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CHIA SEEDS & CACAO NIBS BANANA BREAD

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Thanks to the receding monsoon, the weather here has been super erratic. One day it begins to rains and one feels like indulging in pakoras (fritters) and twenty four hours later we have sun shining brightly upon us and one feels like guzzling chilled coolers. The swing of temps from cool to hot and humid take their toll on health. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we are able to sail through this weather without falling ill. Unlike the rest of the world (to be precise, those residing in the northern hemisphere), looking forward to autumn, we here are bracing ourselves for the heat and humidity that will keep us company for the coming two months. We do not dream of persimmons, cinnamon, apples, pumpkins. Instead, salads, light curries and coolers, that had been our saviors during the summers, return with much enthusiasm back on our table 😛 I find this heat really suffocating. I try to finish off my cooking chores for the day, during the morning itself. Although, mornings are nowhere near cool but the intensity of heat and humidity is bearable. For the rest of the day, I try to lay low, ensuring that I stay well hydrated.

Goes without saying that the bananas don’t fare too well in this heat. Guess I need to buy them lesser in number. But then, over ripe bananas are never a bad news, hai na? Coz they are an excuse to bake a banana cake or bread! Everyone has their favorite recipe for banana bread. Taking a cue from these cookies that I had baked earlier, I turned mine into Chia Seeds and Cacao Nibs Banana Bread. I have to admit, that there was this huge urge for adding dark chocolate chunks but I resisted it since I wanted chia and cacao nibs to be the twin heroes of this sweet bread. And I am really pleased with the way it turned out – a little crunch from the chia seeds, the little chocolaty bites from the cacao nibs, perfect amount of sweetness from ripe bananas, beautiful color lent by the coconut sugar and perfect amount of moistness added by the yogurt. 😊

For this healthy and scrumptious bread you will need the following ingredients.

Dry Ingredients

¾ C Maida (APF)

¾ C Aata (Whole meal flour)

½ C Rolled or Quick cooking Oats

1 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Baking Soda (Soda bi-carb)

2 tbsp Chia Seeds

2½ tbsp Cacao Nibs (plus extra for sprinkling over the top)

 

Wet Ingredients

2 Eggs

¼ C Yogurt

1/3 C Oil (any neutral oil)

1 C plus 2 tbsp Coconut Sugar (or caster sugar)

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

3 ripe Bananas, medium size

1 tbsp Lemon juice

Preheat the oven at 170 degrees C.

In a large bowl, whisk together the ingredients mentioned under the dry ingredients category. Keep aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the sugar and yogurt till combined. Add eggs and whisk until completely combined and the mixture is smooth.

Whisk in the oil and vanilla extract. Peel and mash the bananas with the back of a fork and mix in the lemon juice. Fold this in to the liquid mixture.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry one and fold in till just combined. Do not over mix or whisk. It is okay if the batter is not smooth in consistency. (Over whisking will result in funnels in the cake and yield a dry textured bread.)

Transfer the contents into a 10 inch by 4.5 inch bread tin (i believe an 8 inch by 4.5 inch one would also be just fine) and bake for approximately 50 – 55 minutes or till the skewer inserted comes out clean. (Do keep an eye after half an hour. If the bread is becoming too brown over the top, cover loosely with an aluminium foil)

Remove from the oven and place the bread tin over a wire rack. Cool for 10 – 15 minutes.

Run a knife around the edges of the bread and turn it over onto the wire rack.

Allow to cool completely and then slice and serve.

Enjoy it with your morning coffee or your afternoon tea.

Serves 8

Notes: For egg free bread, swap the each egg with 1 tbsp flax seed powder soaked for fifteen minutes in 2.5 tbsp of water.

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OATS UPMA / ओट्स का उपमा (Savory Oats Porridge)

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Oats have never been a favourite in my house as a breakfast option. We started eating it just because of its health benefits and although I relish its taste – cooked in milk and drizzled with honey, my husband isn’t very fond of it and my daughter can’t imagine oats touching her lips except when it is for these cookies. I guess it is partly to do with the fact that we Indians prefer savoury over sweet for our breakfast. The preferred choices for us are Parathas (Stuffed Flatbread) accompanied with some pickle & Yogurt. A south Indian breakfast is guaranteed to have Idlis (Steamed Rice & Lentil Cakes) with Sambar (Lentil Stew) and Coconut Chutney while Handvo (Gluten free Rice & Lentil Cake) could be the choice for a Gujarati. Moong Dal Chila (Mung Bean Pancakes), Besan ka Chila (Spicey Pumpkin Pancakes) that I serve it with Green Pea Chutney and the Spinach & Ricotta Cheese Pancakes served with Indian 5-Spice Tomato Chutney are some other scrumptious options. So it is obvious that to make the oats appealing and happening they need to be served in a savoury form here and having seen the upma version by Quaker Oats, I knew this was right up the alley. The upma is traditionally a porridge of sorts that is made with the semolina (some add veggies to it) but oats seem to be a nice departure from the original semolina. It is of course very delicious and healthy too. In fact I found it to be a better option than having oats with milk/water along with honey or sugar. You can serve this upma with Coconut Chutney though I prefer it with the Coconut & Roasted Green Tomato Chutney which enhances its taste many folds.  I promise you, you are going love this. You just need to try it…once! So, here goes the recipe.

