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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Crock Pot Chicken Masala

Back in 2007 I spent a month in India for a “HIV/AIDS and public health challenges” volunteer experience. It was absolutely amazing. We were completely immersed in the culture, which scared the crap out of me at first. I flew alone – for the first time alone and the first time ever on a plane for more than 3 hours. It was a 26 hour non-stop flight. I arrived at the Delhi airport, surrounded by a language I had never heard before (Hindi). My ride was no where to be found and I had no idea how to figure out how to contact him/her. Thankfully a half hour later I found them. And they didn’t speak English. They were employees of the NGO that my non-profit was affiliated with. They weren’t dressed very nice, but were nice to me. I couldn’t help but feel a little skeptical about the situation. Before we left the airport I tried to call my parents and J to let them know I arrived safely. My phone disconnected me 3 times and they were, of course, worried something happened to me. Thankfully it stayed connected long enough to hear I was OK and that they should call J to tell him I was safe. I then went with the two Indian men I had just met to an old van. Yes, one of those creepy vans without side windows. They loaded my luggage up for me and I sat alone in the backseat without a seat belt (because they don’t use those in India). I was honestly so scared that I might not make it through the night, but I knew I had to trust that everything would be fine. The ride was an experience I will never forget. It was my first glimpse into the chaos of Delhi driving. When we were at stop lights, children and women begged at our car (just like you may have seen on Slumdog Millionaire). I had never seen anything like this. We finally drove down a dark ally, my heart racing, and arrived at my hostel. The hostel keeper didn’t speak English, of course, and my two other travel partners hadn’t arrived yet, of course. The women at the hostel were very nice and helped me get settled into the room we (the 3 girls) would share. I was so scared and had no idea what was going to happen next. After I fell asleep there was a loud pounding at the door – it was my travel partners (but my mind went to the worst possible scenario, of course).

Taj

After that moment the trip improved greatly. One of the girls spoke Hindi, which made all the difference. Our experience was amazing. We were immersed into India. Working and living in conditions similar to those of the lower-middle class of India (which would be poor in the US). We worked with homeless children, men dying of HIV/AIDS who were disowned from their families, young boys who were already addicted to drugs, amputees who lost limbs from drug use, women who had been abused, and so many more amazing people. This was an experience I will never forget. I went from being scared to death of a country to not wanting to leave. I still hope to go back someday and experience India all over again.

loving her new glasses

A woman in Old Delhi who just was fitted for these new glasses

teaching English in the village

Teaching English in a Village

india-child in slums

A young boy in the slums of old Delhi

nutrition classes for eye healt

Nutrition classes in the slums of Old Delhi for eye health

 

During our time there we ate a lot of traditional Indian food. We usually ate whatever was prepared for the people we were serving, so there was tons of dal with rice and nann. We often ate with our hands. The food was absolutely delicious. I ate the best mango I have ever had in my life  – so ripe I could peel it with my hands. I fell in love with paneer and kheer (and probably put on a few pound because of it). Occasionally we’d venture out and eat at a local restaurant, which was always amazing. I only made the mistake of getting something too spicy once the entire month, was a pretty good success. 

thewhole group

Since being home, I have tried to make Indian dishes occasionally. The cumin, chai, cinnamon, and masala spices bring back memories instantly. A friend of mine made us Chicken Tikka Masala when I stayed with her in Madison a few months ago. It was so easy and SO delicious. I made this for J a few weeks ago and he loved it too. I served it with the very Indian side dish of green beans, haha, but it needed a vegetable! If I were doing it again I would add raisins to give it a touch of sweetness.

chicken masala

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
(unfortunately I don’t know the source of this recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 24-oz chicken breast or thighs (1.5 pounds)
  • 1/2 English cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup basmati or long-grain rice
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (or plain non-fat yogurt if you want a non-fat option)

Directions

  1. In a 4 or 6qt slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, tomato paste, and masala. Place the chicken on top, cover, and cook on low for 7-8 hours (or high for 3-4 hours).
  2. In a small bowl, toss the cucumber and cilantro with lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Prepare the rice before serving.
  4. Just before serving, stir the cream into the masala. Serve over rice with cucumber relish.
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Posted by on February 25, 2014 in Life, Nutrition

 

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Black Bean Brownies to Die For

blackbean brownies

These owey-gooey brownies are possibly the most delicious thing I have ever tasted. They are rich, fudgey, and moist. And what is even better – they are made with black beans so you can actually say they are healthy. I don’ think it gets any better than this (and I swear this isn’t only coming from a pregnant woman!). J took them to work and didn’t tell anyone that they were made with black beans. they were gone in an hour and everyone was raving about them all day. The people he works at aren’t your typical “health nuts” and would probably haven’t given them a shot if they knew they contained black beans. Let’s just say their lunches occasionally consist of a bag of doritos, little Debbie snack, and a mountain dew. You get the idea.

If you have dietary restrictions, these may be the recipe you’ve been waiting for. They are gluten-free dairy-free, egg-free, and vegan. Usually when I see that list I run and hide and think there is absolutely NO WAY they could taste like a real brownie – but they do!

Black Bean Brownies
Recipe slightly modified from Chocolate Covered Kate

blackbean brownies2

Ingredients

  • 1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
    (be sure they are gluten-free if you need)
  • 1/2 cup honey
    (use maple syrup or agave if you are vegan)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup add-is: chocolate chips, caramel pieces, nuts, etc… whatever you are in the mood for.

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a 9″ x 9″ pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Combine all the ingredients except the add-ins into a food processor and blend until completely smooth (about 2 minutes).
  3. Stir in the other add-ins. Pour into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes*. Let cool completely. Enjoy!

*the original recipe says only 15-18 minutes. I did 18 minutes but the toothpick was still coming out with moist batter. I thought maybe it had to cool and would firm up, but after 20 minutes of cooling they were still the consistency of under-cooked cookies. I put them back in for 5 or 10 more minutes (I can’t remember….sorry!) and then they firmed up perfectly. I think the difference is when you use oil vs coconut oil. The coconut oil is solid at room temp and makes items more dense. If you choose to use coconut oil, then you can expect them to finish closer to 15 minutes, where canola oil users can expect them to finish closer to 25 minutes.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Nutrition

 

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Warm Brussels Sprout Salad

Brussels Sprouts. To think I went 26 years of my life without them. Thankfully I sucked it up and roasted a pan of them 2 years ago…and then subsequently ate the entire pan in 2 days. These are one of my favorite winter vegetables. Roasted them in a no-fail way to win over non-believers. A friend of mine mentioned a shredded raw brussels sprout salad she made and it got me thinking that it was time to venture out. I wasn’t quite ready for raw sprouts, but shredded I could do. Then I found this delicious looking warm Brussels sprout salad over at a Beautiful Mess and I was sold. I made a few changes for what I had on hand and my personal taste. This recipe ends up being the best of winter with a touch of summer with the hint of lemon.

warm sprout salad

Warm Brussels Sprout Salad
Recipe from A Beautiful Mess

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. brussels sprouts
  • 2/3 cup craisins
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt + pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Shred the Brussels Sprouts in a food processor. I chopped them, but think it would have been better if I had used the shredding function because the pieces were all different sizes.
  2. Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sprouts and toss with oil. Cook until bright green. Add craisins and cook for a few more minutes to warm them.
  3. Clean the food processor and then add the  mayo, garlic, and lemon juice. Pulse until well combined. Leave the processor running and add 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add salt and pepper for your personal taste.
  4. Pour the dressing over the hot mixture. Coat well.
  5. Serve warm and enjoy!
 
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Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Nutrition

 

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