Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Vegetable Soups

 Vegetable based soups are healthy, nutritious and good for weight watchers


Soups are light, healthy and nutritious food, specially the vegetable based ones are low in calories. Vegetable soups are great even during the summers, many taste great colder, chilled or at room temperature. Packed with valuable  goodness of nature, vegetable soups offer a high nutrient density with a low energy density - this means that we get lots of key nutrients including vitamins and minerals for relatively few calories.

In persuit of creating healthier meals and for maximum benefits from vegetables, I experimented cooking different vegetable based soups. They turned out pretty good, great texture and flavours combined together in palatable and of course without adding calories and adding vital vitamins and minerals in diet.

Mostly I serve the soups with toasted multigrain bread with or without Olive butter, or sandwiches and wraps made with grilled fish/chicken and raw vegetable, over wholewheat multigrain bread pr pita/roti, and fresh cut vegetable salads with a light dressing. These soups and sandwiches meals are a filling afternoon snack,  pack it for office lunch, brunch on Sundays, light evening meal, sides at big dinners or lunches. 

The bakery at the Hyperstar Karachi bakes a selection of great tasting artisan whole loaves.

Here are some important tips on ingredients, note that the calorie count changes with the addition and deletion, or replacement of ingredients.

-       Many recipe calls for stock, I used vegetable stocks, sometime Knorr Chicken Cubes, mostly home made chicken broth and for many recipes completely omitted it out and used plain water.
-       In cream soups, I used reduced/low fat light cream, and got some delicious results using Lebaneh also referred to as greek yogurt, soft cheese.
-       For garnishing I used toasted peanuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds as well.
-       Please note that all the dullops of extra cream/labnah/sour cream, or tossing the seeds also add calories.

 Some well tested Recipes

Broccoli Soup

  1- Cream of Broccoli Soup:

1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 1/2 pounds fresh broccoli
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbs chopped garlic or roasted garlic flakes
2 big tomatoes, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Red Chillie Flakes

4 cups home made chicken broth chicken/vegetable

  • Heat oil in heavy medium pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add broccoli, onion, garlic and saute until onion is translucent, about 6 minutes.
  • Now add broccoli
  • Add stock and bring to boil.
  • Simmer uncovered until broccoli is tender, about 15 minutes.
  • Pour in cream (optional if you simple broccoli soup don’t add cream/lebaneh).
  • With an immersion blender, puree the soup.
  •  Add salt, to taste, and the pepper.
  • Replace the lid back on the pot.
  • Serve hot garnished with sour cream/lebaneh and toasted seeds.
  •  Toasted multigrain bread makes it a complete meal.
Cream of Broccoli Soup
African Peanut Soup

2- African Peanut Soup:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

 medium sized onions, chopped

2 large red or green peppers, chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced
6 big crushed tomatoes

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth/Knorr chicken cube

1 teaspoon fresh pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

2/3 cup extra crunchy natural peanut butter

1 tablespoon fresh corriander  
1.              Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook onions and bell peppers until lightly browned and tender, adding in garlic at the end to keep from burning.
2.              Stir in tomatoes and their liquid, the vegetable broth, pepper, and chili powder. Reduce heat to low, uncover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
3.              Stir in peanut butter and corriander until well blended, and serve garnished with toasted peanuts and corriander.

Makes:   4 - 6 servings

Butternut Squash (use same recipe for pumpkin soup, zucchini, or loki)

  •               1KG Butternut squash/pumpkin. peeled and cubed
  •             2 medium onions
  •          6 cloves garlic (optional)
  •         2 Tbsp. butter or vegetable oil
  •      1/2 tsp. salt plus more to taste
  •      8 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1.              Halve, seed, peel, and cube the butternut squash. Set aside.
2.              Halve, peel, and chop the onion. Mince the garlic, if you like.
3.              Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the butter or oil and the chopped onion. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 3 minutes.
4.              Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
5.              Add the squash and the broth. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.
6.              Transfer small batches to a blender. Or use a smoothy blender to puree
7.              Add more salt and pepper to taste.
8-       Serve with  a dullop of sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Butternut Soup

Vegetable bean and pasta soup-A healthy one pot meal

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Lean Bean

Beans are a easily available and cheap source of high protein and energy belong to the legumes and bean family of plant food. More than 13,000 species are found worldwide. 

A wide selection of beans are available in Pakistan that includes, red kidney beans, black eye beans, chickpeas, the bengal gram, mung and masoor beans, green pea and many others. The tiny colourful beady food are packed with valuable micro and macro nutrients and fibre rich, and symptous dishes can be created with them. Bean based dishes can be great protein source for weight watchers, and for people following vegetarian diet. 

