Jan 19, 2013

Cherry tomato Lettuce Salad

Well, this salad does not even need a recipe. It is such a simple combination of veggies and dressing. In fact, I am sure several of you will have tried out some version of this salad. I made this salad to accompany the Low Fat Creamy Pasta. The salad, pasta and fragrant garlic bread comprised dinner last weekend. Quite a combination of textures, colours, flavours and tastes. It was a very satisfying meal.
Taking some time to plan, shop and create good meals is so fulfilling. The happiness I feel when I sit down with loving family members eager to sample the latest creations and finding their faces light up with joy and hearing those happy exclamations – these make all the effort of cooking worthwhile. Well let me also admit that I go through my good share of disasters, and food that no one wants to touch. But thankfully, these happen lesser than the former.
As I said, this salad is a simple combination of dressing, veggies and tossing them together.
You need
For the veggies -
  1. Iceberg lettuce – 1 small head
  2. Cherry tomatoes – 22-25 numbers
  3. Cucumber – 1-2 medium (really, your choice)
  4. Ice cold water – enough to dunk the lettuce in (approx. 4 cups)
For the dressing -
  1. Balsamic vinegar – 1 tbsp
  2. Extra virgin Olive Oil – 4 tbsp
  3. Crushed black pepper – 1-2 tsp
  4. Salt – 2 pinches
  5. Sugar – 1 pinch (optional)
To assemble
  1. Wash the lettuce head, tear leaves apart by hand into bite size pieces and keep immersed in ice cold water until needed.
  2. Dunk the cherry tomatoes in a bowl of water for 5 minutes, drain, pat dry and cut into halves. Place in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Rinse the cucumber thoroughly with the peel on . You can retain the peel on the cucumber or partly peel them too. If there are too many seeds along the middle of the cucumber, you may want to discard them. If so, cut into half lengthwise, remove the ‘seedy’ parts and slice into half circles. Else, if the seeds are tender, you can slice the cucumber into thin disks. Place along with the tomatoes in the mixing bowl.Veggies - washed, scrubbed, waiting for their dress!
  4. Pour the balsamic vinegar into a bowl. Pour the Olive oil in a thin drizzle whisking with a fork all the while. Continue to whisk well until all the vinegar and oil have blended into an almost homogenous mixture. Add the crushed pepper and salt now, whisk them in too. Dressing is ready.
  5. Now is the time to drain the lettuce in a colander – drain it well, shake up the colander and coax the last drops of water out! Add the lettuce to the mixing bowl, pour the salad dressing on top and mix well, toss, shake – do whatever except spilling the contents!
  6. Chill the salad for at least half an hour before serving so that it is at the right temperature and the flavours settle well.
Some salad everyday keeps tummy trouble away
  • You can add pitted black olives, walnuts, coloured peppers (capsicum), rocket leaves or any preferred vegetables to the salad. Use dressing in proportion to the vegetables used.
  • Using fresh tender vegetables, and chilling well before serving help to enhance the taste of the salad.

Jan 17, 2013

Low Fat Creamy Pasta

A Happy New Year to all.

As with every year, I have resolved to live healthy, live happy, be grateful for the nice things in life,spend more time with my kids. I am also pushing myself to find healthier food, better recipes, to share with all and do my bit for a better world. Pasta and Italian food are quite a favourite among people all over the world. We love Italian food at our home too. Based on frequent demands from my kids, I try to recreate popular dishes like pasta in bechamel (white) sauce at home. However, the amount of cheese that is required each time sends alarm bells to my nutritionist mind. While some cheese is good for children, as part of milk intake, too much of it is unhealthy.

While watching an episode of Junior Masterchef, I saw one participant using an ingredient which could substitute for part of the cheese in white sauce. I was quite excited by the idea, and tried it out soon. The first attempt was just about edible – I think I scrimped too much on the cheese. The second time, I did not get the proportions right. So this time, I thought through the proportions carefully and tried – this version was by far the best.

I am sure several of us would have started off with New Year Resolutions to reduce weight, eat healthy and so on.. Most resolutions fizzle out because we lack the will power to stick with them. Low fat food, salad – only meals, tasteless food in the name of diets – these are sure fire methods to lose our goals instead of excess weight!

I named my blog ‘Healthy Slurps’ as I firmly believe that healthy food has to be tasty too. I believe in modifying or inventing recipes which optimise the nutrients in ingredients used and are filling and healthy at the same time. This recipe is a great example. So here is my recipe for creamy, oozy, tasty pasta in white sauce minus sin.

