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A Toy Top, Miniature Flying Saucer or Veggie?

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Here I am again, with something interesting for you to identify in, “Guess What’s This”. Let me not beat about the bush but directly plunge into the topic. Look at the visual below:

Toy top vegetable

Toy tops, miniature flying saucers or veggies?

Have you seen them anywhere before? Do you know what they are?

I was awestruck by these vibrant yellow, shallow shaped things with scalloped edges in the ‘Exotic section’ of the supermarket. At first sight, I doubted if these even belonged there for they appeared more like play things than fruits or veggies. They resembled toy tops, miniature UFOs – flying saucers to be precise; or if they had been rightly placed there, could they be some kind of hybrid lemons or bell pepper variants? I did not fail to notice the striking similarity their shape bore to the moulds used for baking tarts, patties, pies and their sorts. Reading their label I was convinced that I had neither seen them nor heard of them before.

They are actually summer squashes. Just like cucumbers and tomatoes, though they are fruits they are always referred to as veggies because of the way they are used in our cooking. Their name is made of three words (5, 3, and 6 letters in order). The 1st word points to a food item usually fried or baked, the 2nd to a container and the 3rd to the veggie’s colour.

So, start guessing now. I know, the spur of the moment I gave the clue for the 3rd word, you were confidently out with its answer. Even if you have a faint idea about any of the 3 words, post it in the blog’s comments. If it is right, it may give a lead to the others guessing, if not it might at least succeed in confusing them ;-). What else! Team up with your friend to make the guessing game more fun.

Wait until tomorrow for the right answer.

Related Topics

Food Incognito

The Bitter-Sweet Pod

The Pricey Potato Look Alike

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Breakfast is Brain Food

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On a day, we eat three major meals and two intermediary snacks. The major meals are breakfast, lunch, dinner and the intermediary ones are mid-morning snacks and tea. The first meal of the day breaks the fast during sleep after previous night’s dinner and so is called breakfast. After a fast of 8-10 hrs during sleep, the various organs of the body crave for energy and brain craves it the most. That fresh surge of energy is supplied to the brain by glucose from the first meal. Hence breakfast is popularly known as brain food.

Breakfast is universally considered the most important meal of the day. It does not stop with nourishing the brain but also impacts cognitive function. Here is a gist of the benefits of regular consumption of breakfast given by researches conducted all over the world:

In short, regular consumption of breakfast improves overall physical and mental performance.

“No man can be wise on an empty stomach”.

“Hungry bellies have no ears”.

“A hungry man is an angry man”.

True to all these sayings, research has proved that having to function on an empty stomach undermines productivity, causes irritability and unpleasant disposition, especially during mid-morning which could be cured by just having a proper breakfast.

“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”, so goes an adage by a famous American Nutritionist, Adelle Davis. But unfortunately, in reality many skip breakfast, eat an improper lunch and binge during dinner. The India Breakfast Habits Survey conducted by the Home Science Department of Nirmala Niketan College, Mumbai in 2013 showed that 1 in every 4 persons in India skipped breakfast. That’s alarming!

The most common reasons people give for skipping breakfast are:

  • No time.
  • Not used to eating so early.
  • Not hungry in the morning.
  • Would rather sleep than prepare breakfast.
  • Get hungry sooner when breakfast is eaten.
  • Dislike breakfast foods.
  • Want to lose weight.

How to overcome these problems? How to solve them and inculcate the habit of consuming breakfast regularly? Here are a few tips:

  • Wake up 10 min earlier.
  • Prepare as much as you can the night before (check if you have a stock of the ingredients required, keep dishes and utensils ready, etc.).
  • Have grab and go alternatives (fresh fruit, individual boxes of cereal, yogurt or smoothies, trail-mix).
  • If you are not a breakfast eater, begin with something as simple as whole wheat bread toast and /or a piece of fruit. In a few days add more food.
  • Try split-breakfast. For Eg, eat a boiled egg and leave to college or work. At the earliest break you get there, have a sandwich and drink a glass of milk or juice.
  • Stock your kitchen with healthy breakfast options and use your imagination to cook something interesting.
  • Most important of all, understand that breakfast skipping does not help in shedding weight. On the contrary, breakfast skippers tend to eat more during other meals and crave for fatty foods. This would only result in weight gain!!! 

