Quinoa & Vegetable Cheela

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photoCheela” is the Indian version of a savoury pancake. It is extremely versatile in terms of the ingredients that one can use and when made with little or no oil, is a super healthy breakfast, brunch or lunch option for kids and adults alike.

The traditional cheela that my mum makes is primarily made with besan or chick-pea flour, green chillies and spices. It is typically pretty spicy and can be a bit greasy if your not careful with how much oil you add while cooking it. Inspired from a recipe that my friend Preeti shared with me for buckwheat flour cheelas, I tested out the cheela using Quinoa flour as that is what I already had. The results were finger licking good! Keya loves her Quinoa cheela with a bowl of chilled plain yoghurt to go with it!

The range of vegetables that one can add to a cheela helps you flavour them differently, as well as sneak in vegetables that might not be your toddler’s/ child’s favourite but are super good for them.  The ones that I usually mix into the batter are – grated carrot, broccoli or cauliflower, cabbage, very finely chopped french beans and onion. How you combine these is totally upto you. I usually add a little olive oil or ghee to the batter, so I dont really need to add any to ‘fry’ them as they cook. For folks in Singapore, Bob’s Redmill Quinoa flour is available at Mustafa and Cold storage. Also – I add a little chickpea flour to the batter as it helps to keep the cheela from breaking when you flip it during the cooking.

Last week, I finally managed to buy some buckwheat flour (Bob’s red mill brand sold at Cold storage & Mustafa). The recipe works just as perfectly with Buckwheat the only real difference is the colour – the buckwheat cheela is a rich dark brown colour and takes just a wee bit longer to cook that the Quinoa cheela. 

Nutrition report: Quinoa is packed with fiber, calcium, iron and folate and is a fantastic source of vegetarian protein.  Shredded veggies pack in loads of flavor and vitamins. Buckwheat flour is gluten-free. It is a good source of protein, b-complex vitamins and minerals such as copper and magnesium which are important for the production of red blood cells. Much like quinoa, buckwheat is a good source of dietary fiber.

Ingredients (makes 2 to 3, 6″ cheelas):

– 2-1/2 heaped tbsp quinoa flour OR buckwheat flour

– 1/2 tbsp chick-pea flour (besan)

– 1 tsp cumin seeds

– a small pinch of carom seeds (ajwain)

– a small pinch of turmeric powder

– 1 tsp each of grated carrot, grated broccoli, grated cabbage & finely chopped onion,

– few sprigs of coriander, finely chopped

– 1 or 2 tsp of plain yoghurt (optional and can be avoided for a slightly crispier cheela)

– 1 tbsp light olive or vegetable oil

– salt, to taste

– water, as needed to create a thick cake-like batter

photoMethod:

1. In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients one by one in the above mentioned sequence, with water at the very end to create what should be a thick, kind of sticky looking batter.

2. Heat a non-stick frying pan or griddle on medium heat. Ladle abt 2-3 tablespoons of the batter onto the hot pan and help it spread out a little bit to form an approx 6″ round (avoid the temptation to spread it out too much, as it might break when you try to flip it over..) Cover the cheela and allow it to cook till the top sets and the first side is nicely browned.

3. Flip to cook the second side till that is browned to your liking as well.

Serve immediately along with a bowl of chilled yoghurt or ketchup. Enjoy!

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Veggie Fried Rice & Sticky Salmon

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photo 2 (1)Introducing fish and prawns to Keya was a very exciting phase for us. I started her on simple poached & flaked fish (snapper or salmon) or small dices of prawn meat by adding it into her favourite pasta dishes at first as the pasta sauce would help soften up them up. Another hugely successful recipe was homemade fish fingers – yoghurt marinated white fish like snapper, crusted in crushed cornflakes and dried herbs and then shallow fried in some olive oil till golden brown and cooked … Just realised, I haven’t posted that recipe yet! Whoops!

Although we mostly cook all of our meals at home, my husband and I  occasionally crave some good ol’ fried rice and grilled fish from our neighbourhood hawker centre. Keya (18 mons old at the time) who we have kept away from restaurant and especially hawker food, insisted on trying some and looked mighty thrilled when she had her first taste of fried rice. But of course it inspired me to make a much healthier version of that dish for her!

This recipe is an adapted version of one by Anabel Karmel , and is hands down Keya’s favourite-EST meal in the whole wide world. Fresh veggies sauteed with rice and seasoning and soya-honey marinated grilled salmon… what’s not to like, right?