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2 cups Oats

1 tsp Ginger (chopped finely)

1½ tbsp Oil

8 – 10 Curry leaves

3 cups Water (add more if you like your oats more softened & moist)

1 tbsp Urad Daal (Ivory lentils)

1 tsp Chana Daal (split Bengal grams)

A pinch Asafoetida

1 tsp Mustard Seeds

1 Onion (finely chopped)

2 dried Red Chillies

1 Green Chili (mine was very hot and one sufficed)

Ghee to drizzle over (optional)

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Dry roast the oats in a pan or wok for 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring around the contents to prevent them  from burning. Take it off the gas and transfer the oats on a clean dry plate. Leave aside to cool.

Heat the oil in the same pan or wok and add the mustard seeds and as the become to pop, add the dried red chilies, urad dal and chana dal. once the dals begin to turn golden, tip in the onions, ginger, finely chopped green chili and curry leaves. Sauté onion till they are translucent and tender.

Add salt to taste and then the water. Bring to a boil and then blend oats. Keep stirring till the water is absorbed and oats are thoroughly cooked.

Serves: 3 – 4 adults

Note: You can add more water if you like the consistency of the oats more soft and moist. I like mine to have some what grainy texture with the oats holding their shape.

Note: I have used Rye Rolled Oats here, hence the color and texture will be different in case you use quick cooking oats or rolled oats. Upma made with quick cooking oats is going to have a soft mushed up texture but it will taste good nevertheless.

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(Serves 3-4)

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SOYA PANEER – SOY ‘COTTAGE’ CHEESE SPREAD

Soy Cottage CheeseI know, you might be thinking what in the world soy cottage cheese is?! It is not tofu in the truest sense. I took the liberty of calling it Soy Cottage Cheese since I made in a similar fashion to the way I make cottage cheese at home from milk. To me it looked like a close cousin to the traditional Indian cottage cheese hence the name! 

Tofu is made by coagulating the soy milk extracted from soy beans and then pressing the curds under weights. Depending on the time that it has been pressed, under weights, a soft or medium soft or hard tofu is attained.
For making the Soy Paneer, I deviated from the traditional way after following a few initial steps. Instead of separating the milk from the soy beans I kept the ground soy along with its milk and then boiled the two together, added lemon juices and let the milk split/curdle. And voila! Soy Paneer is what I got J
It goes without saying that this is an ideal substitute to milk for the vegans. Besides, this is a healthy and tasty option for those having lactose intolerance.


No, it doesn’t taste bad at all i.e. if that thought crossed your mind. Of course it won’t taste like the cottage cheese made from milk yet it tastes pretty good. The obvious way to find out how it tastes is of course to give it a try for yourself. My husband, who has a dislike for tofu, quite enjoys it in his sandwich filling. He thought I was kidding when I first told him that he just had a soy product for his breakfast!
So go ahead and allow your creativity devise ways to use it – for filling in parathas (stuffed flat bread) or as a topping for toasted bread or for making sandwich fillings or perhaps mixing it with potato or beet and making croquettes/ cutlets. I guess the possibilities are endless! I would eagerly wait to know how you made use of Soy Paneer in your meal J
The ingredients are few and the process is simple. I used:
For Soy Cheese:
½ cup soy beans
800 ml water+ sufficient for making soy paste
1tbsp+ ½ tsp lemon juice
Muslin cloth/ cheese cloth/ strainer

Soak the soy beans in water at night. Next day, gently remove the skin from the soy beans.
To remove the skin rub the beans gently between your fore finger and thumb (this process may take 10-15 minutes)
Rinse in water. The skin will rise to the surface; remove it and then repeat the process till you have soy bean without skin.
Pulse the soy bean in a blender or mixer-grinder adding just enough water to make a paste.
Transfer this to a heavy bottomed pot and add 800 ml water to it.
Stir well and put on the heat.
On medium flame heat the soy milk for two and a half to three minutes stirring all the while.
Add lemon juice mixed with a tbsp of water and add to the soy milk.
Stir the soy milk. You will notice the milk beginning to curdle.
Once the cheese separates from the whey, switch off the heat.
Transfer the cheese in a strainer or cheese cloth/ muslin cloth and wash it under water to remove the taste of lemon.
Drain all the water but ensure that cheese remains moist.
Note: While curdling the milk, if you feel that the juice is not enough, add a dash more of it.
For Cheese topping:

1 medium onion (finely chopped)
½ tsp cumin seeds
1½ tbsp olive oil
1 green chilli (finely chopped)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro (dhaniya patta)
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper (freshly ground)
Salt to taste
1 tomato (finely chopped – pulp and seeds removed)- optional

In a frying pan heat the oil and add cumin and let it crackle.
Lower the heat to medium and carefully add onions and stir fry till the onion becomes translucent.
Add the green chillies and the soy cheese. Stir well.
Add salt and black pepper and stir again.
Cook the cheese till any visible amount of water evaporates. You can check this by pressing the back of the spoon against the cheese.
Add tomatoes and fresh cilantro and cook further for half a minute.
Switch off the heat and transfer the contents to serving bowl.
The soy cheese is ready to be used.
Note: I add tomato for the bright colour it adds to the topping/spread.

Note: A generous pinch of garam masala helps in pepping up the taste of soy cheese


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