Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Chicago has been bit by a cold bug – merciless cold has crippled the whole city, with temperatures as low as -25F.  We were all instructed to stay inside and stay warm so today was the perfect day to enjoy one of my favorite soups – Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato soup.

This soup is delicious, hearty and so nutritious.  Red bell pepper has the highest amount of Vitamin C in a bell pepper and contains  phytochemicals and carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene, providing the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Tomatoes are also a rich source of antioxidants Tomatoes are also very high in vitamin C, another antioxidant that fights free radicals. Plus addition of ginger and garlic make it therapeutic as they help fight infections and reduce inflammation in the body.

Also, this soup is so easy to make as the oven and the blender does most of the work for you. There is very little stirring the pot or cooking on the stove required.

Here is the recipe for you to try this simple immunity boosting soup:

Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 long celery stalk
  • 1 carrot
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1-2 green chilies
  • 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper  to taste
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon coconut milk
  • 4 cups water

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Set the oven to broil
  • Chop all the vegetables ( Red peppers – deseeded, onions, tomatoes, carrots, celery) into medium size chunks
  • Take a baking tray and spread all the vegetables, ginger, garlic, green chilies and sprinkle lightly with olive oil
  • Broil for 15-20 minutes until they are toasted and nice aroma is coming
  • Let it cool for few minutes
  • Add the vegetables and water in a blender and blend for smooth, creamy  consistency
  • Transfer the soup in a pan and add basil, coconut milk, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and tomato paste
  • Cook for 5-10 minutes on low-medium heat until it starts to boil
  • Serve warm

The Magic Elixir: Bone Broth

Bone broth has been part of various ancient cultures for more than thousand years. Recently, it has started to gain the trendy status of a superfood because studies have shown its numerous and extensive health benefits.

What is Bone broth: Bone broth is a simple drink made by slowly simmering animal bones with herbs, vegetables, and spices for more than 10 hours .

Why is it so good for you: Bones and connective tissues are packed with essential amino acids, protein, collagen, gelatin . It is also rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals,  which we usually lack in our diets today. 

Here are the top health benefits of bone broth:

1. Heals your gut : The collagen found in bone broth helps to improve and maintain healthy digestion by ensuring that the stomach lining is healthy. It contains collagen, which nourishes the intestinal lining and reduces inflammation. Plus, it’s easy to digest and is loaded with beneficial protein and minerals.

2. Improves immunity: Amino acids and minerals in bone broth have been shown to boost immunity in humans in various studies.

3. Cleans out toxins: The amino acids in the bone broth aid your liver in removing toxins from your body. In addition, glycine is a building block of glutathione, one of the body’s most powerful detoxifying agents.

4. Good for skin and hair: Bone broth is loaded with the building blocks of collagen, the protein that  is required to make your skin strong and smooth.

5. Good for joint health:  When the broth simmers, it pulls gelatin out of the bones.  As we get older, our joints become less flexible. When you drink the broth, your body absorbs all of that gelatin. It strengthens your bones and promotes joint health by providing a cushion-like coating for your joints.

How to make Chicken bone broth at home:

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of chicken bones ( I used it from the leftover organic chicken drumsticks)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 handful of cilantro leaves (with stems)
  • 1.5 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 cups water

Steps

  • Add all ingredients in a slow cooker
  • Let it cook for 20-24 hours
  • Strain and use

What if you are vegetarian: If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you can still make this by using different vegetables like zucchini, mushroom, turnip, beetroot and eliminating the bones part.  By making this without bones, you won’t be getting the collagen and gelatin  but you will still be getting high doses of minerals that leads to bone and connective tissue healing and also carry similar anti-inflammatory properties.

