Best moments from my cooking demo at Whole Foods in Montclair

Best moments from my cooking demo at Whole Foods in Montclair

I must begin by saying that I had the most wonderful time cooking for such a wonderful crowd at Whole Foods at Montclair in NJ yesterday.

Carmen, the lead for cooking demos at the store was such a cheerful person and helped me out completely with the set up of my station and making me feel like I was at my home kitchen:) Evelyn ran every single time to get stuff whenever I ran out of sampling plates or spoons. I dont remember stopping for a single minute to even drink a sip of water. I was completely in my zone once people started coming in and thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of it that I dint want to miss any of it:)

So what did I cook? I had exchanged several emails with Carmen before coming up with this menu. Knowing Montclair and its residents, I knew QUINOA was one of my choices. A lot of people came up to me with difficulty pronouncing Quinoa and I had to break it up for them as¬†(pronounced as K-i-N-WAH) ūüôā

I decided to go for a Quinoa Salad. One, the reason being -Tuesdays at Whole Foods is Local Tasting meaning I was asked to make the best use of as much as local produce that was at the store. I instantly felt like a kid in a candy store- especially if you ask a vegetarian like me to pick local produce/veggies!!!!

The second reason being- Quinoa is a grain-like crop grwon for its edible seeds and is a complete protein as per nutritional evaluations. Quinoa high in dietary fiber, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. Quinoa is also a source of calicium and is popular amongst vegans and for those who are lactose intolerant. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest.

I decided to incorporate as much veggies possible, like zucchini, summer squash, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers…..and made a Quinoa Salad.¬†Of course I sauted my onions, tomatoes, zucchini and squash with my special blend of freshly toasted and ground Indian spices! or freshly ground “curry” powder.

My demo was to start at 3 pm but I reached the store early so I have enough time to set up and start cooking the Quinoa. Carmen said the expected crowd between 3 and 6pm on a Tuesday at Whole Foods was about 150!!!! So I cooked for that many :))))

I had this huge pot that was simmering away with my Quinoa and veggies in it. I had just begun making my sauce- I wanted to make an Indian curried sauce to layer on top of the quinoa to take the salad to a next level.  Meantime, I saw many people approaching my station and urging me to make samplers. Being the person I am, I started making samplers of just the Quinoa while working on the making that sauce at the same time. I was so happy to hear wonderful comments from people who merely tasted the Quinoa with veggies. A lot of them said, they got the package of quinoa but when they took it home and tried cooking it- it was dry or that they werent able to get the proportion of quinoa versus water right.

A simple trick is- I never follow package instructions because it always says 1: 1!!!!! No way- you will end up with a plate of undercooked quinoa. Always, add extra broth or water to check  if the quinoa is cooked completely. You know its done is when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated. Also, while cooking the Quinoa always try and keep it covered or use a lid to cover.

Now I make my sauce with garlic, ginger, onions, tomatoes and my freshly ground spices. I layer the Curried sauce over the Quinoa. I wanted to use a layer of crunch on top of the sauce so I used Organic Tempeh from Whole Foods and crumbled it, seasoned it well with cumin, coriander and “curry powder”. I saute the crumbled tempeh with a tad bit of oil in a pan till it gets a crisp coat on the surface. Now Tempeh is a meat substitute made of Soy and is very high in protein.

So I layer my sauted crumbled tempeh over my curried sauce and quinoa with veggies. I garnish the whole dish with some green scallions, colored bell peppers and some tomatoes and top it off with some cilantro!

A lot of you them who stopped by my station asked me if I sold the Sauce in a jar and they wanted to buy it:)LOL

But I promised them, I will look into it- its a possibility I would explore!!!!

They loved my sauce and the dish and were very encouraging and  appreciative,

All the kind words, words of encouragement and love is what motivates me so keep it coming guys…..can never get enough!!!

Thanks much to my friend Rob and his sister April Peters for coming out, tasting my dish and being so supportive!

Thanks again to every single person who came out to Whole Foods, and stopped by my station to taste my dish-Appreciate your time and I hope I was able to answer every one of your questions on the dish and otherwise…..

(This pic was taken at the end of the cooking demo at 6pm and I am exhausted, struggling to smile for the camera but my husband and kids came to pick me up and I was thrilled to see them !!!!Thanks so much for being so supportive!)

With much love ……. and looking forward to more events so keep tuning into my blog for updates on events and where to find me:)

Guilt free TEMPEH Burgers!

Guilt free TEMPEH Burgers!

Last weekend, I was at this brunch place in Montclair, New Jersey- Absolutely fabulous and I was thrilled to see their Vegan and Vegetarian selections on the menu.

After pondering over an extensive menu:) and the indecisive person that I am esp when it comes to food- I decided to try their Vegetarian Chickpea burger with baked Sweet Potato Fries. I must tell you this that during my stay at Double Tree in L A prior to filming Master Chef, I happened to order their Vegetarian burger made of chickpeas and it was falling apart/ crumbling to say the least and dry!!!!

This one that I tried at Montclair was phenomenal!!!! Moist, crisp, dense and came with onion, tomato, sprouts:) and pickle!

OK now, I was also thinking of coming up with a bunch of dishes with Tempeh and have been experimenting in my kitchen. Suddenly, after we finish brunch, I run across the street to WHOLE FOODS and my husband thinks I have lost it as always ūüôā¬†I grab an organic slab of 5 GRAIN TEMPEH. Now many of you may wonder what TEMPEH is?

TEMPEH is made of natural culturing process with organic grains like soybeans, brown rice, millet, barley, rye, apple cider vinegar and tempeh culture (typically Rhisopus oligosporus)LOL (thats my inner Microbiologist speaking out). It is low in calories and a great substitute to meat due to its HIGH PROTEIN content. Tempeh originated in Indonesia and has a distinctive nutty taste and nougat-like textured.

The thing about TEMPEH I have learnt over the past few months is that it easily absorbs the flavors of the other foods with which it is cooked making it adaptable to many types of dishes.  I tried substituting TEMPEH with the Indian Cottage Cheese that I use in my traditional Curry and it turned out delicious!!!

According to my research- the soy protein in tempeh tends to lower cholesterol levels, while consuming protein from animal sources tends to raise them, since they also include saturated fat and cholesterol.

I can go on and on about health benefits and effect of TEMPEH on cholesterol ………After 3 days of trips to the park with kids, I decided to take a break today and cook up something with the Tempeh that I had picked at Whole Foods. I decide to make an awesome burger with TEMPEH. I love beets and so decided to use a beet sauce and bake some squash chips to go with my burger.¬†The key is to season my tempeh with a bunch of my toasted spices and to use a binding agent !! The binding agent that I used in this case was CHICK PEAS and it turned out beautiful. I could use potatoes but chose to give Chick peas a shot! I use olive oil and use fresh GRAY SQUASH from my Farmers Market to bake some chips to go with my TEMPEH burger:)