Dec 24, 2008

Hot Chana and Puri

I'm playing around with blog formatting, especially since I'm turning emails into blogs. If you have any comments on preferred formats, please let me know

(originally emailed April 30, 2008)

Photo: Hot Chana with Moghlai Spinach, basmati rice, and storebought 'naan'

I thought that I might not send out a recipe this week because I haven't been particularly inspired lately. But then I ate dinner tonight, and it was delicious, so you're hearing about it.

Kyle and I bought a vegetarian indian cookbook a while ago but we've been intimidated by it because the recipes are written in a funny format. Once we started cooking from it, however, we found out that it's actually quite easy and the food is good. We picked a meal called "hot chana" (Chickpeas with very hot spices), because we both love ordering chana masala from indian food restaurants. However, we were supposed to make it last week and I just kept putting it off because we also decided to make a flatbread and for some reason I thought it would be a lot of effort. Well we had to make it today because it's the last meal on our "weekly schedule" of meals, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did it take less than 1hr to prepare (including 1/2 hour sit time for the flatbread), but it was also delicious and tasted like actual Indian food (always exciting). And because I made use of one of my 2 new cilantro tricks, I'm going to share those with you too. I find that one bunch of cilantro is too much to use up before it goes rotten, so I've tried to find things to do with it to avoid wasting. (tricks to follow in a different post)

We had this meal with a Puri (fried, puffed whole wheat flat bread), which was a new one for us. I started cooking chickpea flour pancakes with our Indian meals, but chickpeas with chickpea flour pancakes? It's a bit much.

The hot chana meal + flatbreads was a good amount for 2 people, but we've already figured we're going to be hungry in a couple hours. It would have been nice to round it off with some sort of green veggie, and maybe a potato dish if we were feeling particularly ambitious. In the future I will probably share a spinach recipe (David showed us this one - it's GOOD), and a potato recipe from this veg indian cookbook.

Photo: Hot Channa with the lazy version of naan (recipe to be posted at a later date)

Hot Chana (chickpeas with spices)
Effort: easy
Ingredients: semi-easy. It calls for black mustard seeds which I can't find anywhere. And hing, which I also can't find. But I just use normal mustard seeds (bulk barn), and omit hing.
Cookbook: Indian vegetarian cooking in your home
1 Tbsp veg oil
1 tsp cumin seed/mustard seed/sesame see mix
1/4 cup onion, chopped
3 Indian bay leaves (I used regular bay leaves)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (or 2 cilantro cubes, as I used)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp salt
1/2-1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/8 cup veg broth
1. Put onion, bay leaves, cilantro and garlic in a bowl.
2. Put cumin, coriander, salt, red pepper, tumeric and garam masala in another bowl
3. Rinse chickpeas
4. Heat oil, cumin/mustard/sesamee seed mixture in a pan until seeds pop.
5. Add onion bowl and cook until onions transparent.
6. Add spice bowl, followed by chickpeas and veg broth.
7. Mix (simmer if desired), and serve.

The chana recipe recommended serving with puri (below), although rice and/or other breads could work. I tend to eat this along dish with another Indian meal, such as Shahi Paneer, Moghlai Spinach, or Potatoes.

Puri (whole wheat flat bread)
Effort: easy
Ingredients: easy if you're willing to substitute
cookbook: Indian Vegetarian Cooking at your house
1 cup (Indian) whole wheat flour (I used regular whole wheat flour and it was OK)
1/4 TBSP veg oil
dash salt
optional: dashes of cumin powder, coriander powder, hot pepper, tumeric
1/4 + a little bit extra warm water
1. Mix flour, oil and salt into a bowl. Slowly add water, just enough to form a firm dough, and knead until smooth. Cover and let rest at least 1/2 hour.
2. Knead dough briefly. Divide into small golf-ball sized balls. Roll out into 6" rounds on an oiled board. Heat veg oil in wok or frying pan. Add a little salt to oil to keep it from smoking.
3. Fry one puri at a time, holding them under oil on first side until they puff. Turn and fry until light brown, and drain on paper towels.

Dec 11, 2008

Picante Pasta

This is my first email that I also post to the blog simultaneously. Go me!

I think eventually I'll phase out of emails and just go to blogs... However there are ways of getting notified of new blog posts so you don't have to remember to check it all the time. Either way, there will be dual posts for now. The blog will be the only place I post photos, though. Although I'd like to point out yet again that taking photos of food is REALLY REALLY HARD.

