How do I manage excess cooked food? Freeze or not?

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Freezing food is a good way to have meals on the go! Whether it be leftovers or extra big batches made for future consumption, it is important to know how to store different foods. Here are some steps to make sure that frozen/refrigerated food is safe to eat and the taste is well preserved for your next meal:

      1. Freeze any fresh cooked food only once it cools down and reaches room temperature. You can quicken the cooling process by placing food in a shallow container on a cooling rack to allow air to circulate all around the container. Limiting the depth of food in containers to 2 inches or less leads to quick cooling.
      2. You can refrigerate practically any recipe of fresh cooked food if you are not going to use it for the next 2-3 days. If you plan to use the cooked food within this time, it is perfectly safe to keep it in fridge, it does not need to take up freezer space!
      3. thumb_IMG_0290_1024Store/freeze excess cooked food in small differently sized containers or freezer bags (not storage bags) so that you only reheat/thaw the amount needed for that meal. thumb_IMG_0105_1024

If using freezer bags try to flattened the food into a thin layer. A lumpy or rounded shape takes longer to thaw through to the middle.
Flat packages are also better for stacking in your freezer.

4. If you had to freeze a large container but want to eat a part of it at a time, be careful when refreezing partly thawed food. The thawed food can be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals. Try to reduce the time between thawing and refreezing to ensure that the food to be refrozen does not thaw completely.

Also check- How best to thaw frozen food? and Facts to know with freezing and thawing cooked food.

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Invigorating Lamb-नशीली गोश्त करी

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SERVES: 4

Why this recipe? How is it green? How am I contributing to making this earth green by following four steps or less recipes?

Using Pressure Cooker for this recipe will take 10-15 minutes for the meat to cook whereas it will take 30-45 minutes in a regular pan. 

This recipe saves you : more than 70% of fuel energy and 30 minutes of your precious time that is about 16 to 20% of the total time you spend in kitchen on an average (assuming you spend a total of 2-3 hours in a day in the kitchen)

Allows you to explore your creative side. For vegetarian options, substitute lamb with baby potatoes, baby pumpkins, cottage cheese or other veggies.

TOTAL COOKING TIME: 25-30 Minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon oil
1 daal chini (cinnamon stick)
1 chakraphool (star anise)
1 brown elaichi (cardamom)
2 green elaichi (cardamom)
50 grams of khus khus (poppy seeds)
2 tez patta (bay leaf)
6 palm sized pureed or finely chopped onion
2 medium sized pureed tomatoes
1 inch frozen ginger
2 inch frozen garlic
2 teaspoons meat masala/ curry powder
1 kilo lamb shoulder cut to small pieces
1 teaspoon red chilli (if you like it hot)
1 inch frozen green chilli or 2 fresh green chilies
1 teaspoon garam masala (All spice)
2 teaspoons salt

STEP 1. Put daal chini (cinnamon), chakraphool (star anise), elaichi (cardamoms) and tez patta (bay leaf) in heated oil, after 30 seconds to a minute add pre sautéed onion and poppy seeds or if using freshly chopped onion, sauté until onion are light brown.
STEP 2. Add lamb and meat masala , Stir for 2-3 minutes, add frozen ginger, frozen garlic, green chilli, salt and red chilli powder .
STEP 3. Sauté for 5-7 minutes and then add pureed tomato, and stir it well, add half a glass of water before you close the lid of the pressure cooker.
STEP 4. Cook on low heat for 10-12 minutes (or for three whistles) in pressure cooker or for 30-45 minutes in pan with lid on and add garam masala before serving.

HANDY TIPS:lambcurry

  1. You can replace lamb with pork, chicken, beef and baby potatoes or vegetables for vegetarian option.
  2.  Always wait for the steam in pressure cooker to release by itself. This is a safety precaution as well as retains all flavour of the food.
  3. Add a few drops of Kewra essence (a floral essence) to get that unique rich muglai flavour.

Is your freezer empty? Save energy- fill it up!