I generally use white Basmati rice for this recipe but please feel free to use brown rice if your prefer. This is a guaranteed hit that the whole family aged 18mons and up will enjoy! 🙂

Nutrition report:  Salmon is an excellent source of high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals (including potassium, selenium and vitamin B12). Salmon is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids which contribute to healthy brain and heart function, healthy joints and general wellbeing. White rice is rich in carbohydrates and contains some protein. Brown rice has a better protein and fat content and is comparitively lower in carbohydrates. It contains about 4 times the amount of fiber than in white rice. The mixed vegetables ofcourse pack in more vitamins and minerals and BOOOST not just the flavour but also the confetti like appeal.

Ingredients for Fried Rice: (Makes 2 servings for a toddler)

– 1 or 2 tsp sesame or olive oil

– 1/2 tsp. ginger, very finely chopped

– 2 spring onions or 1/2 white onion, very finely chopped

– 3/4 cup diced mixed veggies (carrot, broccoli, french beans, boiled sweetcorn kernels, green peas, red capsicum)

– 1 or 2 tsp fried rice seasoning (i use SHAN’s egg fried rice seasoning)

– 1/2 cup raw white/ brown rice (pre-cooked till tender and then cooled and fluffed with a fork)

– a small handful of chopped fresh coriander (optional)

– cracked black pepper and salt optional as the seasoning contains both

Ingredients for Sticky Salmon: (Makes 2 servings for a toddler)

– 1 boneless, skinless salmon fillet (about 250-300g), cut into 2 inch cubes

– 1 tbsp olive oil

– 4-5 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

– 2-3 tbsp honey ( plus optional 1/2 tsp brown sugar)

– 1 tsp garlic powder + 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

Method for Fried Rice:

1. Cook the white or brown rice in boiling water till almost cooked. Drain any extra cooking water and fluff the rice with a fork and allow it to fully cool ( I also chill the rice for abt 30 mins when time permits) Prep the rice in advance so you are not tempted to use freshly cooked rice else you will end up with sticky rice instead of fried rice 😉

2. Heat the sesame or olive oil in a non-stick pan on medium-high heat. Saute the finely chopped ginger for half a minute before adding the chopped spring onions. Saute till they’re soft.

3. Add the small dices of mixed veggies – add the carrot, broccoli and beans first. Cooked corn, red capsicum and peas a bit later. Saute all the veggies till they’re soft enough for your child to eat.

4. Add the seasoning powder to the sauteed veggies and lower the heat. Add the cooked (and cooled and fluffed) rice. Mix everything together nicely. Stir through the chopped coriander. Check for seasoning by tasting and adjust (add) seasoning powder per preference or add a small splash of soy sauce.

Turn off the heat. Keep covered till its time to eat!

photo 1 (1)Method for Sticky Salmon:

1. Place the boneless, skinless salmon cubes in a bowl. Drizzle over the olive oil, low sodium soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, garlic powder. Season with some black pepper. Taste-test the marinade and adjust the ingredients to your liking. Cover and marinate the salmon for about 30 mins.

2. Heat a non-stick pan on medium-high heat. Add the salmon cubes one by one to the hot pan. (no need to add any oil)

3. Cook the salmon on all sides till nice and brown and cooked through. Drizzle a spoonful of the marinade as the salmon cooks.

Serve this yummy, salty-sweet-sticky salmon to your kids along side the fried rice and happily watch them gobble it up!

Quinoa Cutlets

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photo 2I admit it… I’ve been a wee bit obsessed with Quinoa in the past couple of weeks. I’ve always loved recipes featuring this super seed but Keya’s not quite ready to try those yet as most are salads.  As she has finally started to react positively to her Quinoa “khichdi”  (an indian preparation involving cooking lentils and rice with vegetables and mild spices like tumeric and garlic) I made it my mission to create more recipes with simple handy ingredients.

Marie, my helper, miscalculated the quantity and accidentally cooked an enormous batch of Quinoa for a salad I wanted to make a few weeks ago.  This recipe was a result of wanting to use up leftover plain- cooked quinoa, but has turned out to be such a big hit with Keya, that its becoming a regular item on our weekly meal plan 🙂

Nutrition report:  Quinoa is packed with fiber, calcium, iron and folate and is a fantastic source of vegetarian protein.  Shredded veggies pack in loads of flavor and vitamins.