 

Fermented vegetables for a healthy gut

Did you know there are more bacteria in our body than cells so can say that we are more bacteria than we are humans! These colony of bacteria living in our gut makes up our microbiome and they govern many of our body’s key functions so they are critical to our overall health. A balanced microbiome regulates the immune system, metabolism, sustains the gastrointestinal tract, supports mood and brain function, produces crucial vitamins and nutrients, and helps us maintain a healthy weight.
So how do we make our microbiome healthy – Eating Fermented foods is the key!
Fermented foods are part of every cuisine across the world. Fermentation was the technique used to preserve foods and drinks long before the refrigeration was availble. During the process of fermentation, bacteria convert sugars and starch into alcohol or acids. The environment for fermentation boosts the growth of healthy bacteria. Even a small portion of fermented foods provides trillions of good beneficial bacteria. As a side benefit, the bacteria in fermented foods produce vitamins (like B vitamins and K) and other important nutrients as they digest the starches and sugars.
The good news is fermentation is a simple process and there is a variety of fermented foods to pick from. Some of the most popular fermented foods from around the world are yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut.
Most of us are already familiar with making yogurt at home but I recently tried fermenting cabbage/carrots (Sauerkraut) and the outcome was amazing. This probiotic rich food not only improves digestion and immunity but also helps lose weight.
Here is a simple recipe for vegetable fermentation.
Cabbage, Carrot and Ginger Sauerkraut
Half medium size cabbage finely shredded
2 medium carrots grated
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1.5 teaspoons fine-ground sea salt (Do not use a regular iodized table salt)
1 cup brine (1 teaspoon of sea salt dissolved in 1 cup of filtered water)
STEPS 
1. Shred the cabbage and grate ginger and carrots in a food processor. Sprinkle half teaspoon salt over.
2. Start pounding the mixture with a wooden spoon or mix it well with your hands. This will release the juice from the vegetables. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes.
3. Pack the vegetables into a glass jar tightly to remove as many air pockets as possible. Cover the vegetables with the brine so the vegetables are completely immersed in liquid.
4. Place the outer leaf from the cabbage on top  to cover the mixture. The leaf will make sure the contents stay in place and are submerged. If you have a small weight like cooker whistle or small glass cup, place it on top of the leaf before closing the lid.
I used fermentation lids but you can use any cheesecloth with rubber band to secure.
5.  Leave it at room temperature for the fermentation to happen. Make sure the room temperature is between 67-72 degrees.
6. Let it ferment for week to three weeks depending upon the season. It will be faster in summer than the cold winters. You could tell if it ready when it has a nice crisp, tangy smell to it and no signs of mold or discoloration.
Once ready, put it in the fridge and enjoy your healthy, delicious probiotic right vegetables.
You can use any vegetable for fermentation. My next batch includes beetroot and purple cabbage. Play with it, experiment with different vegetables and discover the unique taste of fermented foods!

Morning Kickstart Smoothie

Smoothie is an integral part of my everyday diet.  My morning starts with the whirl of my favorite blender that results in a drink that I carry around all morning, slowly sipping and enjoying.  Smoothies are your best friend if you are trying to incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet. It is the simplest change you can make to start a healthy lifestyle.

I change my smoothie recipe depending on what is available at hand but this is my go-to recipe for the days I don’t want to experiment.

This smoothie will help kick-start your busy day with a burst of energy!

Ingredients:

2 cups Spinach or Kale

½ cup water, ½ cup ice

1.5 cups freshly squeezed orange juice (I get it from my local grocery store)

1 cup pineapple

1 cup blueberries

½ cup beetroot

A slice of ginger

1 tsp flax seeds

Blend the liquid and greens first. Add the rest of the ingredients. Blend more until you have no chunks left.

Sip along!!

Note:

  1. If you are using frozen fruits, feel free to omit the ice
  2. You can use any fruit of your choice like mango, banana, kiwi, strawberries etc
  3. You can replace orange juice with coconut water or any other liquid but that will alter the sweetness so adjust the fruits accordingly

Whole Wheat Zucchini Chocolate Muffins

Its summer time and Zucchini are in the season. I use Zucchini in various recipes like stir-fry, curry, raita, and paranthas. One of the ways my kids eat Zucchini is in this sweet treat. I have tried many variations of Zucchini muffins and found it goes really well with banana and chocolate flavors. I made this recipe with mostly natural sugars like dates, bananas, and maple syrup. I love the fresh taste of these muffins but the good news is that they freeze well. They can be used as a snack, breakfast or a delicious lunch box treat.