I can't remember if I've told this story but I'll tell it now anyways, at the risk of repeating myself. I'm a big fan of Freecycling ( - where you give away stuff you don't want anymore and you get stuff for free), both to get rid of stuff I don't want and to get stuff that I do want. A few months ago, I grabbed hundreds of recipe cards off some woman who must have been collecting them for years (literally... there were some very 50's style recipes going on there). I sorted through them and grabbed anything that sounded remotely interesting (weeding out all of the meat recipes), and I still ended up with well over 100 recipes. A lot of them are dessert recipes (which means I'll probably never make them), but some of them were salads and a few were pastas or other veggie-based entrees. Today's recipe is one of those. It's from a series of recipes called Grandma's Kitchen, and it's actually called "Linguine with Picante Sauce" but I've just been calling it Picante Pasta and there's no reason that it has to be linguine, so whatever. The recipe sounds a bit weird because it involves black beans + pasta, but I was very happy with the end result. Topping it with mozza cheese made it extra yum, too. I've modified the directions slightly because I don't agree with the order they were written in.
As always, I suggest chopping all of the veggies up first so that the actually cooking part isn't stressful.

Picante Pasta
Effort: very easy
Ingredients: very easy
Source: Grandma's kitchen card (modified from)

  • 8 oz linguine (I broke my linguine noodles in half because I"m a slob and can't handle full-length linguine without making a mess of myself)
  • 1 med onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp veg oil
  • 2 1/2 cups canned stewed tomatoes (we used diced)
  • 1/4 cup picante sauce (we used plain ol' salsa)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 oz finely shredded Colby Jack cheese blend (we used mozzarella because that's what we had on hand)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

  1. Heat veg oil in large skillet over med-hi heat until hot. Add onion and garlic and mix well. Saute until onion is tender.
  2. Add undrained tomatoes, picante sauce (salsa), black beans, chili powder, cumin, and oregano and mix well. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and cover.
  3. Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes; remove cover. Increase heat to med-high. Cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is the desired consistency, about 5 min.
  4. Meanwhile (around step 2 or 3), cook pasta using package directions; drain. Rinse quickly and cover to keep warm.
  5. Serve sauce over pasta (either one large platter or individual plates/bowls), sprinkle with cheese and cilantro.

Dec 8, 2008

How to Peel Tomatoes

I learned this technique from David Bradley.

  • Score tomatoes crosswise on both ends (ie: the stem side and the opposite from stem side) so that you have two "X" marks
  • place tomatoes in a heat proof dish (not plastic!) so that all your tomatoes fit in one layer but there isn't much extra space around them (I usually use a pot)
  • Pour boiling water over the tomatoes and let sit for a minute or two while you do something else
  • If they're big tomatoes, flip them over so both sides get exposed to the hot water
  • Come back and scoop one tomato out at a time - simply grab the skin and pull it off. If all goes well, the skin should just slip off. If it's being difficult, give it some more time or just use a small paring knife to help it out

Dec 7, 2008

A Delicious Mix of Pureed Vegetables

(originally emailed on 2008-12-28)
Happy holidays everyone!

I kid you not about the name of this recipe. It sounds odd, and it ends up looking pretty weird too. But I found it really tasty (once I added a few extra things) when served with pita bread. It takes a long time to make, but it's mostly chopping and then let everything simmer for an hour, so it's not bad. I've even had success with for crockpot cooking, too (I'll add directions at the end). I'll point out the extra ingredients that I added.

Also, the previous post contains a lot of information on Iron. Apparently it is somewhat easier to become anemic if you are vegetarian, because the iron in plants is more difficult to absorb than that in meat. I did some research to find out some facts about iron, as well as some of the foods that are rich in iron. Some of them were really surprising.

A delicious puree of mixed vegetables
Effort: easy
Ingredients: very common (fresh dill is the most difficult, but it's essential so don't omit it! and garam masala can be picked up at any bulk barn)
Cookbook: World vegetarian (Madhur jaffrey)

  • 1/4 cup peanut or olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, pealed and chopped
  • 1 fresh hot green chili (use more or less as desired)
  • 1 med. onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach, trimmed, well washed and chopped (note: a bag in the produce section is about 8oz. we used that amount and it worked out well)
  • 10 green beans, cut crosswise into fine rounds
  • 1 med. carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise and then cut crosswise into fine slices
  • 1 med. potato, peeled and cut into small dice (Note: if you cut the chunks small enough, you can leave the peel on for extra nutritiousness - including iron)
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped (instructions on how to peel tomatoes here)
  • 1 med zucchini, cut into small dice
  • 1 very well-packed cup of chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup yellow split peas (we couldn't find any so we substituted lentils which we boiled for 10min before adding)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • margarine / butter (Nic's addition)
  • garam masala (Nic's addition)
  • baguette and/or pita or other flatbread (to eat the puree with)