 

photo 1 (1)Ingredients:

– 1 cup cooked Quinoa

– 1 small onion, very finely chopped

– 1/4 cup finely grated carrot + finely grated broccoli

– 1 small handful, coriander, finely chopped

– 1 clove garlic, grated

– Salt & Pepper, to taste

– 3-4 tbsp dried breadcrumbs (optional)

 


Method: 

1. In a large mixing bowl, place cooked, drained quinoa along with remaining ingredients. Mix well while mashing everything together using lightly oiled hands.

2. Heat a tablespoon of olive or vegetable oil in a non-stick pan. Scoop a small handful of the mixture into your hands and shape into a ball and flatten into a cutlet.

3. Gently place the cutlets into the pan and cook till golden brown. Flip and cook on the second side.

4. Place the cooked cutlets on a paper towel/ napkin to remove any extra oil. Cool the cutlets and cut up into age appropriate bite sized portions and serve with or without some ketchup on the side 🙂

 

These cutlets are rather delicate and very soft. The crust formed on the outside is easily chewable even for a toddler with fewer teeth.  Happy eating!

Quinoa Pancakes with Orange zest

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photo 1As a working mum Monday to Friday is about following a schedule for Keya like clockwork. It’s the only way to not let the endless list of chores, errands and to-do-list for work related commitments overwhelm me. But  this also means a standard breakfast menu for Keya through the week. Eggs & orange juice, Fruit with yoghurt and Oats are the items Keya’s nanny is comfortable putting together for her through the week while I am away at the office. Weekends are the only real time where I can indulge Keya in one of her favourite breakfasts – Pancakes, that I usually make using home-made Oat flour. I was keen to experiment with Quinoa but finely ground Quinoa is a bit tricky to achieve using a food processor*.  So when I found organic Quinoa flour at Mustafa centre, I resolved to experiment with this wonderful ingredient.

I mixed Quinoa flour with the remaining standard pancake ingredients – eggs, milk, vanilla and baking powder to make a smooth batter. The batter tasted rather nutty and for a minute I was unsure if K would like it. So I added a teaspoon of brown sugar (use white if that is what you have at hand) and some orange zest, from the peels of the Orange I had juiced for her to drink with breakfast. The flavour combination was fantastic, and sure enough a big hit with my little foodie 🙂

*Indian dry grinders or  spice grinders will yeild better results for grinding hard seeds like Quinoa at home… and yes, Quinoa is infact a seed, not a grain… Something I myself learnt recently too!

Nutrition report:  Quinoa is packed with fiber, calcium, iron and folate and is a fantastic source of vegetarian protein. Eggs in the pancake are a great source of protein, calcium and iron.

 

photo 4Dry Ingredients:

– 1 cup Quinoa flour

– 1 tsp each : baking powder, ground cinnamon and brown/ white sugar

– 1 tsp fresh orange zest (from 1 orange)

Wet ingredients:

– 1 egg, whisked

– 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk

– 1 tsp vanilla extract  +  1 large tbsp Olive oil

Toppings:

– Butter and Honey or Maple Syrup

 

To make:

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients.

3. Gently pour the wet mix into the dry and stir to make a smooth batter. If you find the batter a bit sticky add a little splash of milk to get it smooth.

4. Heat a non-stick pan on medium-low heat. Pour a small amount of batter on the pan. The batter spreads itself a little bit and then sets into a round. Wait for little holes to form on the top side and then flip the pancake to cook on 2nd side.

5. Stack up the cooked pancakes on a plate. Top with a knob of butter and drizzle on honey or maple syrup.  Serve along side some freshly squeezed Orange juice and then sit back and happily watch it all disappear into a greedy little baby’s belly 😀

 

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Avocado & Cheese Omelette

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12 (1)I owe the regular readers of this blog and friends who text/ call me for baby food ideas- the biggest apology. I’ve been telling a number of you about new recipes that I plan to post “this coming weekend” and dint make true of my promise.  Put simply – I went through a phase where the recipe ideas flowed but I had a case of serious writer’s block. But this afternoon, I’ve made a promise to myself — block or no block, recipes I shall post.

Avocado’s are considered as among nature’s most perfect food. It is also on the list of ideal first foods that a lot of nutritionists recommend for babies as they’re high in good fats that help in the healthy development of your baby’s brain and central nervous system.  They’re loaded with vitamins, contain important minerals such as potassium, calcium.

I introduced Keya to avocado’s in mashed form mixed with banana’s or steamed peaches at around 6 months of age. She loved the creamy texture but as she began to teeth, lost interest in it as she preferred food she could gum instead.

Let’s admit – although Avocado’s are packed with great stuff, its hard to tempt a curious toddler with its mild flavoured mash – at least that’s the challenge I have faced in the past few months. I started baking using avocado recently but have been trying to use it in something which was more routine – and then it hit me! The answer had been right before my eyes!