Health  benefits of Zucchini:

  • Good source of antioxidants and Vitamin C
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Good source of Potassium
  • Improves digestion
  • Good source of  B vitamins
  • Can help control Diabetes

SERVES: 12 muffins

PREP TIME: 15 minutes

COOK TIME: 25 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium zucchini grated
  • 1 medium banana mashed
  • 6 dates
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil (or any other oil of choice)
  • ¼ maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup coconut/raw sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
  • ½ salt
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • semi-sweet chocolate chips, mini or regular (I used mini)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease the muffin tin.
  2. Grate the zucchini, squeeze to remove excess water
  3. In a blender or mixer, blend the dates, bananas, maple syrup, coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla extract into a liquid mixture.
  4. In a bowl combine all the dry ingredients -flour, cinnamon, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt
  5. Make a well in the dry mixture and slowly add the liquid and mix well
  6. Add the grated zucchini and chocolate chips and mix well.
  7. Pour the mixture into the muffin pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Remove the muffins from the oven and wait for 5 minutes to let it cool.

Gobble them up!!

 

Bewitching Black Bean Brownies

Who does not like warm fudgy Brownies! I am a big brownie fan and so are my kids. The problem is store bought brownies or brownie mixes have many controversial ingredients that I have banned from my “acceptable” list. Here comes a savior. These brownies are not only super delicious but super healthy too. Moreover, they have the right balance of protein, fat, and fibers that they can also be served as a breakfast food. Your kids are going to thank you for that!!

The special ingredient in this recipe is black beans. Most of you must be thinking how the black bean would taste in a sweet dish but trust me you cannot even taste them in there. Serve it to your friends and family first before revealing this secret ingredient. I am sure they could never guess what is in there. Also, the sweetness in these brownies is coming from natural sources like dates, maple syrup, and bananas so there is no need to add additional sugar. You might get a hint of banana flavor but that really goes well with these gooey chocolatey brownies.

Try it and enjoy!

Prep Time 10 minutes

Cook Time 20 minutes

Total Time 30 minutes

Serves – 9 pieces

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 15-oz Black bean can, drained and rinsed very well
  • 12 Dates soaked in hot water for 10 minutes (Discard the water before using)
  • 1 large ripe Banana (or 2 small)
  • ½ cup Apple sauce
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • ¼ cup coconut oil

Dry Ingredients

  • ½ cup instant oats
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼  tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp walnuts (Optional)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (more for topping) – Not optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F
  2. Drain, rinse and wash the beans well.
  3. Add all the wet ingredients in a food processor and blend until you get a smooth paste
  4. Add the dry ingredients and blend really well
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips
  6. Pour the batter into a baking dish and smooth the top. Sprinkle walnuts and additional chocolate tips on top.
  7. Bake brownies for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top starts to dry out and crack a bit and the edges start to pull away from the sides.

Let it cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. If you feel that they are still undercooked, let it stay in the fridge for few hours and they will turn into a perfect consistency!

Serve warm or cold!

 

Anti-inflammatory Tomato Soup

Spring is playing tricks on us this year. One day it is snowing and the other day it is hot, sunny 70 degrees. This is causing a lot of sicknesses – cough, cold and sneezes going around everywhere. Yesterday, it was snowing so a perfect weather for a warm, hearty soup. My kids love tomato soup but the store bought tomato soup cans are full of undesirable ingredients. Here are the ingredients from Campbell Tomato Soup:

TOMATO PUREE (WATERTOMATO PASTE),HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUPWHEAT FLOURWATER, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF: SALTPOTASSIUM CHLORIDE,FLAVORINGCITRIC ACIDLOWER SODIUM NATURAL SEA SALTASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), MONOPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATECELERY EXTRACT.