It is also vital to learn what constitutes an ideal breakfast to eat a balanced meal. An ideal breakfast should:

  • Provide 25% of the day’s nutrient requirement, especially that of vitamins and minerals.
  • Contain more of complex carbohydrates and fiber that are filling.
  • Contain less of saturated fats like butter but adequate amounts of good fats like nuts and avocado.
  • Include good quality protein like milk or egg that can supply calcium for bone building.
  • Include a seasonal fruit.
  • Neither be too sugary nor too salty.

And finally, this topic would not be complete without the mention of a few breakfast quickies. Here are a few items that require less preparation time, minimal cooking but are still healthy:

  1. Cereal with milk and fruits.
  2. Oats porridge topped with dried fruits and nuts.
  3. French toast/Bombay toast.
  4. Breakfast bars (home-made ones prepared beforehand and stored in airtight containers) and a glass of milk.
  5. Instant Idiappam/String-hoppers with milk and jaggery.
  6. Vegetable poha.
  7. Bread toast with egg scramble or bread and egg sandwich.
  8. Smoothie.
  9. Idli and sambhar.
  10. Dosa and chutney (If the batter has been prepared, idli, dosa and aapam are also definitely quickies; Sambhar leftover from the previous day can also be used as a side dish if you are pressed for time).
  11. Lemon sevai.
  12. Ragi porridge or multi-grain flour porridge.
Bombay toast Collage1

Bombay toast – a popular breakfast item.

With a bit of prior planning and preparation, breakfast skipping can easily be avoided. So, vow not to skip breakfast; eat breakfast like a king to boost not only your brain power but also your physical power.


Also read: 

Bajil – A Quick Fix for Breakfast

Hangry, are you?

Ragi Simili Urundai

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Let us kickstart this year with a post from a guest writer, Ms. Roobini. She brings to you a less heard of recipe in Chennai, but that which is very famous in Tirunelveli – Simili.

Here is Roobini’s Simili recipe:

Simili – don’t muse about the simile/metaphor of English classes. Simili is a dish made of ragi, peanut and jaggery; and for those who don’t know Tamil, urundai = laddu = ball-like. I am eager to share with you all, this recipe that I learnt from my grandmother. 

  • Preparation time          :15 mins
  • Cooking time                 : 10 mins
  • Total time                       : 25 mins 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ragi flour, sprouted or plain
  • ¼ cup peanuts
  • 4 green cardamoms
  • 150 grams of jaggery/to taste
  • Hot water as required 

Preparation

  1. Add hot water to ragi flour, mix and make into a smooth dough.
  2. Divide the dough into equal balls and flatten the balls into adai.
  3. Cook the adai on both sides using a tava/pan and then allow it to cool.
  4. Tear the ragi adai into small pieces and pulse them in a mixer, till they crumble into a powder.
  5. Dry roast peanuts, cool, remove the skin.
  6. Powder together peanuts and cardamoms. (You can even powder each of these separately if doing in large quantity).
  7. Grate or powder jaggery. 

Making a Simili

  • In a large bowl mix the crumbled ragi adai, jaggery, peanut powder and cardamom powder. 
  • Blend for about 1 to 2 minutes. If needed add melted warm ghee to the mix.
  • Make balls while the mix is still warm.
  • Delicious Simili Urundais are ready to tingle your palate.

simili

Ragi Simili Urundai

This dish is a low-cost, healthy snack that is rich in iron(ragi, jaggery), calcium(ragi) and protein(peanuts) and is suitable for all age groups. Some also add roasted sesame seeds to the mix, which further enriches the dish with iron-protein and makes it tastier.


roobini-with-simili

The author, Ms Roobini has completed her under-graduation in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Dietetics and Food Service Management. Watching various cookery programmes and trying her hand at new dishes is her hobby.