  1. put oil, garlic and chili into a very large pan (we used a wok) over med-high heat.
  2. when garlic is golden, add onion, spinach, green beans, carrot, potato, tomatoes, zucchini, dill, split peas/lentils, and 3 cups of water. Stir and bring to a simmer
  3. cover, turn heat down to low, and simmer gently for 30min.
  4. -turn heat up slightly to med-low, uncover partially, and continue to cook for another 30min.
  5. add salt and mix.
  6. mash vegetables together until you have a coarse puree (I used one of those hand-blenders that you can use to make milkshakes with. i didn't blend it to homogenization, though)
  7. serve in bowls. add some margarine to each bowl to help make the flavour "deeper" or "more savoury". sprinkle with a little bit of garam masala, until you like the taste. eat with bread, pitas, flatbread, etc.

Crockpot Directions
  1. put oil, garlic and chili into a medium pan over med-high heat.
  2. when garlic is golden, add onion, green beans, carrot, potato, tomatoes, and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes
  3. Put spinach, dill, and split peas/lentils into the crockpot. Add the other veggies from the pan, and 3 cups of water. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  4. Cover, turn heat down to low, and simmer gently for 30min.
  5. turn heat up slightly to med-low (or the higher crockpot setting), uncover partially, and continue to cook for another 30min.
  6. add salt and mix.
  7. mash vegetables together until you have a coarse puree (I used one of those hand-blenders that you can use to make milkshakes with. i didn't blend it to homogenization, though)
  8. serve in bowls. add some margarine to each bowl to help make the flavour "deeper" or "more savoury". sprinkle with a little bit of garam masala, until you like the taste. eat with bread, pitas, flatbread, etc.

Please let me know if you try any of these recipes and what you think of it. I'm curious if these are useful at all!


One of the difficulties with a vegetarian diet is that it can sometimes take a bit more work to make sure you're including all of the nutrients you need in your diet. The one I have the most difficulty with is iron, although I had difficulty with this even when I ate meat so that's not too surprising. I scoured the internet for information on iron, and this is what I found (note: I apologize in advance for the table formatting. Try visiting the original webpage if my table is difficult to read):

How much iron do you need?
Recommended dietary allowance for iron is:
  • 10 mg a day for men age 19 and older and women age 51 and older who are not menstruating
  • 15 mg a day for women 19-50 who are menstruating
  • 30 mg a day for pregnant women
  • 15mg a day for breastfeeding women

Iron - What Foods Can It Be Found In?
There are two kinds of iron: heme iron is found in red meats, fish and poultry, and is better-absorbed than non-heme iron, which is found in enriched cereals, leafy veggies and raisins.

Unlike calcium, which is already found in your body, iron can only be obtained from food. It's found in everything from raisins to red meat, such as liver. Other good sources of iron are fish, eggs, beans and leafy green vegetables, like spinach and lettuce. Eating breakfast is a great way to fill up on iron - try an iron-enriched cereal, such as bran flakes, and add raisins for sweetness and flavor. And top your meal off with a glass of prune juice - it may not taste great, but it'll definitely fuel your bod with energy. Generally, only about five to 10 percent of the iron in food is absorbed, unless there are low levels of iron in the body, such as after menstrual bleeding.

How can I get the most out of my iron foods?
McKinley Health Center
The following factors will increase the iron absorption from non-heme foods:
  • A good source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) - i.e., oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes, broccoli, and strawberries, eaten with a NON-HEME food
  • A HEME and NON-HEME food eaten together
  • A NON-HEME food cooked in an iron pot, such as a cast iron skillet

The following factors will decrease non-heme iron absorption:
  • Large amounts of tea or coffee consumed with a meal (the polyphenols bind the iron).
  • Excess consumption of high fiber foods or bran supplements (the phytates in such foods inhibit absorption).
  • High intake of calcium - take your calcium supplement at a different time from your iron supplement.

UGeorgia Health Center
  • Choose lean meats, fish and poultry - the iron in these foods is absorbed better than the iron in plant sources.
  • Eat vegetables and grains with lean meat - the average absorption of iron from plant sources is low, but increases when these are eaten with meat, poultry and fish.
  • Eat iron-rich legumes - dried beans and peas are the most iron-rich plant products in our diets.
  • Combine iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C - a glass of orange juice with your breakfast can more than double the amount of iron your body absorbs.
  • Avoid drinking tea or coffee with your meals - a cup of tea with breakfast can block 3/4 of the iron you would have absorbed.
  • Cook foods in an iron pot whenever practical - spaghetti sauce simmered in an iron pot for about 20 minutes increases its iron content nine fold. This would work as well for other acidic foods.
  • Eat iron-fortified foods - iron-fortified or enriched breakfast cereals and other foods can help boost your iron intake. Be sure to combine them with high vitamin C foods like citrus fruit, broccoli, cantaloupe, strawberries or kiwi to increase absorption.