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Did the title surprise you? I am sure it did, but it is a fact that it is more economical and energy efficient to have a full freezer. Getting rid of empty space ensures that the cold air doesn’t need to circulate as much, so less power is needed and consumed!

Consider filling up all this free space with anything you can freeze. Everyday items such as frozen herbs/vegetables or breads are good options, as well as course chopped garlic, ginger and green chillies. If you do not have much to freeze though, you can also fill plastic bottles half full of water and use them to fill gaps.

It may sounds crazy, but a third option is to fill the freezer with your unwashed jeans! They would need to be properly wrapped in plastic covering, with all the air released from the plastic bag. This is actually the latest method of washing jeans that Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh advises. Freeze your jeans to kill the germs that make them smelly! People are getting on board with this whacky technique, and you can too!

Whether it’s everyday food items, space fillers or unwashed jeans, get that freezer filled up and save on energy!

 

Spicy Sweet Tomato Chutney-खट्टी मीठी टमाटर चटनी

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Why this recipe?

GLUTEN FREE- loaded with vitamins and minerals

QUICK TO MAKE- Takes less than 10 minutes to cook to tingle your taste buds.

This recipe can replace canned and preserved tomato dips/sauces/salsa with a freshly made nutritious accompaniment.

You can be creative -add other ingredients like spring onions, nuts, raisins, berries, mushrooms or green pepper to further enhance flavour.

Cooking Time: 7-10 minutes

Serves- 3-4

INGREDIENTS:

2 big ripe tomatoes chopped
2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of red chilli powder or chilli flakes
1 pinch asafoetida powder (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon garam masala
1 inch of frozen grated ginger or 25 grams of fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of oil

STEPS
Step 1. Heat oil, add cumin seeds and hing (asafoetida) and let it brown for 30 seconds.
Step 2. Put all ingredients except garam masala and keep stirring until chutney becomes thick to the density of ketchup.
Step 3. Add garam masala and serve warm or cold.

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Why Spices?

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Spices offer exotic flavours to food, and flavourful food is divine. But spices are not just used to appease our taste.In fact, some spices can be a real boost to the body, and help rid it of toxins. Here are some benefits of spices used in most of my recipes:

1. Turmeric (haldi): Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. Arthritis, joint pains, and Alzheimer are some of the known medical problems that turmeric helps in curing. It has been used in India for ages for cosmetic benefits like bringing radiance to skin, curing acne and skin related medical problems.
2. Cloves (laung): Anti-viral, Anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, aphrodisiac, source of many minerals, and Omega-3 fatty acids
3. Cumin seeds (jeera): helps remove toxins, helps with digestion, lactation, common cold, diabetes, insomnia, prevents memory loss.
4. Bay leaf (tez patta): boosts immunity, improves nervous system function, protects oral health, regulates body metabolism and prevents blood-related conditions like anemia.
5. Star Anise (chakraphool): antioxidant, rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium, copper, and manganese. Has stomachic, anti-spasmodic, antiseptic, digestive, expectorant, and stimulant properties. Helps to increase the circulation and oxygenation of body parts.
6. Caraway Seeds (ajwain): improve digestion, reduce constipation, lowers blood cholesterol, reduces bloating, belching, gas and gas pains and improves blood pressure. A source for thiamine, pyridoxine, riboflavin, and niacin, iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium. This is most commonly used as a safe treatment in India for stomach related medical problems for infants and kids.
7. Cardamom (elaichi): Aids in digestion and increased frequency and volume of urination, reduces spasms, lowers blood pressure and increases metabolism. A source of vitamins and minerals like riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C, iron, manganese and potassium.
8. Cinnamon (dal chini): Reduces inflammation, eliminates pain and infections, manages diabetes, reduces bloating, belching, gas and gas pains , increases cognitive function, good for bones, prevents cancer and good for the health of eyes and skin.

These are all mild flavoured spices used commonly in an Indian household. All of these are easily available in asian grocery stores all over the world. It is also good to know that they are quite inexpensive.