Mashed avocado in scrambled eggs or cheese omelette is AMAZING!  I’ve made 2 versions of this recipe – one, adding the mashed cado’s into the whisked eggs before cooking – for a proper avocado omelette. Another, of topping a cheesy omelette with fresh avocado slices. Both are equally delicious with only real difference being that the incorporated cado omelette has a slight greenish tinge.

Feel free to stir mashed avocado or pre-made thawed avocado puree into scrambled eggs just as they begin to set… I’ve tried that too, but haven’t taken a photo of that yet.  If you’re baby is under the age of 1 and you prefer to avoid the egg whites, just scrambled egg yolks and avocado will work just as well. Add a dollop of cream cheese (if available) and you’re good to go.  For toddlers and older kids I’d even recommend adding a few spoonfuls of avocado puree into your pancake batter…yum!

Nutrition report:  Great source of protein, calcium, multi-vitamins, potassium and iron.

BTW – Something is messed up with the wordpress text formatting … I am aware that some text appears larger than the rest and I have no idea why.. Please bear with me till I have it figured out and fixed.  Thanks!

Ingredients:

– 1 large Egg  (or only egg yolk for babies under 1)

– 1/2 a mashed avocado (Mash remaining avocado with a squirt of lime juice and freeze. For 1 egg yolk use abt 2 tsp of avocado puree)

– 2 tsp of grated cheddar cheese / OR / 1-2 tbsp of cream cheese

– Pinch of cracked black pepper. Salt is optional (as we’re using cheese)

12 (2)Method: (For Avocado Omelette)

1.   Heat a non-stick pan. Drizzle a wee bit of oil and swirl it around a little. 

2.  While the pan heats, whisk the egg with a fork till light and fluffy.  Stir in the mashed avocado and the cheese. Season with pepper.

3.  Pour the egg-avocado-cheese mixture in the middle of the pan and allow it to spread out into an omelette. Cook on a medium heat till the        top has set, flip and cook for a minute on the second side. DONE! 

Method: (For Scrambled eggs with avocado)

1.   Heat a non-stick pan on medium heat. Drizzle a dab of unsalted butter and swirl it around a little.

2.  While the pan heats, whisk the egg with a fork till light and fluffy. Add the cheese and mix well.

3.  Pour the egg mix into the centre of the melted butter (borrowing Ina Garten’s trick for fluffy scrambled eggs). Lower the heat and gently stir the eggs as they start to set.

4.  Add the mashed/ pureed avocado into the pan jusssst as the egg mix starts to set. Stir gently to evenly distribute the avocado into the eggs. Turn off the heat once cooked. Season with black pepper and DONE! 🙂

Pumpkin & Cheese Couscous

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ImageCouscous, a coarsely ground form of quick cooking pasta made from semolina is a common ingredient used in middle eastern and African cooking. Although it doesn’t have too much flavour on it’s own couscous is pretty yum when combined with a good sauce. Keya took a little while to like the granular texture. Initial episodes of suspiciously eyeing the new texture (when she was about 9 mos) did happen. But I persisted and she finally loves it! Hurrah! Nutritionally – couscous is akin to pasta. It is quick to cook and saves you a LOT of time on crazy days. Also, babies who are just getting teeth, learn to appreciate the granular easy-to-gum texture.

(Although couscous itself cooks in 5 mins, the sauce needs a little time. But I optimize my time by making 3-4 servings at a time and freezing the extra in ice-cube trays. Freezing is so convenient but in general I avoid giving Keya anything that was frozen for more than 2 weeks… thats my personal quirk so I usually use up my frozen baby food within 10 days.)

Keya loves the pumpkin-cheese sauce that I make for her. Its basically a thick version of pumpkin soup with lots of added cheese. I begin by baking the pumpkin because that’s my favourite way of cooking it as you can extract max flavour without losing any nutrients in cooking water as you would by boiling – But feel free to steam it in a veggie steamer  if you own one and/ or are pressed for time.

Nutrition report: This meal is a good source of fiber(from couscous), is rich in vitamins A, B, C, E and beta- carotene. The cheese packs in a lot of flavour and is an excellent source of protein.

ImageIngredients:

– 1-1/2 cups peeled pumpkin cubes

– 4 cloves garlic with peel (if roasting)

OR  1 peeled clove if sauteing in pan

– 1 small onion, sliced thinly

– 5-6 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

– 1 tsp dried oregano or basil (optional)

– 2 tsp Olive oil

– Salt & Pepper to taste

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Toss the pumpkin and unpeeled garlic cloves in a teaspoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pumpkin and garlic onto the baking tray and bake @ 200deg C for 30mins. Cool.