Find here recipes of two of my latest creations of bean based hearty soups.

Barley and Bean Soup

-       ½ cup Barley (dry)- 250cal
-       ½ cup black eye beans (dry)-100
-       50gms quinoa (dry)- 260cal
-       canned fava beans- 110
-       2 tsp lemon pepper-0
-       1 tsp basil- 0
-       1 tbsp bruised fresh pepper-8
-       1 tbsp garlic flakes- 16
-       ½ tsp ground red chillie/cayenne pepper-6
-       ½ kg hopped tomatoes-110
-       two medium sized chopped onions
-       2 bay leaves
-       Vegetable/chicken stock- fresh or cubes at least 2 full cups/cubes

Makes 8 -10 cups 8 oz cups





















Soak overnight in a bowl: black eye beans, quinoa and barley

Cooking Instructions:

-       wash the soaked ingredients and put in a big pot covered with 1.5 ltrs of water with chopped onions and bay leaves .
-       leave it for cooking for at least 45 minutes or until the beans are tender.
-       Add chopped tomatoes and all other spices alongwith the stockand the canned fava bean
-       Cook for another 20 minutes
-       When its consistency is desired which is thick and chunky serve it piping hot with any crusty artisan wholewheat bread.
-       Approximately 100Cal in one 8 oz bowl.

16 Bean Soup
Can be cooked with any number and combination of beans, just ensure they all get cooked at the same time and temperature. I generally use a combination of canned and dry beans.

For the following recipe, I used the 500gm packet of  Goya 16 bean combination.


500 gms, mixed beans
1 large onion, chopped
4 large fresh tomatoes chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper
1  teaspoon fresh pepper corns crushed
2 bay leaf
10 cups water
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) stewed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tyme
1 Cooriander and Dill sprigs

Cooking Instructions:

- Soak the beans overnight
-Place beans in a Dutch oven; add water to cover by 6 in. Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; cover and let stand for 1 hours or until beans are softened. 
-add chopped onions, gasrlic and bay leaves 
- when beans are tender, remove the bay leaves 
- Add fresh and canned tomatoes and spices;
lemon pepper, chili flakes, pepper,
- let cook for another 20 minutes
-now add thyme and let simmer for 5 min
- garnish with fresh corriander and dill.  

Hearty One Pot Meal:

This is a thick, chunky soup. Main ingredients are any one kind of bean, wholewheat penne pasta, whole grain like barley or quinoa, and a some green vegetable like squash, string beans, baby corns and a leafy vegetable like bok choy, Kulfa greens or baby spinach.

- Use the 16 bean soup recipe exactly
- add grains with beans
- add pasta when the beans are tender
- add string beans  squashes vegetable towards the end of cooking and cook in the soup for like 5-7 minutes, turn off the heat and then add the green leafy vegetable and leave it to wilt before serving.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Just Eat Right-Do Not Diet


 Just Eat Right.....Dont Diet

We often hear people talking about dieting.

They are discussing how to make a diet plan for themselves. Make a new year resolution to loose weight.  Share medical reports for high blood sugar or cholesterol and try to follow a diet, figuring out what to eat?

But what is diet anyway? My answer mostly is, it is nothing, a self-deception. Even if we develop that courage and will power to go on a diet, it is like a time based medical treatment or therapy. Once we reach our goals, we go back to same unhealthy eating pattern and put on all those pounds, fats and sugar back.

There is only ‘healthy eating’ or ‘un-healthy eating’, nothing in between. “Dieting’ does not exist.

We will loose weight only if we follow a healthy lifestyle and eating habits. All this can only happen if we stop this obsession with dieting and just focus on eating healthy forever.

Unfortunately when we take one of our colleagues to the hospital emergency as they suffer a sudden cardiac seizure, help mom check her blood sugar or return back all gloomy after the burial of a dear uncle who passed away during a cancer treatment, we don’t believe that it can be us in the same situation one day.

We continue with our endless desire to feed our taste buds without thinking what all those unhealthy food is doing to our bodies.

We constantly make excuses for eating high-carb, cholesterol laden, oil drenched meals, ordering from every new fast food chain. We forget to drink water and are too busy for workouts.

In the name of gourmet eating we keep frying our food and order the same at restaurants. Add sugar, salt to our food and go for refined grains.

We find raw vegetable bland and cumbersome to eat but love to eat expensive cuts of steaks as often as we want because we can afford, adding sides of potatoes justifying it as vegetable.

We want to keep the tradition alive and eat curries bathed in ghee, organ meat and mouth watering fried parathas and pooris. We love to juice all our fruits destroying their fibre, and then complain for various gastro-intestinal discomforts.