Iron in Low-Fat Foods
Clams 3 oz 14
Oysters 3 oz. 6.6
Shrimp 3 oz. 2.5
Tuna 3 oz. 1.3
Chicken (breast roasted) 3 oz. 1
Duck (flesh only, roasted) 3 oz. 2
Sirloin (lean, broiled) 3 oz. 2
Turkey (breast, roasted) 3 oz. 1.2
Turkey (drumstick) 3 oz. 2
Lentils (cooked) 1/2 cup 3.3
Lima beans (cooked) 1/2 cup 2.25
Dried beans (cooked) 1/2 cup 2.3
Split Peas (cooked) 1/2 cup 1.25
Tofu (raw) 1/2 cup 6.65
Cream of Wheat (reg, cooked) 1/2 cup 6
Fortified breakfast cereal (Total, e.g.) 1/2 cup 18
Pasta (cooked) 1/2 cup 1
Wheat germ, toasted 2 Tbsp. 1.3
Apricots (dried) 1/4 cup 1.5
Broccoli (cooked) 1/2 cup 0.6
Brussels Sprouts (cooked) 1/2 cup 1
Peaches (dried) 1/4 cup 1.6
Peas (cooked) 1/2 cup 1.26
Potato (cooked, with skin) 1 medium 2.35
Prunes 1/4 cup 1
Raisins 1/4 cup 1
Spinach (raw) 1 cup 1
Spinach (boiled) 1/2 cup 2
Squash (winter, acorn, cooked) 1 cup 1.37
Good Sources of Iron

* Animal liver, kidney and heart
* Oysters
* Iron-fortified bread and cereal
* Lean red meat
* Nuts
* Egg yolks
* Dried beans and legumes
* Blackstrap molasses
* Dried fruit
* Dark leafy green vegetables
* Foods cooked in an iron skillet
Dried beans and dark green leafy vegetables are especially good sources of iron, even better on a per calorie basis than meat. Iron absorption is increased markedly by eating foods containing vitamin C along with foods containing iron. Vegetarians do not have a higher incidence of iron deficiency than do meat eaters.

Food Amount Iron (mg)

Soybeans, cooked 1 cup 8.8
Blackstrap molasses 2 Tbsp 7.2
Lentils, cooked 1 cup 6.6
Spinach, cooked 1 cup 6.4
Quinoa, cooked 1 cup 6.3
Tofu 4 ounces 6
Bagel, enriched 3 ounces 5.2
Tempeh 1 cup 4.8
Lima beans, cooked 1 cup 4.4
Swiss chard, cooked 1 cup 4
Black beans, cooked 1 cup 3.6
Pinto beans, cooked 1 cup 3.5
Turnip greens, cooked 1 cup 3.2
Chickpeas, cooked 1 cup 3.2
Potato 1 large 3.2
Kidney beans, cooked 1 cup 3
Prune juice 8 ounces 3
Beet greens, cooked 1 cup 2.7
Tahini 2 Tbsp 2.7
Veggie hot dog 1 hot dog 2.7
Peas, cooked 1 cup 2.5
Black-eyed peas, cooked 1 cup 2.3
Cashews 1/4 cup 2.1
Brussels sprouts, cooked 1 cup 1.9
Bok choy, cooked 1 cup 1.8
Bulgur, cooked 1 cup 1.7
Raisins 1/2 cup 1.6
Almonds 1/4 cup 1.5
Apricots, dried 15 halves 1.4
Veggie burger, commercial 1 patty 1.4
Watermelon 1/8 medium 1.4
Soy yogurt 6 ounces 1.1
Tomato juice 8 ounces 1
Green beans, cooked 1 cup 1.2
Kale, cooked 1 cup 1.2
Sunflower seeds 1/4 cup 1.2
Broccoli, cooked 1 cup 1.1
Millet, cooked 1 cup 1.1
Sesame seeds 2 Tbsp 1


Total® cereal 1 cup 18
Grape Nuts® cereal 1/2 cup 8.2
Instant plain oatmeal 1 packet 6.7
Wheat germ 1 ounce (1/4 cup) 2.6
Broccoli 1 medium stalk 2.1
Baked potato 1 medium 2.7
Spinach 1 cup raw 0.8
Dried peach 5 halves 2.6
Raw tofu 1/2 cup 4
Lentils 1/2 cup 3.3
Kidney beans 1/2 cup 2.6
Chickpeas 1/2 cup 2.4
Beef chuck 3 ounces 3.2
Dark meat turkey 3 ounces 2
Blackstrap molasses 1 tablespoon 5