I have given measures for 500 gm. uncooked pasta. If you plan to make a smaller batch, reduce proportions accordingly, but you could also make a big batch and freeze the rest for later.

Low calorie pasta

You Need

  • Pasta shells – any shape you have in stock, I used small shell – 500 gm., uncooked.
  • Skim milk – 800 ml to 1000 ml.
  • Whole wheat flour (atta) – 1 heaped tbsp.
  • Butter – 2 tbsp., to be used in parts through the recipe.
  • Processed cheese – 50 gm
  • Carrot – wash peel cut into thin disks – 1 level cup
  • Green or any colour capsicum – cut into thin slices – 1 level cup
  • Cauliflower – 12-15 medium sized florets.
  • Seasonings –1. Dry Oregano and 2. dry basil – 1 tsp each (or to taste) 3. White pepper /black pepper crushed – 1 heaped tbsp, 4. Salt – 2 tbsp.
  • Fresh drinking water – 3 litre or slightly more, if needed.

To Assemble

  • Boil water in a large pot, add a dab of butter, 1 tbsp salt to the boiling water and boil the pasta in it for 7-8 minutes or as per instructions. Drain, rinse and set aside in a colander.
  • Blanch the cauliflower florets, drain. Heat 1/2 tsp butter in a large pan, fry the cauliflower in it for a good 3 minutes, cool and puree to smooth paste in a blender. Set aside.
cauliflower puree
  • Heat 1 tbsp butter in the same  large pan used for cauliflower, stir fry the capsicum first, add carrots next, add a pinch of salt, toss well.sauteing vegetables
  • In a corner of the pan, add the rest of the butter, place the whole wheat flour over the sizzling butter and fry to remove the raw smell. (takes about a minute or less). Now pour the skim milk in a thin stream over the flour, stir briskly to avoid lumps. You could use a whisk too. Mix in the vegetables and the white sauce, let simmer together until the sauce thickens and bubbles evenly. Control the flame as needed throughout.
  • When the sauce thickens and bubbles, add the cauliflower puree, the cheese, and mix all well.
  • After the whole mixture is homogenous, add in the seasonings, taste and adjust as per your taste.
bubbling sauce with seasonings
  • Now the sauce is ready to coat the pasta. Pour in the boiled pasta, toss well to coat. cover, take off the heat and set aside for 10 minutes or so for the flavours to settle. Toss pasta with the sauce
  • Tasty creamy pasta is ready to be served. I served this with warm garlic bread and a lettuce - cherry tomato salad in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
Dinner is served


The amount of cauliflower used for the puree is important Рtoo much and it tastes like cauliflower soup, too little and it does not thicken well enough. Saut̩ing the cauliflower in butter makes sure that the taste does not overpower the other flavours in the sauce.

You can use the same sauce for lasagne or for a macaroni hot pot – spread some more grated cheese as top layer and bake as you normally would.

You can use more vegetables like broccoli, sweet corn kernels, baby corn, zucchini, even black olives if you like. ( I like black olives with a tangy tomato sauce )

You can sprinkle a tsp. or more of grated cheese on top while serving kids. Grated Parmesan tastes great. While Parmesan is not strictly ‘vegetarian’, use it if you feel comfortable.

Creamy pasta ready to dig in

What’s good about this pasta dish?

The most obvious advantage in this recipe is the limited use of cheese in the sauce. This recipe makes 8 –9 portions of pasta. 50 gms of cheese added here will amount to 6 gms per person – the quantities normally used would range from 30 –35 gms per portion. 

This means that, whatever cheese you have used in your recipe, you can cut down the fat content by 5 –6 times.

Despite cutting down on the cheese, the sauce does not lose out on creaminess, mouth feel or flavours – so we do not feel ‘deprived.’

Adding more vegetables to the dish or serving it with a stir fry or salad, as in my case, makes it a complete meal.

I have used butter optimally without indulging in excess.

I have used whole wheat flour as a thickener too as against refined corn flour or all-purpose flour (maida).

While processed cheese is not the best, I have used it here to show how despite an ordinary cheese, the sauce and the meal does taste great. Also processed cheese is most widely available in India. Feel free to use reduced fat – mozzarella in your recipe.

Do let me know if you liked the recipe, and do come back with your feedback after you have tried it out.