We forget that our bones are leeched of the important calcium as we drink cans after cans of sodas.

Eating this way clearly leads to malnutrition, yes we are not getting the right nutrient in the right amount that makes us malnutrition individuals at high risk of developing many disease.

Malnutrition does not only mean the starving population of sub-Saharan areas shown in Carter’s award-winning photo.

Any one of us can be suffering from malnutrition with that belly fat and unhealthy eating habits which lead to different disease, ranging from obesity, cancer, cardio vascular complications, diabetes, GI tract complications. 

So what needs to be done?

-       Get your medical check up, blood profile, X-rays and all if you are above 40
-       Getting a Vitamin D and Calcium levels tests are crucial for all ages in Pakistani population, since these play an important role in body functions
-       Find out if you are overweight or within normal range
-       Smoking plays a key role in your mortality and health, don’t even think, just quit if you smoke
-       Establish the daily calorie requirement for your age, height, weight. The many online fitness apps can help you with this.
-       Then plan your daily meals choosing food according to your health condition.

Lifestyle Modifications:

-       Exercise, walk, jog play, any kind of physical activity is the foundation for a healthy body
-       Quit drugs and smoking choice between live longer and healthy or smoke and die young
-       Reduce the screen time on TV and computers
-       Limit caffeine intake in the form of Tea and Coffee
-       Cocaine and Sugar are same, both create craving and are addictive, bad for health. Cut down completely on sweets to just once in a while.
-       Quit eating all any processed food/snacks from packets, boxes and tins.
-       Replace all sodas with water (64 ounces a day)
-       Eat your fruits, don’t drink them, by juicing your fruits, you are depriving yourself from the valuable fibre that helps your digestion.
-       Don’t eat late night and don't go to bed right after dinner.

According to the guidelines for healthy eating by Harvard Medical School:

Your meal plate should be half filled with fruits and vegetable, preferably uncooked, steamed or sauted. Then quarter plate should be some whole grains, like wheat bread, chapattis and brown rice. Another quarter of you meal plate will have a healthy protein that can include, beans, lentils, poultry and fish. Avoid red meat and if at all you want to eat them it need not be more then twice a month. Choose fats wisely, using very limited quantity of oils, like olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, peanut. Very little or no butter and completely exclude transfat and semi-hydrogenated fats. Limit the dairy products to one serving a day that are with low or zero fats.

Remember the change in the diet and lifestyle go hand in hand for  health and wellness. Life is a gift from god and you are send to the world with a purpose, your friends and family love you and need you. So make an effort to stay healthy, live a long disease free life. 

My Mediterranean Cooking


Here goes my latest cooking experitments; “African Peanut Soup", a delicious all plant dish, containing 130 Calories in a bowl serving. I prepared it in 30 minutes(did not use potatoes as suggested in many recipes). 
Family and friends enjoyed it with freshly toasted whole-wheat bread

Peanut Soup is a popular Mediterranean Diet, no I don’t mean diet as in ‘dieting’. Mediterranean Diet can be explained as healthy way of eating and lifestyle, recommended by leading scientist and Harvard School of Public Health, as one of the healthiest in the world. 
Mediterranean diet is based on the dietary traditions of Crete, Greece and southern Italy from 60s at a time when the rates of chronic disease among people were lowest in the world, average life expectancy was the highest despite limited medical services.

Mediterranean Food Pyramid

Major part of meals should comprise of fresh vegetable. Best in the form of raw salads, sauted, or steamed.

Vegetable Wrap, a great meal on the go, for office and school lunches. I use a whole wheat chapatti add freshly cut vegetable any available and optional few chunks of cottage cheese and olives..

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Regular exercise, and or physical activities like sports
  • Major part of daily meals should be plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes (lentils and beans) and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil, sunflower and canola oil
  • Using herbs, lemon juice and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Restricting the red meat to a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • The diet also emphasizes on enjoying meals with family and friends.
Pan grilled chicken breast fillet marinated in Italian mixed herbs.

To go with the soup for main course I cooked this pleasant meal of a low calorie delicious and quickly prepared, pan grilled chicken breast marinated in lemon pepper and Italian herbs. I served this with lightly saut├ęd eggplants and squash with oven roasted garlic flakes, lemon juice and herbs like rosemary and thyme in olive oil.

Total meal is 220-260 calories average.

Seafood and Poultry twice a week

Mediterranean diet is a good way of loosing weight and keeping safe from and for support in treatment of cardiovascular and many other diseases.

Here are a very authentic and trusted set of recipes Mediterranean Cooking. This is my reference for experimenting with Mediterranean Cooking.

Another useful site for Med Recipes.