Thursday, 30 May 2013

Parfait- A Perfect Breakfast

Mango Parafait

Parfait- A perfect healthy and balanced breakfast option every morning

People on the go, and busy in the mornings always tend to compromise on their breakfast and skip it. Some think missing the breakfast aids in weight loss, these are completely fad and bad health habits. In order to get our metabolism going, we must eat something within half-hour of waking up. It is the healthiest of practice to eat a full balanced and healthy breakfast every morning before kicking off your workday. 

Now the questions is what makes a breakfast; A breakfast that contains a good and healthy selection of complex carbohydrate, protein and some fruit or vegetable is all we need to make it nutritious and balanced.
Strawberry Parfait

When I am selecting food for breakfast every morning, the complex carbohydrate have to be something high fibre, one portion of good low fat or fat free protein, and some fresh fruits/vegetable packed with minerals, vitamins specifically phytochemicals and antioxidents. 

Of course being a working women, my mornings are busy checking all the emails compiled during the night from all over the world, organizing the meetings and the days schedule. Racing the clock to reach office by 9:15, yet ensuring everyone leave home with stomach full of balanced and healthy breakfast for the day. 
Fruit and yogurt parfait is an answer.
It is quick and easy, 
 nutritious, and  all in one bowl meal and keeps all of us going until lunch time without need for a snack or thinking about food. It has become  an all time favourite at my home, their presentation attracts the most picky eaters specially children and adolescent and people in hurry to be out the doors, they can grab and go a cup/bowl of freshly prepared parfait.

Parfait is a French word meaning “Perfect”, and traditionally used by most part of the world for a frozen desert made with cream, icecream, preserved fruits. I have eaten many variations of Parfait around the world, and my favourite are the United States and Canada, parfait that are made with yogurt layered with nuts or fresh fruits and when served at breakfast also includes some wholesome cereal.
Pakistan is blessed with the bounty of nature in the form of a wide variety of colourful, sweet, juicy fruits. There are a good selection of mostly organically produced fruits available year round, and they dont event travel overly long distances to reach you. Including seasonal produce is an important  aspect of eating healthy. So, ideally choose fruits that are in season in your region, are fresh and ripe and not processed, frozen, preserved or imported.  
Peach Parafait

These breakfast parfait can be simply made with any most seasonal fruits zero/low fat yogurt, whole wheat cereal and some added fibre if you want

-       Fresh Seasonal Fruits: ½ Cup Season Fresh Fruits like strawberries or blue berry, rashberry, mulberry, banana, mangoes, peaches. I personally prefer using the fruits in season. However, I don’t use melons, or any citrus fruits the texture and taste wont compliment yougurt, beside citrus makes the parafait watery and very tangy.
-       Yogurt; use low or zero fat yogurt, I use locally available Adams or Nestle Acti Plus which works very well providing the protein and the very much required Probiotics. Avoid fruit flavoured yogut or the ones with jams or preserves in it, they only add that unwanted sugar in your meals and the empty calories. 
-       Complex Carbohydrate; you can select a couple of table-spoons of any whole grain cereal e.g museli, granola, wholewheat flakes, wheabix, cooked and cooled oats (I use steel cut oats), bulgar wheat (dalia).
-         Fibre:  add a teaspoon of any fibre that can be flax seed meal (I use that), physilum husk- Isphagol, or Wheat Bran. 

-       Nuts: I often toss a few slivers of almonds, or dried rasins, blue berries, raisins, cranberries as well.
Cherry Parfait
Layer these in a wide glass or bowl with the top layer always fruits. Children generally like the colorful fresh presentation, appreciate easy one bowl meal to eat before they climb the school buses and you run out of doors for office.  

Lychee Parfait topped with dried cranberries and blueberries

Friday, 17 May 2013

Pizza the Neapolitan Cuisine

Pizza the Neapolitan Cuisine (Greco- Roman period food) got popular globally by migrating Italians to other countries as a means of sharing their cultures to the natives. It is a highly accessible dish and can be tailored to adjust the local tastebuds allowing unlimited variations. It is rich, but complete food often cooked with simple ingredients. 

In Pakistan don’t think any Italians migrated and introduced Pizza.But In early 90s the influx of returning Pakistani families from Gulf Countries after the war brought the demand for pizza since they have been consuming it from the many international pizza chains. Since then, every other day we have new pizza chains coming up, bakeries have their own versions, restaurants have it on their menu, and people love to bake them at home filling it with the endless topping of their choice. 

 So, in my persuit of cooking healthy tasteful and varied meals, I started experimenting with different styles of Vegetable pizza.
The rule of thumb when I am cooking is more vegetable, specially the green leafy ones, wholewheat/whole grain carbohydrate, low or reduced fat dairy, minimum possible additives and food colors and packaged products. Keeping these in mind I have put together the ingredients for vegetable pizza often stacking with a medley of crunchy vegetable on wholewheat thin crust topped with preferably reduced fat mozarella.  I generally use less cheese topping, you might want to use more.

Unlike Newyork where wholewheat pizza dough is common on super market shelves, we don’t get it so easily in Karachi.  Thankful to Necos whole food store for making wholewheat pizza dough for me.  It can be easily made at home well. Nonetheless, the ready to roll dough from Necos made my life easy.

Following the guidelines from Dr. Maya Adams, from Stanford University, she is teaching Cooking and Child Nutrition course that I am currently enrolled in, I made the pizza sauce instead of using one off the super market shelf. We will be safe from chemical preservatives and artificial colors with homemade pizza sauce, it is easy and can be adjusted as per our taste and available ingredients.

Pizza Sauce


½ KG- ripe red tomatoes
1 medium onion
1 tbsp chopped or paste garlic
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp brown sugar
1 tsp mixed Italian herb (Basil, Oregano, Thyme)
¼ tsp red chillies or ½ tsp red chillie flakes
Can also use chopped green chillies
1 tbs olive oil


-Chop tomatoes and onions.
- In a pan sauté onions in olive oil until and then add garlic and sauté until transparent
-add tomatoes, salt, sugar, chillies and let cook until mushy
- now puree it with a hand beater/motorized smoothie maker/or blend in a blender and put back in the pan. You can leave it chunky if you want, taste equally good.
- stir in the corn flour and herbs until completely blended
- simmer for 2 more minutes and let cool before spreading on the crust.

Pizza Toppings:

There are no set ingredient for this, however, my suggestion is to experiment with more leafy green vegetable since they are nutrient dense. Vegetable in any combination and quantity can be used, following are my favourite and I often top my vegetable pizza from this list sometime all of it:

-       Spinach, just removed their stems and leave the whole leaves
-       Mustard (Methi saag)
( wash and rub a bit of lemon juice, black pepper/lemon pepper and olive oil on leafy greens
-       Sliced mushrooms
-       Capsicum
-       Sundried tomatoes
-       Onions
-       Olives
-       Pickled jalapeno

Putting it all together:

Roll the wholewheat pizza dough on a pizza pan, and spread the sauce, top with green leafy vegetable and then on top of it rest of the vegetable. Finally top with shredded mozzarella cheese, try to use the reduced fat cheese if you can find it. The pizza is generally done in 15 minutes on high in the medium shelf of the oven. I also often bake the pizza on outdoor grill, taste awesome.