Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wanna Great Legs!!

Eat Spinach!! Along with my five year old son, I just love to watch Popeye turn into a muscle-bound superman when he eats a can of spinach and saves his girl friend Olive Oyl. Popeye’s creator, Elzie Crisler Segar, believed that spinach was an incredible source of strength-giving iron. While it is a good source of iron, recent studies have shown spinach may be more valuable for its varicose vein-fighting vitamin K.

Thirty percent of women suffer from varicose veins. Varicose veins are blood vessels that enlarge and rise above the surface of the skin. According to a study published in the Journal of Vascular Research, the protein responsible for the maintenance of strong vessel walls is activated only when the right levels of vitamin K are present in your body. Just one cup of spinach contains about 380 micrograms of vitamin K—enough to activate the protein that keeps veins strong.

The vitamin K in your body depletes rapidly without regular dietary intake. It can be found in dark leafy vegetables, like spinach, and it is also produced naturally by your intestinal bacteria. In addition to activating vein-strengthening proteins, vitamin K is also responsible for normal blood clotting, which can also help your legs look good by limiting the bruising that happens in day to day bumps and accidents.

For women, the USDA recommends only 64 mcg of vitamin K each day. Recent studies at Oregon State University concur, recommending that everyone eat at least 1 cup of dark leafy greens daily. Replacing saturated fats, like butter and cheese, with monounsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil, will also increase you daily intake of vitamin K.

More Reasons to Eat Spinach

While spinach cannot rightfully take credit for Popeye’s huge forearms, but it can help your health a lot more than your legs:
  • Spinach contains other anti-inflammatory nutrients, like folate, for the production and maintenance of new cells.
  • Spinach is great source of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous.
  • Spinach is high in antioxidants that subdue cancer-causing free radicals.
  • Spinach is high in phyto-sterols, which are natural plant compounds responsible for blocking cholesterol absorption and reducing blood cholesterol levels.
  • Spinach is a great source of dietary fiber.
Getting Your K

Here, are a few recipes that my family enjoys. My cooking tends to be on the spicy side, so I have put an extra effort to cut down on green chilies for the recipes below.

Paalak Raita

  • Curd 3/4 spoons
  • Paalak few leaves
  • Onions - 1/2 (if it is a big one)
  • Green chillies - 2
  • Coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • Ginger, grated
  • Mustard seeds - seasoning
  • Jeera - seasoning
  • Oil - 1 spoonSalt to taste

  1. Wash Paalak with lukewarm water and chop them.
  2. Cut onions and green chillies into fine pieces.
  3. Heat 1 spoon of cooking oil in a shallow pan. When it is sufficiently hot add ginger past, green chillies. When these are completely fried add jeera & mustard seeds.
  4. Add onions to this seasoning and let it fry for few minutes till it turns light brown. Then add cut paalak and salt and allow it to fry. (It is advised not to close the lid as soon as u add salt as it will lose its green color and looks like a steamed leaves) after few minutes close it with a lid and let it leave some water.
  5. Then remove the lid and let the excess water evaporate.
  6. Once it is cooked remove it from the stove and let it cool.
  7. After it has cooled down add curd and garnish it with coriander leaves. You can serve paalak raitha with roti or puri.
Spinach Rice

  • 2 cups spinach,chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup long grained rice
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. garam masala powder
  • 2 green chillies chopped fine
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan and season with cumin seeds and chopped green chillies.
  2. Add onion and fry till it turns brown.
  3. Add tomatoes and fry well.
  4. Turn in the spinach and saute for two minutes
  5. Cover cook for five minutes low heat.
  6. Wash the rice and add to spinach mixture.
  7. Add salt,stir.
  8. Add coriander powder and garam masala powder,stir well.
  9. Add water, bring to boil.
  10. Cook for ten minutes on medium heat.
  11. Cook till done on low heat.