Now – High Fructose Corn syrup is one of the ingredients which is in my “dirty dozen” list, items that I avoid at any cost.  It is linked to a lot of modern day diseases. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an industrial food product and our body does not know how to process it. According to Huffington post – HFCS  leads to fatty liver, the most common disease in America today, affecting 90 million Americans. This, in turn, leads to diabesity — pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes. So, high fructose corn syrup is the real driver of the current epidemic of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, dementia, and of course, Type 2 diabetes.

It is very easy to make tomato soup at home from “real” ingredients.  This is one of the soups that are loved by all in our family. It is not only delicious but very nutritious and anti-inflammatory. My kids ask for multiple servings until we run out, with a promise to make it again the next day!!

Prep time: 10 Minutes

Cook time: 15 Minutes

Total Time: 25 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 ripe medium-size tomatoes
  • 2 celery stalks
  • I cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 large carrot
  • 3-inch ginger root
  • ½ beetroot small
  • Handful cilantro leaves
  • 5 cups water (adjust for desired consistency)
  • ¼ cup full fat Coconut milk

For tempering

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp cayenne powder
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • Salt to taste

Steps:

  • Combine all the ingredients (except coconut milk and tempering) in the pressure cooker and cook for about 15-20 minutes
  • Let it cool
  • Blend it in a high speed blender until it is smooth
  • In a pan – add butter
  • When the butter melts, add cumin seeds
  • When it starts to splatter, add the remaining ingredients
  • Add the blended soup
  • Add the coconut milk
  • Let it cook for 5 more minutes

Serve hot!

Please use all organic ingredients, if possible.

 

 

Simple 4 ingredients Coconut Ice cream

Let’s face it – kids need variety and sometimes it can be a challenge to come up with healthy but delicious options for their ever-changing taste buds.This ice cream recipe is simple to make and super delicious to enjoy any time with both adults and kids. My friends served this to her 1-year-old baby. We had a great time watching him enjoy this yummy treat, licking the cup and demanding more!

Prep time: 5 Minutes

Cook time: 0 Minutes but you need to freeze it for at least 4 hours

Total Time: 5 Minutes

Yields about 10 cups

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Blend all the ingredients together in a high-speed blender and freeze for at least 4 hours
  • I used this silicone muffin cups to freeze them.
  • You can replace the apple with any other fruit like mango, pineapple or berries to create this ice cream in different colors!

Loaded Tofu-Broccoli Paranthas

Paranthas are one of the most popular North Indian breakfast options. With the popularity of cereals and quick breakfast options, paranthas are taking a back seat.  Also, if you are watching your weight, it is recommended to avoid fatty foods like paranthas, which is far from true. I grew up eating paranthas for breakfast every single day of my childhood years and it still is my preferred breakfast food.

These paranthas are loaded with healthy fat, protein, vitamins/minerals that provide anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting abilities to our body.

A healthy breakfast should comprise of a complex carb, vegetables/fruits, protein and healthy fat. Guess what  – these paranthas can provide all that and much more!

Here is the recipe for delicious, healthy and filling paranthas. The good news is these can be made in advance and refrigerated for 2-4 days. The rich ingredients of this recipe will provide a great kick start to your day and keep you full through lunch. It has the right balance of nutrition and taste. Here are some of the health benefits of the ingredients in this wonder food:

  • Tofu: Tofu is a good source of protein and contains all eight essential amino acids. It is also an excellent source of iron and calcium and the minerals manganese, selenium and phosphorous. Tofu is also a good source of magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1.
  • Broccoli: Broccoli prevents many types of cancer, improve our digestive system, lower cholesterol levels, detoxify the body, and maximize vitamin and mineral uptake. Broccoli also prevents allergic reactions, boosts the immune system, protects the skin, prevents birth defects, lowers blood pressure, eliminates inflammation, and improves vision and ocular health.
  • Avocados: Avocados are a great source of vitamins C, E, K, and B-6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, magnesium, and potassium. Eating healthy fats like avocado supports skin health, enhances the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, and may even help boost the immune system.
  • Red Onions: Red onions are one of the best natural sources of quercetin, a bioflavonoid that scavenges on free radicals. It also has been found to possess cancer-fighting, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Red onions also are high in vitamin C so it boosts up your immunity.
  • Ginger: Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that heal the gut, relieves nausea, and can help prevent  Ginger also helps to strengthen the immune system, reduces inflammation levels especially involving joint pain.