Spices should be used according to personal preferences/palates and in moderate quantities.

There goes my precious betel vine!

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paanLet me start by telling you what a betel plant is.The betel plant is an evergreen perennial, with glossy heart-shaped leaves. A sheaf of betel leaves is traditionally offered as a mark of respect at auspicious beginnings, and to greet elders for their blessings at wedding ceremonies. Fresh crushed betel leaves can be used as an antiseptic for cuts and wounds. It is also good for the respiratory system and is used in treatments of bronchitis, cough, and cold. Betel chewing increases digestive capacity when used with lime. It also neutralizes acidity and acts as a blood purifier. Along with all the medicinal benefits this leaf has to offer, it is most commonly served as a digestive and mouth freshener after meals. In this form it is commonly known as PaanPaan is made by wrapping cardamon, rose petal jam, fennel seeds, areca nut and other condiments into a betel leaf.

So considering all of these great features of betel leaves combined with my love for growing herbs at home, I felt quite lucky when I came across a very good variety of betel vine to grow while we were living in Ghana. The weather was perfect and the vine flourished into a glossy bed of shiny green hearts. There were so many leaves on the vine that I had a standing offer extended to all my friends to take as many leaves as they wanted for their house parties.

Now before I tell the interesting part of the story, I have to lay the backdrop. We were living in a house that had a guard at all times, their duty changing every 8 hours. Most of these guards were staffed by a security company and did not understand much of English. However they were very nice, smiling all the time and nodding their heads to every conversation and question as if they have understood everything.

So, one of my friends called to ask if she could get some betel leaves for a party at her house, I gladly said yes. As I was not going to be home when her driver was to come to pick up the leaves, I showed the vine to the guard on duty.  I told him that a driver will come to get these leaves and let him take as many as he wants. Though it was a simple instruction, still I repeated it twice and the guard nodded his head and confirmed with saying “Yes, I understand”.

When I got back after a couple of hours, I just got into the house without thinking much about whether the betel leaves were picked up or not. Later in the evening when I was taking a stroll inside the compound of the house, I felt that the kitchen garden area was looking really neat and groomed. Soon I realized what had happened. I got the shock of my life. There was NO betel vine any more. The entire area had been cleared. I could not trace even the uprooted vine or roots anywhere. And that guard I had spoken with earlier had gone off duty. I was so upset and simply assumed that it was possible that my friend’s driver might have taken the entire vine instead of only a few leaves. I hesitatingly called my friend to check and to my disbelief I got to know that she could not send the driver for some reason and had changed her mind about using betel leaves for the party. Now, I was having a hard time understanding what actually happened to my beloved vine. it was a difficult night to pass by waiting for the guard to turn up next morning.

When he came I asked him what happened to the vine, he was still smiling and saying “Yes, yes, I understand” and actually had a sparkle in his eyes as if waiting for me to say “job well done”. I was feeling really troubled but could not express it as he was all smiles and I could now see that he actually did not understand English at all and just knew the few words: “Yes, yes, I understand”. Later I had to get his supervisor (who came on daily rounds) to explain to him what I wanted him to do and what he did. The supervisor told me that when I showed him the vine, he presumed he had to uproot it and was proud of the great job he had done!

And so, that is the sad tale of the betel vine that became victim to language barriers! I still miss the distinct flavour of that particularly rare variety, but on the bright side I now have a great story to tell at parties!

 

 

 

How best to thaw frozen food?

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  1. baby pumpkinPlan ahead! Smaller items can thaw overnight in the refrigerator, however foods weighing 1 kilo or more will  take about 24 hours in the fridge to thaw.
  2. It is best to thaw the freezer bags on a plate or a pan so that moisture does not drip.
  3. Food may be transferred from a freezer bag to a microwave safe container for thawing in the microwave.
  4. Food thawed in the microwave tends to quickly reach temperatures that boost bacterial growth, so plan to cook or reheat it right away.

Also check- How do I manage excess cooked food? Freeze or not? and Facts to know with freezing and thawing