, the best way to eat them.... with some oil or a type of fat. Give them to kids grated or cut into thin slices.

It is the oils and fats which are necessary for the good pro-vitamin A (β carotene) to be absorbed by our body. Let the children chew the carrots properly as well.

These are three tempting ways that I remember of doing it for the kids:

  1. A yoghurt dip: mix some yoghurt (strained, if possible)/curd/low fat- quark with whipped cream or clotted cream (Indian malai), add some salt and pepper or a pinch of ground roasted cumin. Serve with carrots, grated or cut into thin sticks or rings to be eaten as finger food
  2. Just sprinkle grated carrots (or in any form) with some edible oil (which has not been heated!), a teaspoon of lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper or ground roasted cumin
  3. A vinaigrette: mix some olive oil (or oil of choice) with natural white wine vinegar , salt, mustard (optional), roasted ground cumin, pepper or a pinch of chili powder, stir thoroughly with a spoon till you get homogeneous mass and dip your carrots in it, like we did today (see picture above)
We will use the leftover vinaigrette tomorrow, maybe again with carrots or some cucumber and tomatoes.

TIP: try to use as much oils high in unsaturated fatty acids (mono and poly unsaturated), as they contain the types of fatty acids which cannot be produced in our body. For example.

cold pressed rapeseed oil
cold pressed mustard oil
extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

These oils are not good for deep frying, as they mono and poly unsaturated fatty acids degrade on heating on high temperatures, the reason why one needs to buy these which have been extracted by cold pressing. But, these can still be used for cooking or (stir-) frying or baking

Some examples of oils which should :
  1. not be heated (at best to be used cold),
  2. always kept in the dark,
  3. in air-tight containers (should not come in contact with too much air - oxidative degradation)
  4. and at best be used up fast as they are very unstable, being so rich in unsaturated fatty acids which make them so healthy :
  • walnut oil
  • sesame seed oil
  • almond oil
  • pumpkin seed oil
Some more comparatively stable oils, which are good for deep frying (should not be done too often, of course!):
  • peanut oil
  • sunflower oil
  • coconut oil
  • ghee - not a plant oil, but animal fat, but, is also a good substitute. But, one should keep in mind the high amount of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol in it
Therefore, deep frying should best be done not more than once a month, or at best even lesser.
Any type of oil should always be stored in airtight containers otherwise it degrades (becomes rancid) and even the comparitively stable ones, once heated on high temperatures, also start to degrade much more and faster, so repeated heating of oil, especially in large gaps of days is not good. Do not store deep fried oil for long, but, either use it as much possible in the next few days or throw it away. Wastage or not, nothing is wrong if it is for your health.
Give me more names of oils if you want to know about them which I have left out. I have only mentioned the most common ones.