Paalak Paneer


  • Spinach - 1/2 kg
  • Paneer - 100 grams
  • Onion - 1
  • Butter - 3 tbsp.
  • Bay leaves - 2-3
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp.
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper powder - 1/4 tsp.
  • Ginger-garlic paste - 3/4 tsp.
  • Green chili paste 1/2 tsp.
  • Garam Masala Powder - 1 tsp.
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  1. Mix ginger-garlic paste, green chili paste and some water with spinach. Pressure cook it for about 7-8 minutes (just before the first whistle).
  2. Cut paneer into small cubes. Keep 3 cubes separately for decoration.
  3. Heat oil in a pan. Fry the paneer pieces on 'medium' heat till they turn slightly brown. Set the paneer pieces aside.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp. of butter. Fry bay leaves and cumin seeds. Add chopped onion. Fry until the onions become pink.
  5. Add salt, black pepper powder, garam masala. Stir well.
  6. Add paneer and cooked spinach (grinded). Mix well.
  7. Put paalak paneer in a baking tray .
  8. Add rest of the butter. Bake for 1/2 hour at 180 deg C.
  9. Grate the paneer kept aside for decoration. Decorate. Paalak paneer is ready to serve

Paalak Chicken


  • Chicken - 1/2 kg
  • Spinach (Paalak) - 1 bunch
  • Onions (medium size) - 3
  • Garlic - 12 pods
  • Green Chillies - 6-8
  • Coriander Leaves (finely chopped) - Handful
  • Cloves - 4
  • Cinnamon - 1 stick
  • Bay Leaf - 1
  • Curd / Plain Yogurt - 1/2 cup
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt to taste
  1. Finely chop the onions, garlic and green chillies.
  2. Boil the spinach on low heat in a vessel till it is soft. Switch off and set aside
  3. Heat oil in a pan/kadai.
  4. Add cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf. Fry for a minute.
  5. Add onions till they turn pink.
  6. Add finely chopped garlic, green chillies and coriander.
  7. Add spinach to this mixture.
  8. Fry this mixture for a couple of minutes
  9. Take the mixture off the heat.
  10. Use the blender to grind the spinach mixture to paste.
  11. Heat some more oil in pan. Add the paste from blender.
  12. Add curd / plain yogurt.
  13. Once the oil starts leaving the sides of the pan, add chicken and salt.
  14. Cook on low heat till the chicken is done.
  15. Serve with hot rotis or rice.
Paalak Mushrooms
( Serves 3 - 4 )

  • 100 gm mushrooms – small in size
  • 2 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp salt
  • PRESSURE COOK: ½ kg paalak (spinach), ¾ cup water, 1” piece ginger – chopped, 3-4 flakes garlic- chopped, 1 green chili – chopped.
  • TOMATO PASTE: 2 tomatoes, ½” piece ginger, 1 green chili, 3-4 flakes garlic
Other Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil, 3 onions – ground to a paste
  • ¼ tsp black pepper, salt to taste, ½ tsp garam masala.
  • Seeds of 1 moti illaichi (brown cardamom) – crushed roughly
  • Seeds of 1 chhoti ilaichi (green cardamom ) – crushed roughly.
  • Chop paalak leaves. Wash in plenty of water. Pressure cook paalak with all the ingredients to give one whistle. Keep on low flame for 5-7 minutes. Cool and blend in a mixer.
  • Slice tip of the mushroom stalk and wash to remove dirt. Boil 2 cups water with 1 tsp salt & lemon juice. Soak mushrooms in it for 5 minutes.
  • Heat 1 tbsp Olive Oil. Add the drained mushrooms and stir fry for 4-5 minutes till the mushrooms loose their raw look and turn soft. Keep aside.
  • Grind tomatoes, ginger, green chili and garlic to a paste.
  • Grind onions separately to a paste.
  • Heat 2 tbsp Olive Oil. Add onion paste & cook till golden brown.
  • Add tomato paste. Cook till dry and oil separates.
  • Add black pepper, moti illaichi (brown cardamom), chhoti illaichi (green cardamom), salt to taste and ½ tbsp garam masala. Saute for ½ minute.
  • Add spinach and cook for 4-5 minutes on low flame.
  • Add mushrooms. Cook for 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish.
  • Heat 1 tsp of Olive Oil. Remove the pan from heat. Add ¼ tsp red chili powder and pour the hot oil on the hot paalak. Server hot.
Try to work more spinach into your diet. Your body will thank you for it.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Goodness of Olive Oil

It's been almost three years since I switched to olive oil (extra-virgin olive oil) for my cooking. It stimulates taste and goes an extra mile than the regular cooking oil to provide benefit to your health. However, when I go to the store to buy a bottle of olive oil, I am bombarded with a variety of types and colors. I am sure many would have faced the same situation. I thought it would be good to share (based on my experience) and provide an explanation of some of the typical varieties you might find — and a note about which type to choose.