Premium Tea

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An item that inevitably finds place in every health conscious person’s shopping list is green tea. Yes, it has so many benefits to offer – first and foremost, it is less in caffeine when compared to coffee; it aids in weight loss, acts as a stress buster, promotes cardiovascular health and whets cognitive function. And if the green tea is of the premium type, it has added advantages. Premium tea is neither oxidised nor fermented and undergoes a special three stage processing of steaming, rolling and heating. This unique treatment helps to preserve the treasure of antioxidants that is inherently present in the tea leaves.

I recently came to know about a brand of premium tea called Mystic Green, through one of my good friends. This tea is provided to the employees of some renowned corporate companies during tea breaks. Thought, I should also try it.

The varieties of premium tea available are impressive. Green tea comes in blends of i) rich Indian spices, ii) lemongrass and ginger (a very novel combination), iii) hibiscus blossom and iv) rose petals. There is a variety of black tea too, blended with v) cinnamon and mint (my gut feeling says that this variety would taste better as iced tea). So the little tea bag is packed with the benefits of not only the premium tea but also the goodness of spices and herbs added. The spices-green tea infusion is invigorating, the lemongrass-ginger combo acts as detoxifier, the hibiscus blossom brew as cleanser (the crimson tinge of this brew and its intense aroma are endearing), the rose petals tisane as immune booster and the cinnamon-mint black tea serves as a stress reliever.

Tea pack containing 20 pyramid tea bags

Tea pack containing 20 pyramid tea bags

The tea bag is worthy of special mention. It is a pyramid tea bag that has an edge over the conventional paper bag. The nylon net-like mesh of which it is woven, makes for bigger holes than in the paper bag. This allows water to come in contact with more surface area of the tea leaves, thus releasing more essential oils and character into the cup. The pyramid structure allows for much higher quality larger tea leaves to be inserted into the tea bag. It also gives more space for the tea leaves to unfurl, circulate and brew into a better cuppa. In short, the pyramid tea bag mimics the action of a tea infuser.

Pyramid tea bag

Pyramid tea bag

Milk is not added to these teas as it interferes with the function of antioxidants. There is no need to add table sugar as the natural sweetener licorice has already been incorporated into the blend (Some may feel, that the sweetness is not enough…depends on individual’s sweet threshold…honey can always be added). These quicken the brewing process and make it non-messy. Isn’t this convenience at its best!

I think it is important to read food labels as a consumer and I earnestly do it (Do you? If not, start today). I am glad that the label read ‘100% Natural’, meaning, it is devoid of any artificial ingredients and preservatives and the ingredients are only minimally processed. It gives a good idea about the major ingredients, specifies the benefits of the prime ingredient and also mentions its shelf-life. It enlists clear instructions for brewing. However, information regarding the caffeine content per serving is something that is missing. If declared on the label, it would be a valuable guide to those on caffeine restriction. I am happier to find out that these products can be procured online via bigbasket.com, amazon.in and healthkart.com. Makes life easier.

Info on ingredients and brewing on the pack

Info on ingredients and brewing on the pack

Satisfied with my research on this product, I am heading off to take a sip of the rose petals infused green tea…Aww, the tisane tastes so good. Money spent on such tea is definitely an investment in health.

Rose petals green tea

Rose petals green tea

Related Posts:

Patty Pan Yellow

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The vibrant yellow squashes with scalloped edges that resemble toy tops, miniature flying saucers are Patty Pan Yellows.

patty pan yellow

Patty Pan Yellow

They are native to S.America and are related to cucumber family. These squashes grow in summer and are also available in green and white varieties besides yellow.

patty pan green

Patty Pan Green seen along with Patty Pan Yellow

Patty Pans are tender when immature but become hard and tasteless as they mature and grow large. They are good sources of magnesium, niacin, vitamins A and C. They can be eaten raw or subjected to any form of cooking right from steaming to baking. At times, the inner flesh is scooped out and the outer rind used as serving bowl. Baby patty pans are also used in bouquets.