2. Heat the remaining oil in a non-stick pan. Add the sliced onion and saute till soft and slightly golden brown. If you’re steaming the pumpkin instead of baking it with the garlic – add 1 clove of peeled sliced to the pan along with the onion. Allow the contents of the pan to cool.

3.  Place the cooled roasted (or steamed) pumpkin cubes in a blender or food processor along with the roasted(or sauteed) garlic and sauteed onions. Add a little water (about 1/4 cup) and puree everything till nice and smooth.

4.  Return the pureed mixture to the previously used non-stick pan. Add the dried herbs at this point and bring the mix up to a gentle simmer. Stir in the grated Parmesan cheese.

5.  To cook couscous – place 2-3 tbsp of couscous in a bowl (to make a single serving). Pour 1/3rd cup of very hot water (2 times the qty. of couscous) over the couscous and cover with a lid. Set aside for 5 mins allowing the couscous to soften. Uncover and fluff it up using a fork.

6. Serve the couscous mixed with the pumpkin sauce to make a hearty- healthy meal. Sprinkle some extra grated Parmesan on top if you please 🙂

Yummy yum yum!!

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Whole grain veggie + cheese crackers

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IMG_4572As parents who love to be out and about with their baby,  Vineet and I have our challenges when it came to sticking to otherwise religious mealtimes for Keya. Grocery stores are stocked with so many brands of snacking options for infants and toddlers. Teething rusks, teething cookies, biscuits, all swearing they are healthier than the next. Sure they’re easy options – but all are sweet!  Keya, I have come to realize, doesn’t seem to have much of a sweet tooth – not something I am complaining about as this will hopefully save us a lot of $$$ on dental care later on – but finding suitable snack options for her is challenging.  Add that to my slightly obsessive habit of trying to make everything healthier and you have — these awesome whole grain vegetable crackers! A tasty savory snack for babies and toddlers. These have become a huge hit with K and my go-to snack option for her when we’re out or traveling.

Nutrition report: Complex Carbohydrates, Vitamins, Protein.

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Ingredients:

– 1cup whole wheat flour

– 1/2c. finely ground rolled oats

-1/2c grated cheddar cheese

– 1/4c. sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds, coarsely ground

– 4-5tbsp finely grated carrot

–  3-4 tbsp grated broccoli florets

– 1/2 c room temp unsalted butter

– 1/4tsp baking powder
– 3/4c. cold water
– 1/2 tsp each of Salt, pepper, oregano flakes (adjust salt to preference)
To make:
1. Sift the whole wheat flour into a mixing bowl. Add the finely ground raw oats, ground sunflower and baking powder, salt, pepper and oregano. Whisk well to combine.
2. Add the butter into the mixing bowl and rub into the dry ingredients till the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the grated cheese, carrot and broccoli and mix well.
3. Knead the mixture into a dough using the cold water. The dough should not be too soft – neither should it feel dry and hard. Divide the dough into 2 equal sized portions. Shape it into a thick disc and wrap each in plastic wrap and chill for 15-20 mins in the fridge.
4. Preheat your oven to 200 deg C.  Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
5a. Unwrap one of the dough discs. Roll on to a generously floured surface till its abt 1/4″thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out shapes. Place the shapes on the baking tray. To help the crackers brown nicely, you may brush the tops with a lightly beaten egg. Bake @ 200 deg C for 30 mins. The centre of the crackers might be a little bit soft, but these will harden up on cooling. Allow the crackers to cool completely.
5b. For the second disc of dough – I employed a different technique and made these spirals or twists by gently twirling the dough. To make these – Roll out the second chilled dough disk on  a floured surface till 1/4″thick. Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut into 1/2″ wide x 3″long strips. Hold one end of the strip with one hand. Gently twist the strip 2 or 3 times and press down the second end gently. Repeat with all remaining strips. Arrange strips on a baking tray lined with non-stick paper. Brush lightly with beaten egg (optional step to help browning). Bake @ 200 deg C for 45mins.
Once baked, allow the twists to cool completely.If you would like to avoid the egg, increase the baking time by another 10 mins to help brown the crackers. Store the cooled crackers in an air-tight container.
Babies and toddlers who are teething can enjoy these healthy savoury crackers during travel or at home. Offer these to a grown up child with some cream cheese on the side for dipping 😉