Olive oils do not differ in the types or amount of fats they contain — all are pressed from tree-ripened olives. The differences lie mainly in the taste, aroma, and concentration of nutrients. Here's the breakdown:

Extra-virgin olive oil: This is the oil which is widely recommended. It comes from the first pressing of the olives, so it's the least refined and therefore has the highest level of antioxidants. It's also the highest quality and most flavorful olive oil, with the lowest acid content.
Virgin olive oil: This comes from the second pressing of the olives and has an acidity of between one and three percent.
Light and extra-light olive oil: This is simply a designation used by companies to market a less flavorful, more acidic type of oil. The term "light" means lighter in color and fragrance, not less fat or calories. These oils are generally between 90 and 95 percent refined olive oil and 5 to 10 percent virgin olive oil. They have had their color, taste, and fragrance removed by the refining process (using a chemical, usually hexane, and steam). This process also destroys the phytochemicals and antioxidants in the oil.
Organic Olive Oil: Olive oil is obtained from the fruit of the olive tree, a traditional crop of the Mediterranean Basin. It contains a wide variety of valuable antioxidants that are not found in other oils. It is rich in vitamins A, D, K and especially E. In the sixth century BC the Etruscans used Olive oil to make cosmetics; the Egyptians used it as an anti-aging anti-wrinkle lotion, mixing it with milk, cypress berries, wax and incense grains. Down through the ages it has also been used for medicinal purposes, to disinfect and to assist in the healing of sores.

Homer called it 'liquid gold'. Medicinal, magical, and fascinating since time immemorial, olive oil has been more than mere food. Olive oil has brought about the high life expectancy and low rates of cardiac disease of the Mediterranean people. Today, it is universally accepted as the healthiest of all edible oils. Adding olive oil to your diet is the easiest change you can make towards a healthier lifestyle.

Benefits of Olive Oil:
  • It decreases the level of cholesterol and prevents arteriosclerosis.
  • It prevents high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • It regulates the digestion system by protecting against gastritis and ulcer.
  • It prevents the possibility of formation of gall bladder stones.

I would like to share with you one of the special recipe enjoyed by members of my family.

Paneer Tikka

( Serves 4 )

  • 300 gm paneer- cut into 1½ ” squares of 1” thickness
  • 1 large capsicum – deseeded and cut into 1” pieces (12 pieces)
  • 1 onion – cut into 4 pieces and then separated
  • ½ cup dahi – hang in a muslin cloth fir 15 minutes
  • 3 tbsp thick malai or thick cream
  • A few drops of orange colour or a pinch of haldi (turmeric)
  • 1 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp (level) cornflour
  • ½ tsp amchoor, ½ tsp kala namak, ¾ tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp tandoori masala
  • 1” piece ginger, 5-6 flakes garlic
  • 2 dried, whole red chillies- soaked in water for 10 minutes and drained.
  • Hang curd in a muslin cloth for 15 minutes.
  • Drain soaked red chillies. Grind ginger, garlic and red chillies to a paste.
  • To the ginger-garlic-chilli paste, add hung dahi, cream or malai, 1 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp cornflour, amchoor, salt, kala namak, tandoori masala, colour or haldi and paneer. Mix well.
  • Brush the wire rack (grill) of the oven generously with Extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Arrange paneer on a greased wire rack of the oven or on the skewers. After all the paneer pieces are done, put the capsicum and onions- both together in the left over marinade and mix well to coat the vegetables with the marinade. Leave the vegetables in the bowl itself.
  • At the time of serving, put the paneer pieces placed on the greased wire rack in the hot oven at about 200°C. Grill till almost done, for about 15 minutes. Grill the paneer till it gets dry and starts getting crisp. Sprinkle some Extra-virgin olive oil on the paneer pieces. Now remove the vegetables from the bowl and put them also in the oven on the sides of the paneer.
  • Grill everything together for another 5 minutes. The vegetables should not be grilled for too long.
  • Remove from the oven. Serve immediately (really hot), sprinkled with some lemon juice and chaat masala.