Patty pan squashes are known by a myriad of other names such as Scallop squash, Sunburst squash, Granny squash, Custard squash, Custard marrow, Button squash and Scallopini.

Related Topic:

A Toy Top, Miniature Flying Saucer or Veggie?

2013 in Review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 21,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Kosambari

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Kosambari is a cucumber-carrot-moong dhal salad that is popular in South India, especially in Karnataka. It is an integral part of wedding menus and is also offered as ‘Prasadham’ or Holy food in some temples. It is known by the same name in Telugu and as Kosumalli in Tamil. The salad does not involve cooking but demands prepreparation ahead of time. The moong dhal (greengram dhal) used is not cooked but soaked in water for atleast a couple of hours to soften it. So prior planning is important for the success of the final dish. Glance through the directions to prepare Kosambari and give it a try.

Directions to prepare Kosambari:

Ingredients:

  • 4 Cucumbers (medium-size)
  • ½ Carrot
  • 2-3 tbsp Moong dhal soaked in water for atleast 2 hrs
  • 1-2 tbsp Lime juice
  • Few Coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

For the Tempering:

  • 1 tsp Mustard seed
  • 1 Slit Green Chili
  • A pinch of Asafoetida
  • Few Curry leaves
  • 2 tsp Cooking oil

Method: 

  1. Peel skin and grate cucumbers using grater mould with bigger holes.
  2. Repeat the same with the carrot.
  3. Gently squeeze cucumber gratings to remove the juice.
  4. Thoroughly drain water from the moong dhal and spread it in a salad bowl.
  5. Add cucumber gratings over it, then the carrot and finely chopped coriander leaves.
  6. Drizzle lime juice over the contents of the bowl.
  7. Now add the tempering.

Procedure for tempering:

  1. Heat oil.
  2. Add mustard seeds and wait till they splutter.
  3. Add asafoetida and green chili.
  4. Turn off the flame and then add curry leaves.
  5. Transfer the tempering to the salad bowl.

Do not mix or add salt until service time. Do these just before serving to prevent the salad from becoming runny.

Servings: 3

Kosambari

Kosambari

Suggestions: 

  • Soak the moong dhal in hot water to accelerate the softening process.
  • Always keep the quantity of carrots lesser than cucumbers because they contribute to a larger volume and their taste may be overpowering.
  • Crunchy varieties of cucumber that do not exude much water on grating are preferable (like the ones available in Salem, Tamil Nadu).
  • Gratings of all vegetables are recommended to obtain harmony of shape, size and texture. However, if you loathe the idea of losing cucumber juice by squeezing the gratings, just dice the cucumbers and use.
  • If using diced cucumber instead of gratings, try this trick to soften the moong dhal. Do not soak the dhal in water. But spread them in the salad bowl, place the cucumber dices on them and set aside for a couple of hours. Allow the cucumber juice to soften the dhal.

Kosambari uses a beautiful interplay of colours, textures and flavours to produce a tasty salad. It is a healthy dish that not only offers micronutrients but also contributes protein from the dhal. It can be served as a snack or as a side dish to any of the three courses of South Indian meal. Though the recipe here uses a cucumber-carrot-dhal combo, pairing the dhal either with only cucumber or only carrot or only shredded cabbage are other possibilities. Unripe mango gratings (with the skin) can also complement this salad. But an ultimate way to take this salad to the next level is to add mango ginger (a rhizome that looks like ginger but tastes like unripe mango) gratings to it. It bursts with flavour in the mouth and enhances the taste. So, quick! Make this salad a part of your routine menu.

Links to Other Salads:

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