Now that you see all the health benefits of these paranthas are you ready to try them!

Prep time: 15 Minutes

Cook time: 20 Minutes

Total Time: 25 Minutes

Serves:  4-6

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 1 cup mashed tofu
  • 1 small red onion – chopped
  • 1 medium avocado – mashed
  • 1 heaped teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chopped coriander leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne/Chill powder
  • ½ teaspoon coriander powder
  • Salt to taste
  • lukewarm water, to knead the dough
  • Ghee/oil for cooking

Instructions

  1. Take a mixing bowl; add flour
  2. Place the broccoli in a food processor and pulse until a rice like consistency has formed
  3. Put all ingredients except water and oil and mix it well with flour
  4. Knead the dough, add lukewarm water as needed to make a soft dough
  5. Take little dough. Make a ball same size as a golf ball.
  6. Take a rolling pin. Spread the dough around 2″ diameter.
  7.  Apply ½ teaspoon ghee, fold it and make a ball again.
  8. Roll the dough to make it around 5″ diameter. Apply flour if it is hard to roll or if the dough is too sticky
  9. Heat Griddle; cook the dough for about a minute.
  10. Take some oil in a spoon and spread on edges of parantha on the griddle.
  11. Flip the parantha and cook other side. Cook for about a minute.
  12. Flip it again, apply some oil on top. Flip again and cook for about 30 seconds.
  13. Your parantha is ready

Serve it hot with butter and plain yogurt.

Notes

This parantha recipe is very versatile, feel free to add/reduce spices or replace broccoli with cauliflower or any other preferred veggie.

Healthy Cheesy-Breezy Pasta

Who does not like rich, creamy, cheesy pasta?  My kids love pasta in white/Alfredo sauce but most of the store-bought Alfredo sauce are highly processed. They not only contain high quantity of cheese but also have some controversial ingredients that are best to be avoided.

The good news is that it is very easy to make Alfredo sauce at home but what makes this recipe supercool is a secret vegetable that I add to make the sauce creamy and healthy – CAULIFLOWER!!  Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable which can be substituted for rice and flour in many recipes.  It is a member of the cruciferous family and an excellent source of antioxidants with many health benefits including:

  • Reduce Cancer Risk
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Decreases Risk for Heart Disease and Brain Disorders
  • Improves Digestion
  • Promotes Detoxification
  • Aids in Weight Loss
  • Helps Balance Hormones
  • Preserves Eye Health

I am sure you are now convinced to cook more with this wonderful vegetable.

Here is the recipe for Healthy Cheesy-Breezy Pasta. My kids love the taste so it is both kids and mom approved!

Prep time: 10 Minutes

Cook time: 15 Minutes

Total Time: 25 Minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of grated cauliflower
  • 1 small white onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • 1 ½  tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup milk (more to achieve desired consistency)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper (more to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon of thyme powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of oregano powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Pasta (I used GoGo Organic Red and White Quinoa Macaroni available at Costco, cooked as per instructions)

Instructions

  • Heat butter in a pan
  • Chop onions and shallow fry until they get translucent and golden brown
  • Add the garlic paste
  • Add the grated cauliflower
  • Cook on medium/low heat till it is soft and mushy
  • Let it cool
  • Add milk, cheese, spices and the cauliflower mixture in a blender
  • Blend till it is smooth and creamy
  • Mix the cooked pasta and the sauce in the pan
  • Simmer for a couple of minutes

Serve hot.  ENJOY!

Notes:

  • You can add more/less milk depending on the consistency you prefer
  • The sauce can be made in bulk and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days
  • Olive oil can be used in place of butter if needed

Try it and let me know how you like it.